We all know it's true: headlines are the most important part of our blog posts and articles. David Ogilvy said it himself that “on the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”
If your headline doesn't have the necessary moxie, you can bet your colored pencils that no one will read the body copy. Here are 7 ways to kick it with headlines (plus examples from the pros).
1. Ask a question.
Readers have this thing called curiosity. When they read a question they don't know the answer to, a little part of them wants to find out the answer, even if the topic has never interested them before. Case in point:
When I saw this article on Inc. the other day, I could care less about the Super Bowl. I'm not a football fan or a sports fan, but a little part of me wants to know what the host city needs saving from. Because the authors asked a question in the headline that I didn't know the answer to, I was drawn in.
2. Be honest.
One thing I appreciate about Neil Patel over at QuickSprout is his honesty. Many of his posts deal with lessons he's learned and, even, mistakes he's made in his journey as an entrepreneur. A headline like the one below is sure to get me to click because, first, it's crazy to think that this successful content marketer could fail at content marketing, and, second, I want to learn from his mistakes so I don't make the same ones.
3. Use shock and awe.
Neil Patel strikes again. Another method he uses to get clicks on his posts is to shock and awe. I'm not a car buff, but this headline gets me because I was raised in a house where we firmly believed cars lost you money, so we always spent as little as possible on them. Neil Patel upends my world when he contends that a Ferrari made him money, so, naturally, I (and probably the rest of you) have to click on this post.
As writers, we may never have the chance to write about how a Ferrari made us a million bucks, but I'm sure we can think up plenty of other controversial statements to use as headlines.
4. Show them "how to" do something.
As lazy as we human beings are, we love to learn. Tell me you're going to show me how to do something valuable, such as increasing my website's conversion rates, like this article from Forbes, or make a million bucks driving a Ferrari, and I'm all ears.
5. Solve a problem.
We all have problems: relationship problems, money problems, pet problems, family problems, work problems. That's why promising easy solutions to common problems appeals to readers. It's something they can relate to, but even more than that, it promises them answers for things they may not be able to control. Take me for instance; I'm always worried about the price of oil, but it's out of my control. Until Carolyn Silveira of Upworthy promises an easy answer:
Unfortunately, the article doesn't solve either oil prices or global warming, but the headline got me. You, however, can solve more realistic problems for your reader, and get them to click on your headline by promising solutions in your content.
6. Include the reader in a group.
Humans are groupies. We hung out in packs as kids, and going to the movies alone is still not cool. Take advantage of human nature's groupie-ness in your headlines. In this example from BuzzFeed, Jarry Lee appeals to the Lord of the Rings groupies out there by promising 23 photos that only they will get. And I promise, if you're a Lord of the Rings groupie, you're going to click on this link because you want to make sure all 23 photos are funny.
7. Promise big benefits.
If you build it, they will come. That's what they tell you, anyway. But if you promise big benefits, you know without a doubt that they will come. Take this example from Entrepreneur, for instance:
Most people hate morning routines, mostly because it involves crawling out of our comfy beds only to hop in our cars to spend the next forty-five minutes fighting traffic. But, if you promise us that a morning routine will turn us into any sort of rock stars, and even better--entrepreneurial rock stars--that's all you have to say. Promise benefits to your readers in your headline, and then follow through on those benefits with great copy.
What other headline tips do you have? Comment to let me know!