I’m a professional writer, information addict and avid reader, and yet I probably ignore 97% of the text I see every day. We’ve all developed impressive avoidance techniques to help us cope with the endless swarm of information and invasive marketing campaigns that surround us. It’s relentless and more is added every day, like this article you’re reading now.
The good news is, whatever headline you write, 80% of people will read it. The bad news is, only 20% will go on to read your full article or post. That means you’ll need to craft a truly irresistible headline to grab those skimmers and pull them into your text.
There’s a ton of information out there on how to crack the perfect headline, so I’ve broken it down for you into my definitive secret 7.
1. Get personal
Using words like you and your shows the reader that the information you’re sharing is for them. It’s also important to know who you’re talking to. Get to know your target audience and use language they can relate to. I’m not trying to connect with astro-physicists. If they ignore me, that’s ok. I’m talking to you — a professional writer or content writing-enthusiast — and my headline reflects that.
2. Use numbers
It’s safe to assume your readers are busy people, so let them know right away how many points you expect them to read. For maximum effect, write your number at the beginning of the headline and as a digit, not a word. Our brains are creepily susceptible to the power of numbers and, creepier still, they fall for odd numbers more than even. I guess even numbers seem a little too round to take seriously, like a smooth-talking guy, or an impossibly beautiful face.
3. Offer the answer
It’s human nature to want an easy solution to a problem. By using words like tips, steps, ways, keys, strategy or guide in conjunction with your number, you show the reader that you have the answer, and that you’re about to break it down for them. Spoon feeding? Yep. But trust me, it works.
4. Be specific
Tell your readers exactly what your article is about and why they should care. People don’t have time to figure out what you’re talking about. If it’s not clear, they’ll move on. Find your niche and own it. It’s then your job to commit and answer the exact issue you set out to solve. It’s also best to avoid clickbait. It might pull people into your text, but you’ll really annoy them if you drift off topic and fail to deliver on a promise.
5. Grab attention
There’s so much noise out there, so your headline needs to drown out the chatter. Here are a few ways to do this:
Be bold. We’re all emotional creatures, so if appropriate, pull on the heart strings with a power word or stirring statement. Hook readers with a romantic ideal or relatable fear.
Be unique. Whack out a juicy adjective. Who wants to know how to write a good headline or an amazing story? I’d much rather write a scintillating headline or an earth-shattering story.
Be urgent. FOMO is real, so introduce the idea of missing out; or straight up remind people of their own mortality. Who doesn’t have an existential panic every time they see a headline like, 5 Books You Must Read Before You Die? Like, “Where can I buy them? Quick, before I cross the next road.”
Be inspiring. Solve a tangible pain point or sell a relatable dream to instantly inspire your readers. You can also create intrigue by leaving something unsaid—but be careful not to mis-lead or fall into annoying clickbait territory.
Be eye-level. This one’s a Wix favorite. In all our text, we talk to our users as if they were a colleague or friend. No fuss, no fluff. Just tell it like it is to instantly gain trust.
To illustrate this last point, here are 2 headline examples:
Don’t worry, I’m not shaming anyone here. I wrote both these headline examples for a landing page that introduces Wix’s new accessibility tools. As I’m sure you figured, the second option was chosen. It cuts to the chase, telling the user exactly what’s in it for them, without relying on the subheader to explain.
6. Use keywords
Your words matter, but so does Google. And Google is bigger. For every topic you write about, do your keyword research. Type your topic into Google and browse the headlines and articles that come up. There will be certain words and phrases that appear often. This helps you understand what others are writing on your topic, so you can offer your own unique slant. After you’ve chosen your own target keywords, be sure to use them in your headline.
7. Write a million, settle on one
Before, after and while writing this article, I’ve been working on an ever-growing list of possible headlines. This helped me experiment and get creative, so I could hone in on a few favorites. You can even A/B test a couple and see what works best.
Here are my finalists for this article. The image below shows my reasons for choosing the one I did.
7 Golden Rules for Nailing Your Perfect Headline
The 7 Secrets of an Irresistible Headline
It All Starts with an Irresistible Headline…
How to Write a Good Headline That Converts: 7 Top Tips
Hook Readers at First Glance: Your 7 Step Guide to Writing Catchy Headlines
Feel free to choose your own winner in the comments below, or suggest a better one; I won’t be offended.
By Maria Hayday