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5 effective ways to write engaging headlines for your audience

Ruth Taylor

Ruth Taylor Marketing

PRO

Your headline is the most important part of your copy so it’s worth spending some time on it.

If you want your content to engage your audience and potential customers, you need to create a headline that hooks the reader straightaway.

Why a good headline is important

It doesn’t matter if you’re writing a product page, a service overview, case study, an article or blog post, a good heading will capture the reader’s attention and make them want to read on.

According to David Ogilvy, advertising guru and the original “mad man”

“Five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”

There’s no point spending time writing great copy, if your audience doesn’t read it because they find the heading boring, don’t understand what the copy is going to be about or don’t see the value in reading any further.

A few golden rules of headline writing

Before I get into what types of headlines work best, there are a few general guidelines you need to remember:

  • Always write for your audience. You need to understand your audience, so if you haven’t done so already, research what they like, dislike and respond to. Both your headline and content need to appeal to your audience and provide value. When you know your audience, you’ll understand their pain points. This will help you to write content that appeals to them, helps them or makes their working lives easier.

  • Tell the reader what the copy is about. It may sound obvious, but your headline must match the copy. A good headline will tell the reader exactly what the copy is about. So many headlines are written to shock, amaze or try to be clever. But when you read the content, it bears no relevance to the headline, or the story isn’t that sensational after all. That’s one certain way to lose readers!

Make the headline simple and easy to understand. Use common words and adjectives that people relate to and understand.

  • Headline, headline headline. Never go with your first attempt. It’s very rare that a writer comes up with a killer headline on their first attempt. Start by writing several headlines, and then write some more. Review your headline ideas and tweak them until you come up with your best version. You can test the effectiveness of your title by using free online checkers such as CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer.

  • Headline length. You want the headline to provide enough information for the person to understand what the content is, but not be too long. There are varying opinions on what the best headline length is, some say a minimum of 6 words, others say the optimum length is 12 to 16 words. But the general consensus is that a heading should not be more than 18 words. The recommended character length is between 50 and 70 as Google will shorten your headline if it’s more than 70 characters.

  • Choose your words. People are more likely to engage with a headline that includes emotional and/or power words. Emotional words such as “save,” “proven” “guaranteed” and “best” create an emotional response.

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Power words or phrases will make the headline stand out, so people notice what you’re saying. In other words, they grab the reader’s attention quickly and encourage action.

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  • SEO keywords. This should be a consideration, but not the driving factor when writing your headline. If you really want to write a great headline, write your headline first and then add your keywords. But only if they work with your title. Your headline needs to read naturally for it to work properly.

  • Finally, A/B test your headlines. This allows you to see what type of headline and message your audience responds to best. Over time you’ll be able to write headings that you know will appeal to your audience, leading to greater engagement.

So how do you write a headline that grabs the reader’s attention?

It’s tricky coming up with a catchy headline that people notice and want to find out more. So if you’re struggling with your headings, here are 5 simple tips to help you create eye-catching headlines that make your audience want to read further.

1. Numbered lists – people read copy for information and quick, simple solutions. Using numbered lists will make the copy easy to understand and digest. People like to know what to expect, they don’t like uncertainty. Including numbers in your title will let the reader know what the content is about, and how long it is.

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You may notice that the examples I’ve given are odd numbers. That’s because it is generally accepted that odd numbers catch our eye and generate interest. Even numbers create symmetry and are less attention-grabbing.

Using numbered lists is also a great way to break up your content on the page by splitting it into sections.

2. Ask a question – people like to respond to a question. It could be because they like to answer a question, or because questions make them think. And if the question seems strange, all the better. It will grab the reader’s attention and make them curious. Curiosity is a great motivator. Your readers are more likely to read on to find out more if they’re captivated by what your headline hints at.

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3. How to – People often search for ways to do something, or even how to do something better. “How to” headlines tell the reader that the copy will help them to overcome a problem or challenge. It will make them smarter or show them a new skill or technique.

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5. Solve a problem – people are looking for ways to make their life easier. If they see a headline that speaks to them about their problems, concerns or issues, they’re likely to read further. This links to the point about understanding your customers or audience. If you know what their problems are, you can provide the solution.

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5. FOMO – we all hate to think we could be missing out on something. So don’t be scared to make the reader think they could miss out on a great opportunity. Giving a closing date on an offer will create a sense of urgency.

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Creating a sense of urgency, and fear that your reader will miss out on something will encourage them to read on, not bookmark your content to read later…that’s if they remember.

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So that’s how to write a great headline

Simple really!?

Headlines are the most important part of your copy so it’s worth spending time getting them right.

The main aim of your content is to provide information or educate your audience. Your headline should create intrigue, interest and make the reader want to read further.

I said earlier that there’s no point in writing great content if the headline doesn’t grab the attention of the reader and make them want to read on. Well, the same can be said about a headline. There’s no point crafting a headline that hooks the reader in if the content is boring.

You need both a great headline and valuable content if you want to engage your audience.

There are of course many other ways to write engaging headlines. But copywriters are like magicians, we don’t reveal all the tricks of our trade. So if you want headlines that entice a person to read on, and great content that engages them, why not speak to an expert?

First published on ruthmarketing.co.uk

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