The goal of a headline is to stop readers dead in their tracks and convince them to read your article. Some headlines succeed but most fail.
With the explosion of the Internet and online media, experts report more than 2 million blog posts, 294 billion emails and 864 thousand hours of videos are created every day.
Copyblogger has statistics showing on average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest.
Your headline is the most important piece of your article. Yet most people spend hours writing their article and only minutes writing their headline.
Your headline will determine if those 2 people will read your article or not.
When it comes to crafting a successful headline, why reinvent the wheel?
How to Write the Perfect Headline
Headlines are often the make-or-break moment for each and every blog post. So how do you make a headline great?
Length is the first in writing a perfect headline.
Readers will quickly absorb the first three words in your headline followed by the last 3 words in your headline.
The reason is that we naturally scan the content that we are reading.
If your headline is going to be long make sure you put special emphasis on the first three words and the last three words. You want them to stand out as much as possible.
Another reason to be concerned with the length of your headline is SEO. Google search results only display so many characters.
For your headline to be read clearly in search engines you should keep the length to 65 characters or less.
Psychology Behind the Perfect Headline
Yes there is actually a science to creating the perfect headline.
The human psychology responds to different stimuli. You can use this to your advantage when crafting your headline.
With that in mind, here are eight headline strategies that are backed by psychology.
- Surprise – “This Is Not a Perfect Blog Post (But It Could’ve Been)”
- Questions – “Do You Know How to Create the Perfect Blog Post?”
- Curiosity gap – “10 Ingredients in a Perfect Blog Post. Number 9 Is Impossible!”
- Negatives – “Never Write a Boring Blog Post Again”
- How to – “How to Create a Perfect Blog Post”
- Numbers – “10 Tips to Creating a Perfect Blog Post”
- Audience referencing – “For People on the Verge of Writing the Perfect Blog Post”
- Specificity – “The 6-Part Process to Getting Twice the Traffic to Your Blog Post”
Psychology has created the perfect headline formula.
The formula goes like this:
Numbers + Adjective + Target Keyword + Rationale + Promise
Ex. 10 Simple Things You Can Do Today That Will Make You Happier
5 Headline Hacks To Create The Perfect Headline
The difference between a great headline and an average headline is huge. A great headline will attract more readers to your article.
Articles with great headlines will be shared more on Social Media websites. They will have more comments.
Here are 5 headlines hacks that will greatly improve the chances of your article being read.
#1 – Use a threat that scares your audience
Safety is one of the most basic primal needs that everyone has. You can use this to your advantage with a threat headline.
Nobody wants to be a victim. Nor do we want to lose something that is of value to us.
A threat headline draws attention because it is addressing something that we already fear. By providing the content that addresses the threat then you can get people to read your article.
#2 – Show how to improve your reader’s lives
Our lives are complicated enough with items that we juggle every day. Work, school, children and other activities make heavy demands on our time.
Everybody wants the opportunity to escape or to remove some of the hassles in their day-to-day life.
If your headline can show your reader’s how they can improve their daily lives then they will read your article.
These type of headlines must tell the readers how they can improve their lives by bringing balance or removing unnecessary items.
#3 – Giving them something extra
Nobody can resist getting something extra. This is why these headlines work.
Big brands know this and they use it to effectively drive sales in their stores. For example they might run a campaign over a weekend that promises to provide a free bag of makeup for every purchase over $50.
People will literally purchase items that they do not need just to make sure their total is greater than $50 so they can get the free bag of makeup.
Just scroll down your Facebook news feed and it will not take long before your see a headline written using this tactic. Chances are you probably clicked on the link to read because of the title.
Clickbait is the term that describes these types of headlines.
Clickbait is just that: manipulative headlines that trick you into clicking through to content.
These types of headlines have been made popular by websites like BuzzFeed and ViralNova. The growth of these websites have resulted in a backlash and now Facebook is greatly reducing their appearance in your newsfeed.
The headline for this article using tactic #3. Did you catch it?
#4 – Mistakes, Mistakes, Mistakes
You might think that talking about mistakes people make would not be something that people would want to read. You would be wrong.
The most powerful headline ever written was Do You Make These Mistakes in English?.
This headline was written by Maxwell Sackheim for Sherman Cody’s English course. The ad ran for 40 years and was profitable every single time.
This headline is powerful because it alludes that there are potential mistakes and you want to read the article to make sure you are not making those mistakes.
#5 – How to [blank]?
I saved this headline hack for last because it almost never fails.
A how to headline tells your readers exactly what value your article is going to provide for them.
Every person on this planet that has Internet access has done a Google search for an answer to a question. That topic might be How to get pen ink stains out of your pants?> or How to program my VCR?
By writing a How To headline you are providing an answer for your readers.
You can even create a contrast in your How To headlines. A great example is How to lose weight without givng up junk food
How to headlines are powerful because you are solving your readers problems. Why not give them what they want?
Jennifer…EXCELLENT post, thank you. Amazing how powerful the written word is, isn’t it?
Thanks for the feedback. Yes I agree getting the headline right improves everything.
Great article here Jennifer!
In addition to the content upgrade at the end, it would be useful to include an example or two for each headline type.
Though I must be honest, clickbait-y titles always give me an icky feeling LOL …kinda like sucking on a lemon, you KNOW the result may not be all that great but you still suck it anyway haha
any new updates for us?