Headline-Writing Techniques That Work
I’ve come across a few educational articles on some popular blogs, and most of them elaborate on more or less similar copywriting and title-drafting techniques—and I must say, all of them were informative and beautifully written. I’ve gained some experience in my blogging career, and I want to take a different approach and bring my touch to these techniques.
Your goal is to get casual browsers to read your full posts, so you’ll need to do something to make them stick. So, hit them where it hurts: their emotions. This can be tricky but has always worked for me. The headline and title need to hit hard, and human nature is such that we tend to react emotionally… to everything (thanks, behavioral psychology). I stand by what I said in the opening: content is definitely king, so write free-flowing train-of-thought posts. Don’t drop the ball for even one sentence, from the title to the call to action. The flow of information should provoke the reader’s curiosity and desire to know what’s coming.
Let’s talk about different types of headlines and a few techniques.
Is that a risky word to use as a professional or what? Most would think so. Try to see the potential for humor in it: if the headline or title of a post can titillate, it’s bound to draw readers. Here’s a little example: “You’ll Swoon Over Our New Product!”
Provocation is magnetic; human nature makes all of us try to quench curiosity as soon as possible. That’s the principle behind writing a titillating headline. Of course, the headline won’t stand on its own; make sure the content delivers what the headline promises.
02. Pose Challenges
I’ve used this technique to write some of my most compelling posts. It’s natural to stand up to a challenge, especially when it has to do with one’s vocation or livelihood. Specialists and laypeople alike will be compelled to check out a post if they think they can win anything by sheer grit. Challenging headlines usually take the form of a question: “Are You Good Enough to Add to What You See Here?”
03. Shout About the Benefits
This is one of the best ways to get your target audience. Don’t waste time trying to convince your audience; just get to the point in the headline, which is important when you’re trying to promote or sell something. Study and analyze your product’s unique selling points (USPs) and put that information right where it matters most: in the headline (”Subscribe NOW and Get Continued Technical Support!”). Your posts will get high rankings in search engines.
04. How-To Posts
This is a tried-and-true technique of copywriters and bloggers. Headlines that begin with “how to” appeal to everyone (”How to Get the Most Out of SEO”). The drive to learn is inherent to the human psyche, so take advantage. Industry experts will evaluate, and beginners will gain much-needed knowledge. Others will want to know whether they can get involved in this thing they haven’t tried before or apply something new to their business practices.
05. Negative Headlines and Threats
These are hard-hitting and are sure to get people hooked, if for no other reason than insecurity: people want to know that they’re not the only ones making a certain mistake. It’s tricky; be measured and careful when drafting such headlines. Use them sparingly; overdoing it could give the impression of pessimism and ruin your reputation. Try something like, “If You Don’t Learn [X], Your Career Could Suffer.”
06. Create Suspense and Expose Secrets
It’s not rocket science: people like to peep and learn secrets. After all, what makes business folk speculate about Bill Gates’ success or makes people confer about their new neighbors? Tap into this aspect of our psyches by writing headlines that create suspense and then expose secrets, like so: “Not a Successful Blogger? Here’s Why.”
07. Commands and Demands
This might not hold true for certain personality types, but I’ve seen people succumb to the demanding tone used in advertisements and on websites that sell products. The trick is to embed a suggestion into a tone that can’t be ignored, as in, “Don’t Hire Us Until You’re Convinced… and After Our Presentation, You Will Be.”
08. Exclamation and Provocation
Headlines that both ask questions and evoke the reader’s curiosity work wonders with people who flock to answers and seek to satisfy their curiosity. These headlines can be longer than you might expect, but don’t let that bother you, as long as they convey the message. Be exclamatory when sharing a debatable but important fact: “If Thousands of Designer Can Do It, Why Can’t You?”
09. Precision and Directness
I confess: I rarely use straight headlines. Not because they’re not effective; they’re just not my style—but don’t let that dissuade you. I’ve seen some great work done by great bloggers who rely mainly on straight headlines, which are factual and concise. They carry no extra baggage, and they let the reader know exactly what to expect from the content (”25 Tips for Increasing Your Web Traffic”). The content is the most important part: it needs to be organized, informative and educational.
10. Taunts and Personal Jabs
When you make a taunt, you are bound to get traffic. The key is to not get too personal; know where to draw the line, or you might upset your readers. Be diplomatic and humorous when appropriate. You are trying to draw an audience to your post with a headline—nothing more. Here’s an example: “Have You Ever Made This Design Mistake?”
You’ll generate a lot of buzz on the web with a controversial post. It’s risky, and you’ll get all kinds of reactions in the comments section, good and bad. Craft your headline carefully, and write the post enthusiastically. You can’t help it that people have differing opinions, so why not use that to suit your purposes? Here’s one: “Should Designers Learn to Code?”
Another type of headline is the announcement. They grab attention and make the reader wonder. It’s one of the most frequently used types of headlines, especially by companies that are launching a product. Adjectives are your power tools here: “Best-Ever Tips to Skyrocket Your Online Business.”
0. Information and Guidance
These headlines are direct, but they convey specific information and appeal to specific audiences. Posts with this type of headline aim to educate and provide solutions. They can also be used to promote products. Here’s an example: “Sure-Shot Guide to Increasing Online Business Queries.”
This is common, but the drawback is that, while you’ll attract readers, you’ll put others off if you go too far. Am I painting a fair picture? I think so. Just be sure to put forward a genuine point of view, a real story: “How One Roadside Vendor Became a Billionaire.”
Interact with your audience and they’ll feel that they belong. If you’re like me, you probably don’t feel like you belong somewhere until you begin to feel ownership. This is exactly what I had in mind when I first used this technique. Make readers feel as though they’re part of the team, and they’ll spread and support your message. Several blogs do this successfully and even end up influencing decisions. An example: “Let’s Raise Our Voices to Stop Capital Punishment.”
This is just a smattering; there are numerous other ways to write a compelling headline. Just focus on evoking emotion. Put yourself in the reader’s shoes as you draft. Remember that your informative content will go to waste unless you pay special attention to the headline.