Do you want to learn how to write headlines like a professional copywriter? As anyone who specialises in writing content for the web knows, a good headline is one of the most difficult things to write, and one of the most important. An effective headline can attract readers and boost your traffic, while a so-so headline can mean people skip over your content entirely.
Copy headlines are a bit like shop windows – they point to what you will find if you keep looking further in. To explore this analogy, think of a big shopping centre – there are literally hundreds of displays beckoning you, and the ones that attract you are likely to be those that deliver a quick and easy message of the delights and bargains to be found when you step inside.
This means that your headlines need to be very carefully considered and formulated if your aim is to encourage more people to click through to your content. Here are a few tips and tricks for writing headlines that work.
So what makes a headline stand out from the rest?
An effective headline is:
- Short and to the point – it communicates its message in as few words as possible.
- Information-rich – but without any wasted words.
- Direct and specific in the way it delivers its message.
- Written in plain language without jargon.
- Balanced and truthful – it does not provide a promise it can’t deliver on, nor does it make exaggerated claims.
Good headlines also do the following:
- Convey the gist of the article / blog / story that follows.
- Provide the reader with a sense of power and control.
- Spur the reader into action.
- State a problem and a solution in very few words.
- Use powerful words and terms that grab readers’ attention.
- Improve SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) by using powerful keywords, especially in the first two or three words. Keywords are also as important for readers as for search engines, as people tend to quickly scan through items when browsing.
How to write effective copy headlines
Firstly, think about what people are looking for. It’s likely that most people want what you want – improved relationships, to feel healthier, to look younger, to earn more money, have great sex, to feel safe, have more fun, to achieve their potential, and so on.
It’s also likely that most people do not want doom and gloom (they generally get enough of that by listening to the evening news), or to read about a problem but not be given a solution.
Tips and suggestions for great headlines include:
- Know your target audience really well, so that you can gear your message to them.
- Read lots of headlines yourself – this should help you get a good idea of what works.
- Learn how to write for the web – see A List Apart for more information.
- Make them as short as possible – as few as five words.
- Where possible choose the simpler word – for instance, ‘find’ rather than ‘locate’.
- Reveal ‘fast facts’ or ‘secrets’ to entice the reader to click for more information.
- Take advantage of people’s short attention spans – consider that you have only a few seconds to pitch your message, and that the number of people who click through to your article for more information will depend on the quality of your headline.
- Use powerful, emotive words – for example “how to”, “the top 10 ways to”, “free report”, “save money”, “guaranteed success”, and so forth.
- State the benefit outright – for example, “50% off for 24 hours”, or even state the price of your product in the headline.
- Appeal to people’s “how to” desire – but make sure to focus on the result rather than the steps involved.
- Consider using a sentence from a testimonial in quotes for your headline.
- Make use of proven headline formulas.
- Use tools such as Google Adwords for finding keywords, or better still – use the services of a professional SEO expert to do this for you.
- Brainstorm – write down lots of ideas before committing to a headline.
- Test your headline on the people around you – as the saying goes wisdom can be found in the counsel of many!
Lastly, make sure to deliver on your content. While having a killer headline helps to whet the reader’s appetite, having top quality content that flows on from the headline and delivers value to the reader is equally important. And if it feels too daunting, consider using the services of a professional copywriter to do the job for you.