Does Writing Headlines Make You Want To Cry?

If so, you’re not alone!  Headlines are crucial to successful digital marketing.

Every piece of marketing content written for your business is competing to capture the attention of your audience.

That’s easier said than done, though. According to Hubspot, only 20% of those who read your headline will click through to read your article

Ouch… The internet is a pretty tough crowd!

And, the thing is, when it comes to marketing and sales, we write headlines FAR more often than we think we do.

I’m not just talking about sales or landing pages… every email subject line, blog post title, social media caption, lead magnet and brochure title is, in essence, a headline.

So, this stuff does matter.

As a professional copywriter, I spend more time than most writing and testing headlines.

Here are my best tips for writing better headlines that get people clicking…

5 Tips For Writing Better Headlines

1. Learn the elements of a good headline

Headlines, like all pieces of writing, are subjective. What attracts one person, might repel someone else. So, knowing WHO you’re talking to when writing a headline is crucial. 

That said, there are a few elements of headline-writing that will make them more irresistible, no matter who’s reading…

a. Keep it on-target

One thing that helps is to understand WHAT your reader needs from the content.

This is also known as ‘user-intent’ and is an important factor in writing content that speaks to your audience and ranks in search results.

Are they looking for information?
Then a ‘Number’ headline may be the best bet… like ‘7 tools to transform your writing skills’

Do they need help to learn a new skill?
Then a ‘How to’ headline might work to tempt them to click… ‘How to unblock a drain like a professional plumber’

Do they want to be entertained?
Then a more ‘shocking’ headline might do the trick… ‘17 insane, but true, things about living in London.’

b. Keep it authentic

A really big bugbear of mine is clickbait.

Every time I read a trashy headline and then click through to an article that bears no resemblance to it, it makes me so ashamed to be a writer.

By all means, try out different headline formulas to capture readers attention.

But, just make sure you’re actually delivering what the headline promises.

No sleazy clickbait here, please!

c. Keep it 'moving'

The trick to a ‘dynamic’ sounding headline is to avoid passive language at all costs.

According to Education First, “The passive voice is used to show interest in the person or object that experiences an action rather than the person or object that performs the action.”

An example would be ‘5 ways that makeup is worn incorrectly for different skin types.’

In that headline, the subject is the makeup, which isn’t an effective way of grabbing the attention of the audience

Instead, a more compelling headline would be to centre your reader. Something like… ‘5 ways you’re wearing the wrong makeup for your skin type.’

See the difference? 

d. Keep it interesting

This is by far the hardest part of writing headlines.

According to Jeff Bullas, ‘the words you use in the title of your post ... will determine the reaction of your readers.’

That reaction might be positive, or negative, depending on what you want them to feel.

One quick way of eliciting those emotions is to utilise ‘power words’ - here are 79 examples that can help you put more oomph in your headlines. 

2. Don't reinvent the wheel

Headline writing doesn’t need to be something you dread. You can make life a little easier by using the following resources…

a. Headline templates

One little-known secret of copywriters is that we rarely start a project with a blank word doc.

Nope, we utilise proven copywriting formulas to guide the writing process. And the good news is, you can do the same!

So, check out some headline formulas that are proven to convert to get your cogs turning. 

b. Headline swipe files

If you’re anything like me then you’re signed up to a gazillion marketing emails from your favourite online business gurus.

Pay attention to the email headlines.

Which ones draw your attention and make you want to read them? What is it about them that you could emulate in your writing?

Set up a folder to save the emails that inspire you and read through them if you ever feel stuck. (Obviously, I’m not condoning plagiarising here!)

c. Free headine tools

The best-known headline tool is the Coschedule Headline Analyzer, which gives your headline a rating out of 100, as well as tips to improve it.

In case you’re wondering, the headline for this post scored a 75 - which is pretty good.

I don’t think I’ve ever been able to get it over 80, no matter how hard I try!

The key is to get an optimal mix of word types to maximise the emotional response.

I definitely wouldn’t rely on this too much, but it’s a fun way of testing your headline ideas. 

3. Write your headline last

Getting stuck trying to come up with a catchy headline is a sure-fire way to get writer’s block. So, I DON’T recommend that you start by brainstorming your headline.

Instead, give the content a working title that captures the purpose of the piece.

Then just start writing. Get those creative juices flowing.

Once the body is written, you have a clearer view of what your reader will be getting when they click through. So, it becomes far easier to write an effective headline at this stage.

4. Experiment and test

For copywriters, writing is often more of a science, than an art.

Whether or not a piece of writing, or ‘copy’, prompts readers into taking action, or ‘converts’, isn’t just left up to chance.

So, when you get into the swing of writing headlines for your business, it’s time to take it to the next level and start A/B split-testing to see which headlines are converting better.

This sounds FAR more complicated than it is.

It simply involves methodically running a series of tests to see which subject titles are opening better. Neil Patel explains it well in this guide to A/B testing email campaigns.

Am I suggesting that you spend days split testing headlines for your blog posts?

No, that’s probably not a good use of your time.

But this DOES matter when you’re writing headlines for sales emails where an improved click-through-rate will directly improve your conversion rate (which means more cash in your pocket!)

5. Practice, practice, practice

At the end of the day, writing great headlines comes with experience. Like anything in life, the more you practice, the better you become.

Headline writing doesn’t have to be something that you dread. Utilising the right tools, doing a bit of experimenting and getting plenty of practice is all it takes for it to become second nature.

What sort of headlines always tempt you into clicking open?

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