“On the average, five times as many people read the headlines as read the body copy.” ~ David Ogilvy
Is your headline magic? It should be. Having a great headline is critical for the success of your blog post. Ogilvy wrote these words back in the 1960s when people only saw a small percentage of the headlines they do today. Getting the headline right is more crucial today than ever before. Copyblogger says that 80% of your visitors will read your headline – but only 20% will go on to finish the complete article. One of the keys to improving readership is having a better headline to bring in more readers then write more powerful prose to keep them engaged.
1 — Attract Readers
The primary purpose of the headline is to attract readers, get them to read your article. Your ultimate goal is to convert them into returning readers.
Some of the steps required are small, simple ones. According to Neil Patel the “Content Marketing Institute, found that including a hyphen or colon in the headline increased the click-through rate by 9%”. This is without changing a word in the title, an easy win. Maybe headline magic!
Other quick wins include:
- Limit to 55 or 60 characters.
- 6 to 8 words is the perfect length.
- Make the first and last 3 words most alluring.
- Use interesting adjectives.
- Make it alliterative.
- Ask questions.
- Use numbers.
- Make it rhythmic.
Try these as the first step.
2 — Create Alternative Titles
Patel suggests we should spend as much time working on the headline as we do writing the article in the first place. His first suggestion is that each piece should have 25 alternative titles, which should each be analysed before deciding on the final one.
This idea has a lot of merit. It has become clear to me that headline writing is rapidly becoming a lost art. Blog writers need to pay more attention to the headline. Place each headline into a search engine and see what the results are. If there are items in the search results matching your headline then you need something more unique. Do this for each headline in your list. This can also help you understand the existing posts you will compete with once published. Is your headline magic? Will your article compete with the others on the search results? Two important question to ask yourself.
3 — Match the Content
If the headline doesn’t match the content then, it may fail. If your headline asks “The Flying Car: How close is the Dream?” The corresponding article should examine viability of the flying cars and whether any product releases are imminent.
When you write your title you should question whether it matches the content and when you write the material you should question whether it relates to the headline. Of course the material you write can go beyond the scope of the headline, but it should start there and come back to the point.
Writer Jeff Goins states that he “deliberates over titles for 30 – 60 minutes before settling on one that works. And I often go back and change them.” It takes much thought to produce a catchy headline. I concur, and have spent several hours because I am not satisfied with the choices made. “Is the headline magic?” Too often the answer is “no”.
4 — Use a Headline Generation Formula
Try using the following formula (courtesy Kissmetrics):
Numbers show to the reader that you will give them a specific number options in your content. A title like “101 Tips to make your PC Faster” is most likely to provide a summary of each method. “6 ways to Crack an Egg” on the other hand is more likely to show some of the details.
The trigger provides the underlying reason the person must read your post. It initiates a process or course of action and carries an emotional charge. These are words like: cure, energise, empower, unscrupulous, conspiracy, reclaim, etc. Phrases like “cure cancer” will turn heads, or make them think, the purpose of the trigger.
Adjectives help set the scene. Look at the following; effortless, easy, painstaking, complex, strange, each changes how you understand the rest of the headline. The keyword is perhaps the most important word in the title and will be in the first or last 3 words, it is the central focus of the piece. The promise is a short statement about the value of the article.
If you promise to show ways to bathe an elephant indoors then you must live up to that promise.
5 — Understand the Ways Headlines Fail
There are plenty of reasons why this may happen, it normally starts because enough thought has not been given to creating the headline in the first place. They include:
- The headline doesn’t match the content.
- It is not specific.
- Words can have multiple meanings.
If you know why they fail, then you are less likely to make the same mistake. But we will all make these mistakes from time to time.
Remember that despite all the techniques demonstrated here if you are not using social media or your pages are not being seen by the search engines then it doesn’t matter how powerful your headline then the cause of your content not being seen lies elsewhere. Here headline magic will not help. Solve your visibility issues first.
6 — Use Action Verbs
Action verbs are part of headline magic. They express the need for either physical or mental action the reader should take. The use of action verbs, intended to drive the observer to read the material you have written. Action verbs include: analysed, improved, motivated, interpreted, invented. They show leadership, provide powerful means of communication, building technology, teaching, and general accomplishments.
If you use action verbs then, the associated article will also be empowering, built to encourage people to improve. You should use similar words in your content.
7 — Use Emotive words
Headlines or titles with higher emotional value get more shares and in turn get more reads. It has been possible to link headlines to the use of emotive words and measure how they have performed since the 1960s. Emotive words create a predictable response, this is good news to blog writers who need to bring in new readers.
When we write, we will do so using a mix of words. 20% of these in everyday writing trigger some form of emotion. With headlines the idea is that you produce a greater emotive effect and a higher percentage will trigger an emotional response. It is this that drives searchers to read your post.
Emotive words include; free, challenge, complete, last chance, helpful.
8 — Use Powerful Words
This operates in the same way as emotive words. These also give a set of emotions which trigger a response. This includes words like: pitfall, caution, brave, helpless, spirit, daring.
9 — The 5 Most Persuasive Words
The five most persuasive words in the English language are:
Every day you will encounter these words, most likely in the form of either a headline or an advertising slogan. Truth is these words work. The next 20 influential words, originally identified by David Ogilvy are: suddenly, now, announcing, introducing, improvement, amazing, sensational, remarkable, revolutionary, startling, miracle, magic, offer, quick, easy, wanted, challenge, compare, bargain, hurry.
Remember the reason that many people read blogs is because they are looking for personal or business focused improvement. Thus, either improve or improvement is a good word for a headline.
10 — Analyse the Power of your Headlines
With prior posts, I have reviewed two headline analyzers:
You should read those articles for details of the capabilities of each headline analyser. Even if you use a headline analyser, it doesn’t alleviate the need for you to perform the other steps identified here. You must still create a list of alternatives, then be ready to spend time tweaking your best headlines to make them even better. Your headlines should include both emotive and powerful words. It is possible to find lists of such words on the Internet.
The process of analysis should allow you to create better headlines over time. You still need multiple options. If you wish to understand the emotions that particular words drive, then you will need to do some research. Getting the emotive response right is important.
My personal preference is to avoid the use of formula based headline, sadly too many people use them. Often they don’t provide the right impact. It requires work to make your headline magic. Many sub-headers sued within your material do, arguably, need to have the same rules applied. Power or emotional words, or a call to action, can cause a person to read on when they were thinking about not reading any further. Not all sub headings demand highly emotive words.
Buy Peter B. Giblett a coffee to thank him for providing his thoughts on improving your headlines and titles. Is your headline magic? If you have questions then please ask them via a comment. The images included here are from royalty free public domain image collections, Pixabay, or from Peter Giblett’s collection.