You may have written the most engaging article for your target market – you’ve answered their burning questions and it reads beautifully, but if you don’t get your headline right, there’s a good chance your audience won’t bother to read any further.
The headline is usually the first thing people see, whether in print or online, so put in the effort to grab their attention and keep them on the page. Your headline can make the difference between your next big client and an empty order book.
(And what’s the story behind my image? It’s a pun on a famous song from Mary Poppins topping a football report about giant-killing Inverness Caledonian Thistle, aka Caley, pronounced Cally.)
My top 10 tips for creating the perfect headline:
- Write the article first and come back to the headline. There’s nothing harder than staring at a blank page. The process of writing may inspire your headline, or perhaps a word or sentence will stand out when you reread it.
- It doesn’t have to reflect the main thrust of the piece – you can pull out something from the middle if it’s an enticing angle. You can use these angles when posting on social media to draw readers back to your website or blog.
- Still stuck for words? Imagine your target market is about to walk by you. What would you say RIGHT THEN to make them stop?
- Know your market. Do you need a Daily Telegraph-style headline that explains your story, or a quick pun in Sun-speak?
- Try to get a What selling points will grab them? (This depends on what problems they need you to solve for them, so make sure you’re clear what these could be.)
- Keep it short. The recommended character count to avoid being truncated in search results is 65 to 70. Aim for no more than six words.
- Use interesting adjectives – incredible, unique, strange, impossible, perfect …
- Go for the unusual. Remember, “Dog bites man!” isn’t a story, but “Man bites dog!” is.
- Use numbers – 9 ways, 7 secrets, 100 things to do. You get the gist.
- And finally, keep it relevant. It’s not the perfect headline if it grabs attention but fails to relate to your article. That’s just frustrating for your readers.
For some more ideas on writing headlines and making an impact, read The Good, the bad and the ugly