Headlines have always been important for grabbing a reader’s attention and getting him or her to read the rest of an article. In the age of social media shares, headlines have become even more important. Think of all the catchy Buzzfeed or Mashable headlines you see on Facebook feeds. Or, remember those Upworthy headlines, popular just a year or so ago, and how they almost compelled you to click on a link just to see what the story was?
Having a great headline — or not — can make or break a piece. According to Copyblogger, 80 percent of people will look at a headline. But, just 20 percent of them will continue to read the content beneath it. To get more readers, an excellent headline is a must. Following are some methods of writing headlines that grab people’s attentions and turn them into readers.
Make it Relatable
People are more likely to read something that they feel connects to their lives in some way. This isn’t just true when content is appealing to consumers; it’s also true of content designed to reach a business audience. When writing a headline, think about who your target audience is, then craft a title that lets them see themselves in the headline.
If you work with start-ups or small businesses, an example of an attention-grabbing headline might be “15 Successful Entrepreneurs Share Secrets to Their Success.” An audience of entrepreneurs is going to want to see themselves in that group and is more likely to click through to learn more.
Skip the Question
Although you want to create a headline that people or businesses identify with and relate to, it’s usually best if you skip phrasing the headline in the form of a question. A study by Buzzstream and Frac.tl examined Buzzfeed headlines that didn’t do as well others.
Some of the least popular headlines were those phrased as questions. For example, headlines that began with “Are You . . . ?” tended to get the lowest number of shares, even on Facebook, the most popular social network for sharing.
The study’s authors also compared the average number of shares for question headlines to the 15 headlines with the most shares. Question headlines were shared around 25,000 times, while the most popular non-question headlines were shared nearly 84,000 times each.
Another way to turn readers off is to let them know upfront that a post is from a person who may not be an authority or expert on a subject. The Buzzstream/Frac.tl study found that Buzzfeed headlines that featured the phrase “Community Post,” meaning they were written by a user, were shared 845 percent less than the site’s most popular headlines.
You don’t have to introduce yourself in headline. But a headline that reads “15 Board Certified Doctors Weigh in on New Medical Device” reassures a reader that people in a position of authority and who are qualified to weigh in on a topic are providing input.
Use a Number
The headline to this post, and all the sample headlines included it in have one thing in common: they all include a number. Including a number in the headline puts people’s minds at ease, as it gives them a basic idea of what they can expect. If your headline is “11 Ways to Increase Comments on Your Blog,” a person who clicks on it knows he or she is going to see 11 tips for getting more comments.
The structure of numbered posts can also be easier for people to read. Since the post will most likely be in list form, a reader can quickly skim it to see if there is useful information or not.
Promise Something Big
This last tip comes with a big caveat. You want to grab a reader’s attention by promising something exciting or new. You also want to make sure the post lives up to its headline. For example, if a headline reads “13 New Ways to Get Leads,” and the actual article lists 13 well-known, fairly obvious methods of getting leads, you’ll let down the reader, and he or she is going to be less likely to share your post, or return for more.
Headlines are your way of introducing yourself, your business, and your content to readers. Don’t skimp when it comes to writing them. Since a headline is the first (and in some cases, the last) thing a reader sees, you want it to be a few words that will really impress.