You’re about to Learn How to Write a Great Headline. And I mean a REALLY great headline.
I know something about you.
If you’re a business owner, copywriter, or marketer, you have written copy designed to influence. How do I know that?
Because every piece of content is written for someone, somewhere, making some kind of decision.
Think about all of the written content you come into contact with in a single day. The brand story on the back of your morning coffee. The information posted on news outlets. Every page on Wikipedia. Everything we read influences our decisions.
Many marketers, writers, and advertisers fail to spend the effort to craft a a great headline. It doesn’t matter if the content on the ‘other side of the click’ is a complete masterpiece if nobody’s actually clicking on it.
That’s why writing the perfect headline is so important.
Why Aren’t Your Headlines Converting?
If you’re not seeing a high click-thru rate, I’m going to give you five possible reasons why your headlines aren’t ‘stopping the scroll.’
1. You aren’t specific enough
People like to know what they can expect (it’s science). A laser-focused headline primes your audience for what comes next. If your headline is only a generic summation your article, you’re not going to pique much interest.
2. You sound desperate
Every marketer knows that a sense of urgency sells, but if you don’t write with the right amount of subtly, your headline just sounds like begging.
It is my firm belief that the hard sell is dead.
The internet marketplace is highly competitive. This competition tends to drive people to think that they need to push someone to buy — and buy NOW. Americans are exposed to upwards of 10,000 ads in a single day (you read that right). That’s a lot to choose from. A headline with a hard sell lacks sincerity, which translates to a lack of confidence in what you’re selling.
3. You’re using excessive punctuation (translation: unless you’re selling exclamation points, keep them out)
This one comes with a personal anecdote from yours truly.
At the beginning of my career, my mentor (shout out to Lucy Frost!) tasked me with writing copy for a high-end jewelry store. When I presented my work, she asks me: “Did they have a sale on exclamation points?”
I had littered – and I mean littered – the headline with exclamation points. In my then-novice-marketer mind, I thought I’d made the copy more exciting. In reality, I made the content less authoritative.
Excessive punctuation kills your headlines. The same applies for writing in all caps.
4. Your headlines are just plain boring
Your headline should be compelling enough that the audience clicks to read your entire article.
A headline with results-driven language captures a reader’s attention with what and how your product benefits a business audience. To write a great headline, you must write a unique headline.
Let’s take a look at two headlines about CRM software:
- Headline 1: Great CRM Software for Large Corporations.
- Headline 2: How Companies are Seeing a 117% Increase in Revenue with Top-Tier CRM Software.
The first headline is dull, offering nothing of value. In contrast, the second headline details why the product is of importance to the reader.
5. You aren’t posting content on the right platforms
Let’s say your headline is perfect. You’ve written a punchy, results-driven headline, and you’ve included all of the 4-Us (we’ll go into detail on that next). But . . . you’re still not seeing results. You could be posting on the wrong platforms.
Always keep your target consumer in mind. If you aren’t posting your content where your audience spends their time, you aren’t going to see conversions. Period.
We’re going to dig into all of this and why it matters. By the end of this tutorial, you’re going to have learned how to write the perfect headline.
What Your Headlines Need….and What They Don’t
We’ve addressed possible reasons your headlines aren’t earning clicks. Now, we’re going to dive into some of the “fixes.”
Remember those “4-U” guidelines I touched on a few sentences ago? Those are important.
What is the 4-U technique?
The 4-Us are a marketing formula that outlines what makes content applicable to an audience.
This method can be applied to writing a great headline:
- Is your message URGENT?
- Is your choice of words UNIQUE?
- Is the information USEFUL?
- Is the topic ULTRA-SPECIFIC?
We’re going to get into the grit of what each of these means:
4-U #1: Urgent
Urgency can be applied in different ways. You can use the FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) approach or go with the direct-effect approach.
With the FOMO approach, the goal is to lead people to believe that they are going to experience emotional or mental distress if they don’t take action. The FOMO method is used almost exclusively in sales copy.
Using the FOMO method, however, takes some finesse. You want your audience to believe that there was such a high demand for your product or service that that time is running out for them to partake in the excitement. Overusing the FOMO method, however, comes off as disingenuous, and people stop believing that there was ever demand in the first place.
The direct-effect approach is a more logic-based method to influence your audience. Use language that lets readers know how your content will affect their lives in the very near future. A headline detailing a pending natural disaster lets the audience know what will affect them in the immediate. Direct-effect headlines are often used by news outlets and marketing campaigns.
4-U #2 Unique
A unique headline avoids drab, generic phrasing, and piques the interest of an audience. To write a great headline that captures the attention of your readers, use concise, catchy, and creative language. Remember literary devices from high school? This is their time to shine.
4-U #3 Useful
Your headlines should detail why your information is applicable to your audience. In other words, what’s in it for them. If you notice, the headline of the article you’re reading right now indicates that by reading this content, you will learn how to write headlines that results in a higher click-thru rate.
4-U #4 Ultra-Specific
This ties in with all of the other 4-U techniques, and, in my opinion, it is the most essential. An ultra-specific headline is far more engaging and will get more attention and clicks than an over-arching, generalized headline. Let’s take a look at a generalized headline vs. an ultra-specific headline.
- Headline 1: A Taste of Italy: Local Man Opens Pizza Shop
- Headline 2: A Taste of Italy: Kilbourne, OH Pizza Aficionado Opens Authentic Napoli-style Kitchen.
We know from reading the first headline that the article is going to be about a local man opening a pizza restaurant, but the title isn’t specific enough to engage the reader. The second headline, in constrast, explains why the story is newsworthy.
What to Leave Out
You now know what to include in your headlines, but what about the information you should leave out?
Some common headline faux pas:
- The author’s name: Unless the author is both the writer and the focal point of the article, don’t include the author’s name in your headline.
- The date: Like the author’s name, unless it is directly related to the content of the article, adding the date is unnecessary.
- Generic calls to action: Bland calls to action like ‘click here to learn more’ are boring and just act as filler.
- Click-bait: If you want your audience to take you seriously, avoid the urge to write a ‘spammy’ title.
Knowing what information to avoid is just as important as knowing what to include when learning how to write a catchy headline.
How to Write a Dynamic Headline that Drives Results
There are a few key steps that you need to take if you want to write great headlines:
Locate Your Audience
Find out where decision-makers in your niche are looking. Find out what they want, how quickly they want it, and how they want it delivered. Assess their buzzwords, their concerns, and their questions. In other words, analyze their language and learn to speak it fluently.
Go in-depth with your research. Find a space dedicated to your specific industry. You’re not going to sell healthcare equipment on a platform that caters to web developers.
Get Clear on Your Goals
What are you trying to achieve? Leads? Awareness? Viral shares? Once you are laser-focused on what you want to achieve, you will have a better idea of what verbiage will push these objectives.
Use Strategic Marketing Psychology
While it takes time to learn the nuances of when and how to use marketing psychology tactics, familiarizing yourself with some basic principles will help you better understand what motivates your audience.
But how do you use marketing psychology to write a great headline?
Using Marketing Psychology to Create Headlines
The are a multitude of marketing psychology tactics. The following three are among the top tactics to know.
Framing allows you to present information in a way that influences perspective. Depending on your objectives, you can frame your information in a positive or negative way, both of which are effective.
- Positive framing: 95% of Trial Participants Saw Results Within 30 Days of Regular Use
- Negative framing: 5% of Trial Participants Did Not See Results Within 30 Days of Regular Use
These two headlines contain the same information, but presented in two different lights. Positive framing shows that results are promising, while negative framing indicates a failure. How you frame your headlines influences how your audience received the message.
The concept of ‘herd mentality’ sells a lot of products. Consumers often base their decisions on decisions that have already been made (remember when we were talking about people liking to know what they can expect?).
Using phrasing that highlights the popularity of a product or service says: Hey, other people thought this was a good decision, and you should, too!
If you’re urging people to sign up for your email list, the headline “Join 200,000 other happy customers! Sign up for our web alerts,” uses social proof to influence new subscriptions. See that word ‘join,’ and then the number of people already on the list? People, by nature, want to be part of a group.
Note: Don’t make outlandish claims in your marketing if they simply aren’t true. If you’re a brand-new company with 20 social media followers and three blog posts, nobody is going to believe that you have 200,000 email subscribers, anyway.
Scarcity (done RIGHT)
If done correctly, scarcity is a brilliant marketing tactic that has been utilized since the dawn of marketing.
Scarcity gives the impression that if your audience doesn’t take action, they’ll miss out on something. If you remember from above, I talked about how to use the FOMO method as well as why the hard sell doesn’t work, so let’s get into how to effectively use scarcity in your headlines.
Writing a headline that infers scarcity ties directly in with the ‘social proof’ tactic. When writing a great headline designed to sell a product, you want your audience to believe inventory is dwindling due to demand. What scarcity should NOT do is look like you’re pushing a slow-moving product.
- Headline 1: Less than 100 Hats Remain. Place your order now and receive by Christmas.
- Headline 2: Limited Edition Hats. Place your order now and receive by Christmas.
Let’s break down why the first headline is more effective at using scarcity than the latter.
The first headline indicates that the hats are sought-after. The phrase “less than 100” tells the reader that there were far more than 100 hats, and that those last few might go quickly. It doesn’t matter that you only had 105 hats in stock in the first place. The fact is that right now you have less than 100 left.
The second headline, while using the term “limited,” does not adequately convey scarcity. This headline passively suggests that the hats are limited, but doesn’t tell the audience that they might miss out on the product.
Tips for Writing Headlines for Different Content Types
There are virtually limitless uses for headlines. The below are tips for three of the most common content marketing strategies.
Tips for Writing Ad Headlines that Sell
Concise copy is key.
With advertising headlines, less is more. Headlines in advertising should pique interest and complement the content within. If you can write click-worthy sales copy, you’ve already won half the battle.
Consider the problem: solution method.
Your audience has a problem, and your product or service solves that problem. Keep in mind, people usually already know what problems they have – that’s why they’re searching. Don’t waste headline space by reiterating their concern. Instead, focus on the results.
- Headline 1: Do you have a leaky roof? Company X offers same-day roof replacement and repair in the Seattle area.
- Headline 2: Fast roof repair! Company X offers same-day roof replacement and repair in the Seattle area.
In this case, the second headline is more direct, immediately implying results.
Tips for Writing Awesome Headlines for Advertorials
The purpose of an advertorial is to advertise something from the perspective of someone with first-hand experience. While the ethics of using advertorials in a content marketing strategy is widely debated, the fact is, they’re still effective.
Focus on your tone
A headline for an advertorial should be written in a conversational tone and use the principle of positive framing. See that? Framing.
Tell a story
Effective advertorial headlines often lead with a story.
Consider the headline: “How I Changed My Life with One Simple Financial Investment.” Instantly, the audience will relate and engage.
Tips for Writing Click-Worthy Blog Headlines
Go for the easy-read audience
Blog posts are one of the most effective tactics in content marketing. A blog drives an audience to your landing pages (where conversions are made!), and regularly maintained blogs are looked upon favorably by search engines.
It is important to note that most successful blog posts are meant for a more casual reader—most, not all. Let me reiterate: most, not all.
Blog headlines that ‘stop the scroll’ capture immediate attention and imply an easy and enjoyable read.
- Headline 1: Great Summer Colors for Your Home’s Interior
- Headline 2: 7 Must-Try Summer Colors to Brighten Up Your Interior
Headline two is catchier, indicating a more engaging and “fun” read. This headline is more likely to earn clicks.
Don’t Be Afraid to Bring in the Professionals
If you’re struggling with writing the perfect headline, consulting a copywriting agency can save you time and increase your chances of success.
Contact a member of our team and learn how we can help make your content click-worthy.