In case you’ve heard otherwise, let me set the record straight for you. The most important part of your content piece isn’t the body of text you spend hours on but your headline. Yes, the part you spend the lesser amount of time on that’s average length is about 5-10 words long.
Why are headlines so crucial in content writing? Because it’s the first, and sometimes the only, thing someone reads. It’s also the first impression you make with your prospective readers. So without a catchy title that screams, “HEY! Look at how interesting and useful I am!” and compels an easily-distracted-by-the-million-options-online browser to click-through and become a reader, the fact that you wrote an amazing and informative blog post doesn’t even matter.
On average, around 80 percent actually read your headline, and then it drops drastically to about 20 percent who go on to read the rest. Depressed or annoyed by this statistic? Maybe a little of both? Because it sure made me as a writer sad and peeved when I first heard that. But it also made me realize that we as content marketers need to understand the utter importance of headlines and that we should spend more time writing the most-attention grabbing ones we can!
The purpose of a compelling piece is to get the next sentence read, and then the next, and the next, and so on until your readers make it all the way to the end where your call to action is. But it all starts with the headline, and if yours isn’t extraordinary, expect only 20 percent or maybe less to actually read through your entire piece.
Not good enough for you? Perfect. Me either. Here are 8 ways to ensure your content piece gets read from the headline all the way down to the call to action!
1. Use a working title. Before you begin writing you first need a topic. But you need more than a general topic because that topic could pan out a hundred different ways and you could go off on just as many tangents in one post. If you have a topic and then create a working title, like “content marketing” (topic) and “Tools Needed For Content Marketing Success” (working title), you get something specific that helps guide you in your creation of one blog post free of several off-topic tangents.
2. Write a classic how-to. How-to posts will always be around. Want to know why? Because people will always want solutions to their problems. Every single day people go online to search for how to tie a tie, how to fix this, how to build that, etc. It’s human nature to like learning new things or learning how to better do things we already know how to do, and that’s not going to change any time soon.
Screenshot taken from eHow.com
3. Ask a simple question. A great way to get a reader interested as soon as they see your headline is with a question. Questions get the wheels turning in people’s heads while also appealing to their emotions. When they’re curious and start feeling emotionally attached, they have to know the answer to the question asked. And the only way to get the answer from your headline is to read your post.
4. Think numbers. Numbers catch reader’s eyes (it helped me get you reading my post). And I’ve learned the odder the number the better. When people see a number, they know a list is coming and know exactly what they’re getting from your post. Lists are good. Most people can’t get enough of list posts.
Screenshot taken from Buzzfeed
5. Mix in keywords with power words. Using keywords in your headline is very helpful in getting your post ranked higher on Google, which every content marketer would like. So write for your readers, but still keep Google in mind. Also, mix in a power word or a couple. Writers were put on this earth to pass along information to others and then get them to feel a strong emotion about said information. And there’s no better way to move them than with power words, i.e. caution, fooled and hazardous.
6. Don’t shy away from controversy. Some people steer clear of any type of controversy, but writers should embrace it. Controversial blog posts always provoke discussion and debate in your comments section or maybe even on one of your social network sites. Comments, whether negative or positive, are engagement with you, your post and your site, which you should welcome and be grateful for. So don’t be afraid to throw a bold, controversial statement in your headline because readers will click to read more and to share their two cents with you and other readers on the topic.
Screenshot taken from nytimes.com
7. Convey usefulness and urgency. A useful headline conveys a benefit to the reader and gives them a reason to read your blog post. If they don’t see the benefit they’ll get from reading your post from your headline, your post isn’t getting read. Another good thing to convey is urgency. You can’t express a sense of urgency in every headline, but when possible you should because it gets readers thinking they’re going to miss out on something if they don’t read what you have to say.
8. Go back and rewrite it. After writing your headline and writing and proofreading the body of your piece, don’t think your job is done. Go back to your headline and start rewriting it. See if you can shorten it or tweak it a little until it fits perfectly with what you just wrote. Remember this short thing that takes only a few seconds to read is extremely crucial to your blog post being read so spending some extra time editing it is totally worth it.
So there you have it. Eight (hopefully helpful) ways to help you craft the unique, attention-grabbing headline that gets you the clicks, traffic and engagement you want. If you have any comments or other tips you think are beneficial to content marketers and writers, please feel free to share them below!