Writing a headline that captures your readers’ attention is both an art form and a necessity. You might have penned the most thought-provoking piece since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech; however, without a captivating headline, it’s likely to get buried in the ever-flowing feed that constantly vies for attention.
Before you hit publish, follow these tips to write a headline that will help you stand out from the crowd.
1. Write down multiple ideas
Set a timer and spend five minutes writing down every headline idea that comes to mind, even if it seems downright silly. Remember, you can always tweak it later (and you definitely should). You may find that combining ideas will lead to a truly attention-grabbing title.
2. Be specific
Write a headline with your specific customer or reader in mind, instead of trying to appeal to the masses.
For example, instead of “5 Exercises to Increase Core Strength,” consider using “5 Easy Core Exercises You Can Do While Your Toddler Naps.” The first headline is very broad and leaves the reader wondering who these exercises are for. Runners? Gymnasts? Body builders looking to beef up their midsections? The second headline, however, specifically targets parents with limited time on their hands.
3. Implement the BuzzFeed formula
BuzzFeed is king when it comes to writing attention-grabbing headlines. For inspiration, take a look at the titles of its trending articles — is there a formula that you can apply to your own content?
In the case of the title, “32 Lazyish Ways to Deep Clean Your Home You’ll Wish You’d Known About Sooner,” the formula is “[X#] [Adjective] [Noun] to [Action] You’ll Wish You’d Known About Sooner.”
Are you a food blogger who focuses on easy-to-prepare, healthy meals? You might create a title like, “15 20-Minute One-Pot Recipes You Wish You Had in Your Recipe Book Earlier.”
4. Incorporate emotions
In an analysis of their headlines, the marketing calendar tool CoSchedule found that “posts with a higher emotional value got more shares.” For a compelling headline, use words that elicit a strong emotional response. These might pique a reader’s curiosity, fill a person with positive feelings, or evoke a sense of exclusivity.
5. Keep it short
Google search results will cut off your clever headline if it’s too long. To ensure that readers see the entire title, limit it to about 50-60 characters.
6. Create a swipe file
Keep tabs on headlines that grab your attention. Create a special “swipe file” in your inbox where you save emails with compelling subject lines, or copy and paste them into an online document or notebook. When you are short on inspiration, look through your files and see if you can apply any of those techniques to your own headlines — just be sure not to copy them verbatim.
7. Analyze before hitting publish
Once you’ve settled on a headline or two, try using a free tool like CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer to see how it might fare. Tweak it as necessary and swap out words to see if your score improves — the higher the score, the more likely it is that people will click on it.
Headlines are important, but content that delivers what your headline promises is just as imperative. Not only will it ensure that people read and share your content, it also helps with your search engine optimization (SEO) so that more people can find and appreciate your work.
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