As a blogger, freelance writer, etc., you rely on readers actually reading the content you publish. However, even if you write a top quality blog post or article, you have no guarantee that your audience will click on and read your stuff.
To begin with, the online world is chock full of great content. Also, with people increasingly using mobile devices, there is very little room for your words to make an impact. Your article, email or blog post is introduced with just a blurb or headline. On a mobile device, even the headline itself is cut off after four or five words.
So, in our increasingly content-crowded yet word-deficient world, how can your content actually get read?
The answer lies in the headline.
Why your headline matters
Consider how you sort through your inbox each day. Do you methodically open and read each email before deciding to keep or discard it? Probably not. More than likely, you skim the subject line of the emails to see which ones stand out. Those that do are saved for later reading. Everything else is deleted.
That subject line is essentially the headline of the email.
When you read the newspaper, you also typically judge which articles you’ll read by the nature of their headlines. With magazines, the same selection process is applied.
A piece of content lives or dies by its headline.
Given this reality, you, as the headline creator, must master the art of generating the best and most eye-catching headlines you know how.
The following are some time-tested rules for grabbing people’s attention- and not letting it go.
1. Evoke fear.
You can make human psychology work in your favor. As humans, we undergo many gnawing emotions, including fear. Content that strikes at our fears is also likely to grab our attention. That is why headlines such as these work well:
How safe is your [X] from [Y]?
10 Warning Signs that You Have/Are [Blank]
The Shocking Truth About [X]
2. Evoke curiosity.
We are also curious creatures and enjoy the process of discovery. So, content that evokes our curiosity will also grab our attention. Here are some curiosity-inspiring headlines:
How to Do [X] in Just 10 Steps
8 Secrets Your [Y] Won’t Reveal
What’s Really Lurking in Your [X]
3. Tacitly acknowledge laziness.
Humankind is naturally lazy, and that is precisely why bite-size content is so fashionable. We no longer have the patience or willpower to read long treatises on how things work or why certain phenomena exist. “Listicle” articles do well for a reason. Here are some good title ideas:
7 Logical Reasons Why Your [X] is [Y]
Get [Anything!] by Following these 10 Tips
The 5 Oddest [Anything] Occurrences in [Blank] History
4. Spark some envy.
The grass is always greener on the other side. While we hate to admit it, people who are more wealthy or beautiful than us, or of higher class than us, do inspire our envy. In addition to making us envious, they also make us wonder how we might become like them. Articles such as the ones listed below create the illusion that we can become what we envy by following just a few easy steps.
10 Life Habits of the Very Wealthy
Why You Won’t Get Rich Until You Do What [Elite class/person] Does Every Morning
How Not Having [X] Alters Your Life in these 5 Unexpected Ways
5. Inspire shame and pride.
America is built on a Puritan past, meaning that we are likely to feel shame for our shortcomings more often than not. This past can be taken advantage of when creating content headlines that inspire shame and, conversely, propose a remedy for that feeling. Here are some headlines that work in this regard.
10 Dumb Mistakes that You are Making with Your [Blank] and One Way to Stop It
Be the Smartest Person in the Room: Don’t [Blank] When Others [Blank]
How Doing [X] Makes You Look Clueless- and Why
About that Text Placement…
It’s rare that you’ll have 10 lines of space to craft the perfect headline, especially if you are publishing online. More than likely, your work area will consist of five or six words that barely fit into the subject area of an email. You will need to place your most important words towards the front of the headline so that they are seen by your readers. You will also need to get to the point of your headline fast.
Here are some example headlines that don’t mince words, so to speak:
10 Free Business Resources for Your Freelance Gig
Why Home Insurance Policies Don’t Cover [X]
6 [Blank] Deceptions You Engage in Every Day
Don’t forget about SEO
Search engines like Google will be more likely to pick up and index your content if it contains an optimized headline with keywords that people are searching for. This is why you should not be creating vague headlines such as “The biggest thing no one knows about” or “I made this mistake the other week.” There is no way such a headline can be categorized by keywords and searched.
Don’t forget to back up your headline with meaty content that actually reflects what you are promising. Otherwise, your content will be viewed as thin and not indexed by Google, no matter how catchy the headline.
The Bottom Line
When it comes to crafting your headlines, take some time to consider how best you can present your content and entice your readers with it. Treat your headline like a cake decoration that has to be placed ‘just right’ before it enhances that dessert. The above ideas will hopefully get you started in the right direction.