Would it surprise you to learn that Upworthy, a website that features inspirational and motivational news stories, spends as much time crafting its headlines as it does its stories? Adam Mordecai, editor-at-large of the agency, states that they create 25 possible headlines for each story. Why 25? Because, he says, by the time they get to 21 they are struggling and really have to engage in more “out of the box” thinking, and that may be when the real creativity has to kick in.
This obviously works. The headlines for Upworthy’s stories are always compelling and intriguing, forcing readers to click in. And that clicking in is a conversion for Upworthy.
You probably want different types of conversions – you want people to read/view your content and take some actions as a result. But the same principle applies. If you don’t have the headline that grabs them, nothing will happen.
Here are a few facts to ponder:
1. Neil Patel of Quick Sprout states that he has seen the headline of an email increase open rate as much as 46% by changing just one word, based upon A/B testing.
2. David Ogilvy, considered to be the “father of modern advertising,” once said, “On the average, 5 times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent 80 cents out of your dollar.” In other words, 8 out of ten people will read your headline, but only 2 out of those ten will move forward to read the rest of your copy.
What Constitutes a Killer Headline?
There are really two aspects to creating a headline. The first deals with what you want to convey that is compelling to a reader. The second deals with how to word that headline in the most creative way.
What You Want to Convey
1. Value, Value, Value; Benefit, Benefit, Benefit
No reader of a headline will move further on to the first sentence of an article, a post, or an email unless you can prove that there is value and/or a benefit for them to do so.
Ask yourself this question: Why should a reader spend time on your content? This will give you the value and/or the benefit that must be included in your headline.
Your headline must make a promise to your reader – a promise of something important.
2. What Will Make a Difference in Their Lives by Reading This?
How will their lives improve? Whether it’s 10 new uses for WD-40 or a new revelation about caffeine, how will it make a difference? Answering this question will also provide target ideas for a headline.
3. If You Focus on Your Product or Service
You cannot just mundanely introduce a new product – it must be an amazing breakthrough of a huge discount that no one can ignore. These types of titles are usually discouraged, because they are too “salesy.”
4. Appeal to a Need for Knowledge
This is the stuff of which “how-to” titles are made. These can be compelling if they are worded correctly. If a reader can learn how to do something in 5 easy steps, then he may be moved to read on. The key will be to convey that it will be simple. “5 Simple at-Home Exercises to Lose Belly Fat in a Month” would be appealing (although it may be a bit long – more on that later).
How You State What You Want to Convey
This is where the “rubber meets the road.” You know what you want to say, but now you must do it in a way that will capture your audience. Here are some tips:
1. Keep It Short and Simple
Some writers can get away with long titles, but they are rare and usually seasoned journalists. You want to get your value or benefit stated clearly. “10 Financial Mistakes Retirees Make.” Your reader (hopefully a retiree) knows exactly what the value will be; your reader will want to know what those 10 mistakes are in order to avoid them.
2. Numbers are Always Good
You are promising to give a specific number of something related to the topic. For example, “4 Simple Exercises to Lose Belly Fat” obviously appeals to anyone fighting this problem, and if they can do it with 4 easy exercises, let’s dig in.
3. Use the Word “You”
This personalizes the message, and that’s a psychological hook. “You Can Cut Your Mortgage Interest in Half” or “You Can Lose 30 Pounds Without Sacrificing Your Favorite Foods.” Combining the word “you” with a question also works well. “Do You Want To Cut Your Mortgage Interest in Half?” or “Do you want to lose 30 Pounds in Two Months?”
4. Promise a Secret
Another psychological hook that tends to work. People just want to be let in on inside information. It makes them part of an exclusive group. Headlines like “4 Secrets to Getting Airline Upgrades,” or “5 Things Credit Card Companies will Never Tell You” will raise curiosity too.
5. Ask a Question
If you know your audience well and understand their pain points, you can use a question for a title. If they have a strong desire to have the answer, they will move on into your piece. “Want to Really Stop Those Pesky Moles?”
And you can even combine a question and a secret: “Want Your Kids Eating More Veggies? Try These 3 Sneaky Ways”
6. Give a Command
You sound like an expert and an authority when you give a command. And a reader may want to know exactly why you are telling them what they must do. “Stop Wasting Your Money on Store-Bought Fertilizers – and Go Green Too”
If you know your audience, you know what it wants. So, give them a “how to” in the title. And you can combine it with numbers or a great example.
“How to Play the Market Like Warren Buffett” or “Play the Market Like Warren Buffett – 3 Easy Steps” or “Here’s How You Can Save $20 on Groceries Every Week”
8. Give a Quick/Easy Solution to a Problem
If you are addressing a pain point of an audience, entice it with a fast or simple solution
• “8 Amazing Meals You Can Cook in 30 Minutes or Less”
• “4 Quick and Easy Ways to Boost Your Credit Score”
• “6 Easy Ways to End a Relationship”
You are probably beginning to see that many headlines are combinations of the above prompts. The more you can combine, in fact, the better.
And one last thing. If you want to check the power of your headline, CoSchedule has a terrific headline analyzer tool. You can insert your headline and get a “read out” of several factors, along with suggestions for improving it. You end up with an overall score, and your goal should be in the 60’s minimum. Try it!
Linda Grandes is a former journalist who found her passion for blogging. She is a successful blogger at Studyton.com. Moreover, Linda is a highly-appreciated writer at Studicus.com. Linda is best-known for her marketing experiences and for the passion she puts in her writing pieces. She enjoys sharing her learnings with her readers and enjoys hearing success stories of her readers applying her tips and tricks on various areas.