I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that headlines are the single most important part of any article, blog post or, really, any piece of content. It’s the first thing any potentially interested readers will see, and probably one of the last things they will remember. Think back to all of the articles, books and web-based content you’ve read and try to remember one thing about your favorite pieces. Chances are pretty high that the first thing you’ll remember is the title, or at least how witty or spot-on it was.
Sure, you want great content underneath the headline, but most of all you want the title to grab the attention of passerby. You also want them to remember it for a while after, so they refer friends and share related links, and so those links in turn get clicked on.
According to a recent post published by Copyblogger, eight out of ten people read the full headline after seeing it. That can be narrowed down to two out of ten people that continue to read the rest of the content. Those are pretty dim odds when you take a look at them from an outside standpoint. For every ten people who notice a headline, only eight of them are bothering to read the entire title, and two of those total ten are actually taking time to read the content. These numbers are merely the average too, which means most blogs are probably seeing less than that in terms of statistics.
What you can gather from all this is that the headline is one of the only weapons you really have in your arsenal when it comes to attracting readers to your content. It needs to be clear, captivating and memorable.
So, how exactly do you create a catchy yet memorable headline?
Call to Action
I’m sure you’ve heard this from editors before, but it rings true: use an appropriate call to action. Those same editors probably mean something completely different from what I’m about to say, but that’s alright. Don’t be afraid to use catchy adjectives in your title!
Adjectives and action words
are fantastic eye catchers, and sometimes they can even explain a piece well.
Make it painstakingly clear (see what I did there!) that your content is interesting and unique. If you use your vocabulary properly, you won’t actually have to go out of your way to make a headline captivating.
Pull the Trigger
Remember way back in school when your teachers were preaching the basic principles of writing? You know what I’m talking about, the infamous five Ws of writing. Who, what, when, where, and why? Don’t forget that lonely H either, the how.
Please include those in your titles as much as possible! Of course, don’t overdo it, by including all them. Narrow it down to one or two, which provide the most important details about your content. By default, I like to include at least a “why,” in addition to a “how” or “what.” Depending on title length, sometimes you have to take out one of the trigger words, but that’s okay. Before you know
it, they’ll be asking the other Ws.
Offer Your Readers Something
Don’t just assume your reader is going to know what they will get out of your content. Instead, offer them a promise or return with your headline.
In our day to day lives we tend to exclude the filler and only take in the basic needs. Sure, some people splurge and take in more than necessary, but most often readers will dismiss anything that doesn’t hold value to them. Why would you read an article about alcohol rehab centers in Florida if you don’t know anyone who might need one? Why would you want to know about the latest smartphone if you have absolutely no affinity for modern technology?
Make your readers want to absorb the content. Appeal to them and promise them wondrous things! Will they learn how to do something? Will they discover riches beyond imagination? Will a long pondered mystery finally be revealed?
Of course, it goes without saying that you shouldn’t make promises you can’t keep – you better follow up that zinger with great content.
Revise, Revise, Revise
Believe it or not, all of this and more can be hinted at in a title. In theory, you should spend just as much time with the title as you do with your content, if not more so. If the title doesn’t seem to jump off the page to you, then it’s probably not going to do it for any of your readers, either.
Continue to revise your title as necessary until you come up with something captivating. If you have to, brainstorm about your title. Most people use brainstorming to draw up enough about their topic or subject, but it’s a great application for the headline too.
If all else fails, you can always turn to numbers or rhetorical questions. I think they’re perhaps the easiest way to draw in an audience just because they’re so tried and true.
Adrienne Erin is a freelance writer who covers trends in social media and social marketing. She has written for Content Marketing Institute, MarketingProfs, and Search Engine People, and is always looking for new opportunities. To see more of her work, follow her on Twitter at @adrienneerin.