The web is a noisy place.
Social media consultant, speaker and acclaimed author Mark Schaeffer coined the phrase “content shock” to describe the recent intense proliferation in content, and the limited hours in the day to actually consume. With that in mind, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the prospect of creating something that will actually succeed in catching an audience’s attention.
Just as with email subject leads, a powerful headline can be the difference between whether your content gets read or not. Best practices and psychological principles can be applied from news media, as many famous outlets continue their transition to an online presence. As a headline can be the difference between content consumption and an article being completely ignored, it can be just as important, if not more important than the body of the article, itself.
So what are some of the best practices for creating a headline with regards to what we can learn from the news?
Here are a few useful tips:
Headlines and Advertising
Think about the way you, or someone you know, consumes the news. Whether you have a physical paper in your hand or are scrolling through a news website, what catches your attention? It’s unlikely that you’ll be reading an article that doesn’t strike your interest upon first glance. After all, we have a limited capacity and time to devote to reading and learning, so articles have a limited opportunity to catch our interest.
Content strategy is more complicated than many give it credit for. An interesting picture may draw you in, but oftentimes it’s the headline that makes you want to read more. The same principle is true for blog posts and other online content.
For how important headlines truly are, they often are created as an afterthought. Most people put all their blog creation effort into the body of the post, then later scramble to throw together images and other finishing touches, like the perfect headline.
But creating a headline is every bit as important as writing the bulk of your content. Writing headlines deserves as much of your attention, if not more! The point of a headline is not only to summarize what a reader can expect when reading your content, but should also serve as an advertisement to interest them in clicking through. A catchy headline is the best chance you have at getting people to read your blog.
Here are some exercises that can help you create the perfect headline:
- Brainstorm 10 distinctly different headline possibilities, making sure that your target keyword fits in naturally.
- Use SumoMe’s KickAss Headline Generator to test out different ideas or to help with writer’s block. Hubspot’s Blog Topic Generator is another great tool if you’re still in the planning stages of writing your blog post.
- Use CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer to check for readability, word balance, type, length, sentiment, and more.
- Advanced Marketing Institute’s Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer can provide additional insights.
All of these tools will help you test your headline against different factors to see if it’s the best it can be, before your article goes live.
Another option for seeking attention and creating a great headline? Try getting your audience involved! Share the subject of your blog post on social media and give people the chance to vote on their favorite headlines. This will also help create anticipation for the finished product.
What Makes a Catchy Headline?
So far, we’ve shared why headlines are important and how to analyze whether the one you have is a good one. But what exactly makes a catchy headline? Here are a few different factors that you can implement to make your headline more interesting:
- Quantify with numbers
- Use interesting or action-packed adjectives
- Rationalize a complex topic
- Use trigger words like what, why, how, or when
- Be unique, specific, urgent, and useful
Many blog content creators also have their own specific formulas to create winning headlines.
For examples, Jeff Goins combines the elements: Number or trigger word + Adjective + Keyword + Promise for creating a headline that get readers to click through.
It’s All About Effort
Ultimately, creating a headline is half art, half science, and all effort. It’s easy to be apathetic after spending a lot of time on the bulk of writing in a post, but don’t fall into the trap of slapping a lackluster headline onto your finished work and calling it a day.
A great blog post deserves a great headline. Being “bad” at writing headlines is no excuse when there are so many tools to help you generate and test ideas out.
And remember, once you’ve got the click, your blog, your job isn’t done! There are still many things you must do to convert your traffic according to specific goals.