The headline is what the reader will read (often the only thing), so unless its out-of-this-world catchy, genius or absurd, the reader is going to just keep browsing.
As the motto of the Internet era goes: too much content, too little time. So unless your headline is eye-popping, no one is going to read further, and that’s a shame considering how useful your content might be.
The list below provides some tools on how you can create attractive headlines that can convince your readers to stay on your page.
1. Create an organized swipe file
A swipe file is commonly used by ad agencies and copywriters as a large pool of inspirational material. A swipe file might include anything one finds stimulating and creativity-boosting; articles or extracts from accomplished copywriters and marketers, quotes and proven formulas for writing first-class copy and so on.
Anyone can scribble down or compile their own swipe file. Remember it is already stored somewhere in your head, in something you’ve seen or read. Bring it all together to help you spur some genius headlines and prevent those dreaded writer’s block moments.
Some tools you can use to create a swipe file: Google Docs, Evernote, Notepad, Stickies, Notebook, Email. Read here for more useful tools, where you can organize your own swipe fileNote however that unless you organize your swipe file effectively, it won’t work.
You should organize your swipe file based on what kind of headlines you want to write. So your folders might look like this:
- Blog headlines
- Email Newsletter headlines
- Email Marketing headlines
- Pinterest headlines/pin descriptions
- Facebook headlines
So if you don’t seem to get a great email newsletter headline you know immediately where to go for inspiration. Without proper organization, the whole venture of kick-starting your creativity will get lost in the process of re-locating the source of inspiration.
Now apart from a swipe file, there are some other proven practices that can also help you create eye-catching headlines.
2. Common sense
In the middle of the torrential flow of information, online readers are inevitably picky. They want to read only things worth their time so your headline needs to reassure them that your content is going to be:
- To the point
- Relevant (people need to know about specific matters, the latest trends, they don’t care reading yet another vague, useless, recycled article.)
If you give your reader some sort of reassurance, for example if you promise them that by reading your article they will gain something (knowledge, know-how, a skill) they will be tempted to read it.
Mind you, it’s not that readers actually believe our comforting (but rather impossible) headline:
“How to quit smoking and never look back again in 4 painless steps”
Rather the thought of this article potentially helping them quit, is enough of an encouragement to read on.
So, do dare to be a little risky or bold with your headlines. Reassure them of something significant they will acquire once they read your article, but don’t go over the top. Promise something you can deliver, don’t just tease them, and do your best to prove yourself honest.
4. Numbers are pure magic
Numbers are a consistently proven formula of attracting readership. Especially if your articles are mainly advice and tips, it is highly desired that you include the number of tips or how-to steps included in your article.
For extra readers use odd numbers, for some peculiar reason marketers say readers remember better odd numbers. Apparently, they have a more intense impact on the reader than even numbers do. So instead of going for: 10 ways you can kickstart your afternoon productivity, make it 9 or 11 ways.
5. Stir up your creative language skills
This is one of those strange tips where we ask you to be creative with language but not too creative.
Do make use of interesting adjectives and witty puns but make sure you don’t get carried away. Creativity doesn’t always translate in more readers. You might have come up with the headline of the century, but what if it’s just too much for the readers to follow?
Use just the right amount of creativity to create a balanced headline that is attractive and still understandable. Do spend a few minutes finding the most suitable adjective that will best describe your product or situation. Forget about SEO for a moment and go for witty headlines with interesting puns instead. If you make them laugh they will read anyway.
6. Short, Powerful Words
Although you might be an undeniable master of the English Language, you need to revisit the power of simple, short words. Keeping your headlines short encourages the reader to actually read them.
Don’t underestimate the power of simplicity; say something directly, briefly and with a touch of freshness. Don’t worry coming off as too simplistic. Power words (startling, never, solid, immediately, unexpected) give your headline an air of confidence and expertise.
7. Highlight the advantage
Use a tease. What’s the strong point you made in your article? Make it the focus of your headline. If you give your reader a foretaste of the end-result you ignite their curiosity to read further.
8. Take into account your readership
Will they go for the humorous or the neutral style? Keeping in line with their expectations (and occasionally breaching them) will almost guarantee that your readers will stay on the page for longer than it requires to read the headline.
And remember, you don’t necessarily write what you like, but what your readers would like to read.
9. Engage the reader’s curiosity
Why, how, when, what these so-called trigger words give the reader something to expect, they entice them into reading further which is your goal after all!
Plus, in an era when we continually strive for improvement, who can really resist mastering yet another skill, or achievement just by reading:
“how to get from a couch potato to a marathon runner in six weeks?”
10. Question, Confront or Cause a stir
Engage your reader from the very first word. Write to initiate interaction, reaction and conflict.
That of course, doesn’t mean being rude or narrow-minded but providing strong arguments that can surely create some debate in the comments section. For instance:
Why being a hoarder is a sign you are healthy.
Almost everyone reading this will wonder, why on earth would you believe so when everybody knows hoarding is something bad? A headline that generates debate is bound to get your reader to read your article (even if they read for the sole reason of debunking your views in the comments section).
Considering these factors will help you create headlines that engage the readers and encourage them to actually read your content.