How important is the headline?
Legendary Copywriter, John Caples, admits even the world's greatest copywriter CANNOT write a million-dollar copy from a scummy, sulky headline (quoting Terrence Blair).
So if your headlines are fluffy and crummy?
Your readers walk.
How do you craft attention-grabbing headlines that stop readers dead in their tracks?
15 expert writers and online entrepreneurs share their seductive headline crafting strategy with budding and intermediate writers below.
1. Tom Hunt
I am about to reveal to you not just my secret for outrageously clickable headlines, but also the secret of every headline writer that is/was "worth his salt" EVER...
Yep, brace yourself because it's going to blow your mind with it's ingenuity, genius and complexity.
WRITE LOADS OF THEM
That is the secret, my friends.
And not just many articles (so you get to write many headlines) but for each article you write, you need to write at least 20 possible headlines and then choose your favourite.
Like all worthwhile things in life: wealth, fitness and my wife (JOKE ;)), creating clickable headlines is simple... but not easy.
2. Sharon Hurley Hall
For me, crafting a seductive headline is a multi-stage process, involving inspiration, research and tweaking. I start by thinking of a couple of words that best describe the core of what I'll be writing about, then I come up with some headline ideas that incorporate those, making sure to use powerful nouns, adjectives and emotional words.
The next step is to research popular headlines on the same topics, using Buzzsumo. This gives me the inspiration to tweak my ideas based on headlines already proven to be successful.
Finally, I use the CoSchedule Headline Analyzer, which scores headlines by type, length, sentiment and more. It helps put the finishing touches on my chosen headline so I can use the most appealing on my article or blog post.
3. Jasper Oldersom
Almost every headline I "write" is created leveraging my secret weapon: my swipe file. Whenever I come across a great headline, I save it in this file. This is a huge source of inspiration for me. I now see headline formulas everywhere!
Sometimes I just scan through the list of great headlines to get my brain juices flowing and come up with a headline myself. However, very regularly, I actually use the exact formula someone else used and apply it to my own post.
As an example, Copybloggers recent post: Why Learning to Write Is the Toughest and Best Thing You'll Do, could easily be turned into "Why Raising a Child Is The Toughest and Best Thing You'll Do".
4. Ashley Faulkes
- An alluring offer (12 easy ways to crush your competition in business).
- A secret (12 easy ways to crush your competition in business (including 3 you have never heard of)
- A solution to their problems (7 simple ways to get more customers)
The problem is, and it's not a new one I think, that we have heard it all before.
So, when I want to really get people's attention I try to be different.
Want an example?
- Multiply Your Email Subscribers Like Rabbits (with this simple trick)
And one I was thinking of today (which you might see on the blog by the time this is published)
- Ignite Your Audience With Fire-Breathing Headlines
Next time you are writing a headline, if you are struggling to get creative, just throw a word (adjective, noun, whatever) in there that people would normally not expect.
Don't do it every time though, as it will wear off fast.
5. Aoife O'Carroll
Creating a headline is the virtual equivalent of designing a shop front: It has to be eye-catching enough to attract the crowds, and it has to follow through. There is no point in packing them in, if they all leave in disgust when the stock bears absolutely no relation to the store window.
Eye-catching means using words that won't bore the eyes you're trying to catch. That means no more "Ultimate," "Essential," "Secret." Get out your thesaurus, and look for something original!
Don't craft a stunning headline that does not tie in with the body of your article. We've all be seduced by sexy store windows that drew us in, only to leave us feeling empty and used after a lacklustre encounter inside. Be original, but be truthful too.
6. Sally Ormond
Focusing on the key benefit and reader, I ask: How will it make their life easier? What will it mean to them? What keywords do I need to use? Then I brainstorm headlines.
After a break, I go back to them, discard the rubbish and strengthen the language of those that made the cut by using emotional vocabulary to arouse pain, pleasure or curiosity while maintaining their honesty.
Usually, once I have whittled the list down, one stands out as a clear winner.
For web copy, I will often give a few options so my client can test them to ensure the best results.
Headline creation isn't an exact science, but this strategy works for me.
7. Emily Johnson
Take a look at the title "7 Actionable Tips That Can Help You Write a Seductive Headline". After reading it, everyone can understand the article format (list), type (tips), benefits (tips that help to write a good headline), and theme (perfect headline).
Once you know the formula of a perfect headline, try to write it.
To come up with the best idea, brainstorm: write at least 25 headlines. You will write general and mediocre ideas first, but then you will start thinking creatively. Sometimes we need to get rid of bad ideas before making up something worth reading.
8. Morten Vadskær
Your headline certainly is important. Above all it needs to be catchy and compelling to get your readers to click and read on. Secondly it needs to bypass spam filters or be read and understood by search engines. Crafting your headline is definitely no easy task.
Often the best headlines contain numbers such as "7 awesome Google Analytics Hacks" or "8 out of 10 marketers are making this mistake. Are you?"
However, to avoid "numbers-fatigue" you might want to try these strategies:
Ask a question that your reader can't answer (without reading your blogpost)
Twist a common or wellknown sentence such as "The best AdWords phrases you never use", Instead of "New AdWords phrases for your campaign".
In short - be extremely serious when crafting your headline. Write it, leave it for hours or days.
Get back to it and improve it (quite often by omitting words).
9. Minuca Elena
The title of your post must appeal to your readers' emotions. There are two powerful feelings that rule the world: lust and fear.
The most successful posts fall into one of these categories: they teach you something you want to learn, a result you want to achieve or present you with something that you are afraid of, teaching you how to avoid things that can ruin your life, your business and how not to fail to achieve your purpose.
For example, in the title of this expert roundup I did, "46 Top Entrepreneurs Confess Their Biggest Selling Mistake" the word "confess" reminds us of sins and regrets. It makes you wonder how they can be a top entrepreneur and still make dumb ass mistakes in their businesses.
Also, do you think they feel guilty or ashamed of admitting them publicly?
I don't believe that a headline like "46 bloggers share their mistakes" would have had the same impact.
That's why you should use controversial terms that draw readers' attention. To find a list of terms you should use in your headlines, I recommend you check the"Power words" blog post by Jon Morrow (on smartblogger.com/power-words/. He is a smart blogger who teaches you how to boost your blog's traffic. And all his posts have amazing titles.
Let's take as another example of a guest post on his site "77 Resources That'll Get You More Traffic Than Naked Pictures of Kim Kardashian". When you read naked Kim Kardashian and see the featured image that is a nude picture of her, then you immediately feel the urge to see what this post has to do with blogging.
Here, the goal is to get traffic to your posts (which is the dream of every blogger).
Always write the headline of a post after you finished writing the post. See what's the main idea of the article, what message you want to send to your audience and then rephrase it in a way that draws attention.
People see your post on social media or on google search and you have only a few seconds to make them click on it. In the article itself, you have 1,000-2,000 words to prove your vast experience and knowledge but in the title, you only have a few words to make them want to read your post.
A click bait title is all right as long as you deliver value and quality content in the post. Make sure you don't deceive and disappoint your readers because they will immediately click back and leave your site.
10. Michael Mayfair
- Be short and sweet, ideally: up to 55 characters, 6-word long (people only read the first and last 3 words);
- Entice people to click through to read the article;
- Reference the reader: use words like "you" and "your";
- Use interesting / uncommon adjectives and negative words like "incredible" and "stop";
- Include numbers (digits): so people feel it's a quick read and an efficient use of their time;
- Have your personalization: "Point #8 is unbelievable";
11. Cristina Mihalcia
When creating catchy headlines, one strategy that works very well for me and gets many shares on social media is getting ideas and inspiration from popular sayings and phrases, famous movies, songs, books, quotes or popular tag lines.
Of course, you don't want to copy the exact phrases but use them for inspiration and then create your own headlines and make sure they match your content.
Having a popular saying in your headline can get a lot of attention, and it will make you stand out and connect with your audience on a different level.
12. Zac Johnson
The title of your content and call to action means everything. While the actual content on your site might be thousands of words, the few words that you use as your title will make all of the difference.
Here are some examples of what's working best today.
How to Make a Strong _____
Ultimate Guide to _____
7 Tips for Busy ______
How to Get Rid of _____
You can see a full list of 70+ "fill-in" titles here
The reason why these types of titles work so well is that the end user knows exactly what they are getting, and they are worded with call-to-action triggers as well. Best of all, they also apply to near any niche or industry and as a site owner or content creator, you just need to fill in the blanks based around the content topic you are creating.
13. Shelly Dion
I could write an article "How to Write Great Headlines" or "The Three Best Strategies for Crafting Seductive, Attention-Grabbing Headlines".
Adding a daring promise to the headline will also entice the reader to read the article.
For example, if you´re writing a column about weight loss techniques, the headline "Lose fifteen pounds in two weeks on a chocolate diet" is much more attractive than "Best Ways to Lose Weight."
These simple tips for writing headlines can result in a spike in readership over time.
14. Russell Lobo
1. Keep the user in mind: This is the most important point. You need to understand what the user needs from your article/post and your headline should answer it. Reading your headline should assure him that of the thousands of articles on the topic, yours is the one that will answer his query.
2. Seduce with sensory words: Sensory words are known to seduce the mind and make the reader want to click on the headline to read the post and also share the post. Words like delicate, luscious, spicy, goey, attract a person subconsciously to click on the headline. Restaurants have been using this technique for ages. And many blogs too are implementing it with success.
3. Trigger curiosity. Huffington Post excels in this. Check "Kit Harington Looks Like A Goth Teenager Without His Beard" for example. The headline triggers the curiosity of the reader to see how Kit looks without his beard.
15. Terrence Blair
When I'm writing headlines for copy, I keep in mind people are alert and task-oriented. That they want to find what they're interested in, and quickly. So, before I even write the headline, I try to figure out where the reader is with regards to the product or service. What they believe.
Because the more I know, the better I'm able to connect my message with them.
Then I ask myself, "If I had that problem or were in that situation, what would I want to hear in order to take action?"
After figuring out what they're like, after I think about who my ideal prospects are, I imagine them as one person, as someone I know.
So I think about one person I care about - an aunt, an uncle, or a friend - and write a benefit-oriented headline that appeals to his or her self-interest.
I always use headlines that promise the reader a benefit. Headlines that solve people's problems. Ones that make a promise I'll fulfill in the copy.
To accomplish this, I write a number of headlines using different formulas. Here's a sample of the formulas I rely on:
- 5 Questions Every Woman Should Ask on The First Date.
- 3 Simple Steps to Grabbing Hiring Manager's Attention and Get the Job You Want
- How to Start a Business from Home Even if You Don't Have Any Money
- Why Some Women Almost Always Look 10 Years Younger
- I Used to Have Skin Troubles--Now I Look 10 Years Younger With This Natural Remedy
- Don't Buy Another Used Car Until You Read This
- Because of My Skin Condition, Guys Didn't Ask Me Out--Until Now
- Grab Hiring Manager's Attention and Get the Job You Want Now
- Don't Buy Another Used Car Until You Read This
- Don't Ever Start a Small Business Before Taking These Five Steps
- John Made His First $75,000 Online in Just Seven Months Using These Strategies
- My Anti-Aging Cream Helps Restore my Social Life.
Another thing I do is scan the cover of popular magazines for inspiration.
For example, take this Men's Heath headline:
"The Most Dangerous Advice In The Gym."
If I'm writing about the bad advice I've seen about online marketing, I could write:
- 7 Most Dangerous Advice About Internet Marketing
- The Most Dangerous Mistakes Small Business Owners Make
- The Easiest Way to Gain 10 customers per Week
- The Easiest Way to Become a Successful Entrepreneur
- The Success Habit Only a Handful of Business Owners Know
You can play with any plenty of these magazines headlines to suit your need.
Every time I sit down to write a headline I always call to mind copywriter John Caples' remark that "if the headline of an advertisement is poor, the best copywriters in the world can't write copy that will sell the goods. They haven't a chance. Because, if the headline is poor, the copy will not be read."
Whether it be blog post, email, or sales page - Caples' take on headline writing applies.
And with the blogosphere filled with competing headlines, we are constantly challenged to write headlines seductive enough to cut through the clutter.