10 ways to write a good headline. It’s not clickbaiting!

TL;DR: want to write a good headline? Get creative by writing the first headline that comes to your mind and then make 25 versions of it. The 26th may be what you are looking for.

The longer version:

Writing a good headline is an art form of its own

From business perspective, the headline is important, because the it is the first element of your copy that customers read. Based on the headline only, the viewers create a first impression that either draws readers in or pushes them away.

Technically, the headline (along with description and URL) is important, because the headline is what Google displays of your page or article in its search results page. If the headline is not informative and relevant to the keyword they were looking for, visitors will move on.

Research: for example, CopyBlogger found out that 8 out of 10 people read headlines and only 2 out of 10 will actually read the rest of your content.

An extreme form of headline writing is clickbaiting. It is the method of writing headlines that strive to maximize advertising revenue. An example clickbait goes like this: lolboom.net/15-things-you-wont-believe-are-made-out-of-legos. It’s catchy, arouse your attention, promise to deliver, but to get to the end of the content, you may need to flip through a jungle of advertisements.

Develop good headlines based on findings from your analytics

Headline writing in the inbound marketing context may sometimes resemble clickbaiting, but only because it is based on actual science: we inbound marketers generally know what has been found to be a working solution.

We know it because there’s a lot of research results around. Several million email, article and page headline research has been done, and they all indicate that we humans, on average, get more interested in certain

  • number of words,
  • order of words, and
  • choice of words

over certain other combinations.

The inbound writing style that encourages you to apply such techniques may feel cold at first. But the choice is yours.

I would never force you to use a specific style. All I’m saying: “Look, this is what generally works, and here, this is what your analytics tells about the preferences of your particular audience. You are absolutely free to ignore both and to use your gut instinct. I’m only bringing the facts on the table, nothing more.

10 resources for writing a good headline

55 ideas for a good headline: coschedule.com/blog/write-a-headline.

To increase trust, deliver in content what you promise in the headline: wpcurve.com/headline-writing.

A 56 character long headline allows the full display of it in search engines: blog.hubspot.com/marketing/a-simple-formula-for-writing-kick-ass-titles-ht.

Human psychology and headlines: surprise, questions, negative superlatives, How to-answers, specificity and numbers in headlines work better: blog.bufferapp.com/headline-strategies-psychology.

If a headline does not result in a click-through, your content promotion effort is wasted. But a change of one word in the headline may increase click-throughs by 46% quicksprout.com/the-definitive-guide-to-copywriting-chapter-3.

Learn how you can test the impact of different headlines among your audience: the Buffer test: wordstream.com/blog/ws/2014/07/17/headline-writing.

CoSchedule analyzed 1 million of their own headlines and learned that

  • List articles are shared the most,
  • the words “you” and “your” performed well and
  • in Twitter, business and technology words performed better than words referring to home or health (which work better in Facebook).
  • Als0, headlines with high Emotional Marketing Value are shared more than others.

okdork.com/2014/07/22/we-analyzed-nearly-1-million-headlines-heres-what-we-learned

List of Common, Uncommon, Emotional and Power words that work and the proportion in which they should be used in a headline: coschedule.com/blog/how-to-write-the-best-headlines-that-will-increase-traffic.

Do you do email marketing? Check out these 13 email subject lines that encourage your recipients to read the rest: blog.hubspot.com/sales/intriguing-email-subject-lines.

And, my personal favourite: write 25 headlines exercise: slideshare.net/Upworthy/how-to-make-that-one-thing-go-viral-just-kidding.

Now it’s your turn

What have you found out to work best in headlines among your own audience? Any other good headline tips? I would love to know. Please comment!

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