As Shakespeare once wrote, “A [headline] by any other name would [read] as sweet.” Or something like that.
But you probably know as well as I do that what you name your content matters a lot. According to Copy Blogger, 8 out of 10 people will read your headline, and only 2 out of 10 will read the rest. You could write a masterpiece of a blog, but if the headline isn’t making anyone want to click on it, then all of your hard work will be for nothing. The title of your content is just as important as what lies within the body of the article itself.
This may sound intimidating, but with a few guidelines in place, you’ll be firing off clever, succinct, and relevant titles in no time. Here are some tips to point you in the right direction:
You might scoff at listicles, but there are many reasons why they’re so widely used. A number gives the reader an idea of what to expect from the content. They know that they’re going to take away X number of tips or resources after reading, and they’ll know that they’ll be able to easily consume the information since it will be broken down into parts. Also, including a number in the title helps it stand out from the rest of the text and catches the reader’s eye.
CXL shares a helpful graphic that highlights how headlines with numbers increase user engagement to 36% - 15-25% higher than any of the other formatting options. All of the articles contain the same content, but the headline makes the difference in the level of interaction. Numbers can be a great way to frame your headline and convert your audience members into readers.
Smart Blogger highlights that numbers can also have connotations that imply perceived benefits. For example, if a blog’s headline reads, “4-ingredient muffins,” not only will the reader know that the muffins will be healthy (because less ingredients means more natural), but they’ll also know that the recipe will be relatively low effort to make. When creating a title, consider the psychological power that numbers can have.
One of the best ways to improve your headlines is to actively read. I say “actively” because it’s important to consider why certain headlines are capturing your attention and why you’re skimming past others. Notice how your favorite writers frame an article - are they punny? Direct? Do they ask a question? Read with an eye for headlines so that you become a more informed writer, and your headlines are sure to improve.
If you don’t understand your audience, they won’t want to understand what you have to offer. Write headlines that address your audience’s interests, pain points, and day-to-day life to let them know that the article they’re about to read will be relevant to them.
Take the headline to this blog, for instance. I’m writing this with a content marketer in mind - someone who wants to learn how to bring people to their blogs and grow their audience. This headline is direct and lets the reader know how I plan on offering them value. Because, at the end of the day, that’s what your content should always do: offer your reader information that will help them.
One helpful way to target an audience with your headline is by learning how to speak their language. Are you targeting an industry that uses any jargon or distinct phrases? You can figure this out by review mining, which is when you go to digital places where your audience congregates and take notes on how they communicate. These nuances can be implemented in your writing, and will let your audience know that you understand their industry and needs. This also helps you improve your SEO (search engine optimization), as you’ll be able to form your headlines and keywords to be in line with how your audience actually searches for content.
The subheading is a great tool to offer your reader more context and inform them of the direction you’re intending to take the article. However, I often see articles where the subheading is stronger than the headline itself (and I’m not alone).
This is because it can take many tries to nail a good headline, and a subheading takes the role of being your “second try.” Once you write both your headline and subheading, look at them critically, as if you’re a prospective reader, and decide which one grabs your attention more. If it’s the subheading, switch them around so that you’re leading with your strongest copy.
Another way to make both your headline and subheading stronger is by writing down a few different options to choose from. This trick helps me sort through my thoughts and brainstorm the best framing for a piece. Once you’ve captured your ideas in a list, you’ll have a better idea of what will work best to relate and engage with your audience.
According to CoSchedule, most readers tend to focus on the first three and the last three words of your headline, since so many of us are inundated with content and skim to find the most valuable information. What are you saying in those crucial words?
For instance, if you take the headline of this blog and highlighted the first three and last three words, they would say, “Write Better Headlines” and “These 5 Tips.” I’ve included the crux of the article in the first and last three words of the headline, making it more skimmable and, hopefully, clickable.
Writing headlines can be a fun exercise to brainstorm how to reach your audience more effectively. If you’d like some help, you know where to find us.