Question: how do you decide whether to read a piece of content? The answer, almost without exception, is the headline. The headline tells us what the text is about and tempts us to read on.
You can craft the most compelling piece of content in the world, but without an attention-grabbing headline it's nigh-on pointless. As a copywriting agency, we understand the importance of getting the headline right – but just like the rest of your content, it takes skill, talent and thought.
Although every piece of writing should be approached individually, there are some universal rules which help to create a memorable headline. Here are a few ideas, along with some examples, to get you started.
This may sound obvious but before you write your headline, you need to establish the main point of your piece. Your writing may cover various topics but there should be a central theme which links everything.
If you don’t understand the main thrust of your content, you risk writing a headline which will confuse your audience. A headline tells the audience what to expect; if the content doesn’t deliver on what’s promised, the reader will spend most of their time wondering when you’re going to get to the point!
For more complex articles, start with the main facts that refer to the headline before delving deeper. This creates the clear connection with the headline that the reader will be searching for, allowing them to concentrate fully on the rest of the text.
Headlines should be clear and concise, providing a punchy introduction that speaks to the reader without distraction. Waffly headlines that are vague and ill-defined will almost certainly have your target audience scrolling past without pausing.
Every word in the headline should be carefully placed for maximum effect – and you should always consider shortening the headline for more impact.
For example, How to Lose Five Inches of Flab From Your Waistline In One Month is a headline that many will be interested in. However, it becomes infinitely more powerful when you remove the first two unnecessary words, changing it to Lose Five Inches of Flab From Your Waistline In One Month. The latter is much stronger and commands greater attention.
Your readers may be intelligent and informed individuals, but if you join the dots for them, they’ll instantly be more attracted to your content.
Your content may describe a service or be a product description, or even just impart information, but what your reader really wants to know is how will it benefit them. Don’t be afraid to spell out the clear benefits in the headline, as it will help your audience see how your article relates to their own personal needs.
For example, 10 Strategies for Email Campaigns could sound interesting to some readers. By contrast, consider this: 10 Strategies to Achieve 142% More Subscriptions on Email Campaigns.
By including benefits that are clear, obvious and specific, your headline will instantly grab more attention, making it must-read content.
We’ve mentioned the need to grab attention during this article, but there’s a balance that should be struck. Although getting – and keeping – the attention of your audience is your goal, your headline must be authentic and believable.
Contorting the facts to create a sensationalist headline may certainly turn heads, but it will do so for all the wrong reasons. If your headline sounds too outrageous to be true, it will be dismissed as clickbait.
For example, When You Read These Disgusting Pollution Facts, You’ll Never Want to Breathe Again is a headline that’s clearly playing for clicks. A far preferable headline would be 10 Shocking Pollution Facts That Highlight Our Climate Emergency.
Compelling, Honest and Simple
The above information provides an easy-to-follow guide about creating a headline. Once you understand the basics, it’s straightforward to avoid the pitfalls that many writers fall into.
Using language that's descriptive but uncomplicated, your headline should be crisp, condensed and simple to understand, allowing your reader to be able to relate to your content instantly.
As you gain experience in writing, the quality of your headlines will develop and evolve naturally. And remember: some of the best headlines can be fun, so don’t be afraid to experiment with your own style!