5 proven headline strategies to attract more readers

On: Jul 12, 2018
By: Melody

Want to get better results faster with your blog? Having a good headline strategy in place will help you attract more readers. And more readers means more clients and customers.

In this post, I’ll share how you can create a headline strategy for your blog posts and emails that will engage readers and get them to click.

Let’s face it. Running an online business is hard work, and as solopreneurs, we wear many hats. Writer, web designer, SEO specialist, social media manager, etc. I see so many solopreneurs who work tirelessly on their blogs, only to fall short when it comes to writing good headlines. And it’s simply because they don’t have a good headline strategy in place.

Why you need a good headline strategy

It’s been said that Americans are exposed to over 3000 ads and marketing messages per day. While that number is often debated, it’s safe to say that there are a lot of people clamoring to be seen and heard.

You need to be able to capture your reader’s attention right away, or your message becomes white noise and ends up in your their mental dumpster. Having a good headline strategy in place will help you write attention-getting headlines that get clicked.

A good headline is important because:

  • It allows you to convey the gist of your message quickly
  • It arouses curiosity and gets them to click to find out more

Keys to a good headline

There are several things going on behind the scenes of a well-crafted headline.

At first glance, it might just seem like a few words to describe what an article is about. But when you peel back the layers of a well-written headline, you’ll see that there’s a lot more to it than just a description.

This is why some major publications like The Huffington Post have a team of copywriters whose only job is to create headlines. That’s how important headlines are.

Good headlines:

  • Create curiosity
  • Offer benefits to the reader, whether it’s educational, informative, or entertaining
  • Are specific — for example, “The exact steps I took to grow my email list to 5,482 subscribers in 6 months” or something along those lines. Exact numbers work well in headlines — they come across as more trustworthy than rounded figures or vagueness
  • Contain no unnecessary words, and focus on ONE concept
  • Are conversational and are written like you speak
  • Create a sense of urgency

Steps to creating great headlines

Believe it or not, writing the headline can sometimes be the hardest part about writing a blog post, but there are some steps you can take to make the process easier.

If you do this when creating your content, you’ll be ahead of probably 80% of the bloggers out there. This will be especially helpful when you’re writing guest posts or articles for major publications.

Step 1: Determine your audience — who are you writing to?

Sometimes your blog post or article will be for a specific part of your audience. For instance, my post on common launch mistakes makes it clear who within my audience I’m writing to: people who have launched or are planning to launch a product.

The headline is skimmable, so that anyone who does not create online products can pass up on the article (although I hope everyone reads it!) since it may not apply to them.

In other words, you don’t want to just shotgun blast your headlines. You want to make a reader connection. You want to build trust, and for the reader to feel like you wrote this just for them.

Having a clear demographic in mind for your post allows you to use their language. Are they male? Female? Educated? Who or what else is competing for their attention, and how can you stand out?

Knowing your audience allows you to tap into their hopes, fears, aspirations, and desires so you canpaint a vivid picture for them in just a few words.

Step 2: Focus on benefits (not features)

People make decisions based on emotions, whether it’s what to read, or what to buy.

You may have heard others talk about the difference between features and benefits. Features are just the tools, whereas benefits are how these tools actually help you. Another way to think of it is that the benefit is the result of the feature.

Let’s pretend we’re writing a headline about Google Analytics. Which of the below is more compelling?

  • Get detailed statistical tracking reports with Google Analytics (statistical tracking reports = feature)
  • This must-have tool reveals what readers are really doing on your site (knowing what readers are really doing on your site = benefit)

Or an article on blueberries:

  • Blueberries help boost your metabolism (boost your metabolism = feature)
  • This popular pancake topping is proven to speed up weight loss (speed up weight loss = benefit)

See what I mean? The benefits are much more compelling.

Step 3: Grab the reader’s attention

Writing a headline that catches their eye and grab their attention is crucial to getting more clicks through to your article.

Once you nail down your benefit, find a way to position it so they have to read. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it sure drives more clicks to your article.

You can do this by using elements of surprise, or contradictions in your headline. I call them disruptions. Something that stops them in their tracks and makes them say, “wait, whaaa?”

In fact, in the blueberry example above:

This popular pancake topping is proven to speed up weight loss

When we think of pancakes, we think of butter and sugary, warm syrup. It doesn’t usually stir up thoughts of weight loss, so the association in the headline is a disruption and instantly makes you curious (and hungry).

The key to remember is to entice them, but make sure that when they do click on your article, that the article itself provides value. The last thing you want to do is mislead your reader, and be written off as a blog that relies on click-bait and scammy tactics, without providing good content.

Step 4: Write multiple headlines

Some people like to write the headline first, then write the article around that. Others like to write the article first, then come up with the headline after. Either way is fine, but don’t just write one headline and call it done.

I like to come up with a basic headline, just to give me a frame of reference for my article first. Then, once I’m finished with the article, I come up with at least 5 headline ideas, all containing the keyword I’m targeting in my article (for SEO purposes), and narrow it down from there.

Some copywriters recommend coming up with at least 20 headlines! The more headlines you write, the better you’ll get at it, but you want to come up with no less than 5.

Since we know that people tend to make decisions based on emotion over intellect, there’s a handy free tool I like to use called the Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer.

The EMV analyzer measures the emotional impact of your headline and grades it based on how Intellectual, Spiritual, or Empathetic your headline is. Most professional copywriters see a 30-40% EMV score, while the most gifted writers will score in the 50-75% range for their headlines. It’s rare to see 100%.

Here are some of the headline ideas I came up with for this post, along with their EMV score:

  • The secret to writing headlines and blog post titles that get clicked – 16.67% (Intellectual/Spiritual)
  • The secret to writing headlines that create curiosity and get clicked – 45.45% (Intellectual)
  • The secret to writing headlines that spark curiosity and get clicked – 45.45% (Intellectual/Empathetic)
  • The secret to writing headlines that people can’t scroll past – 30% (Intellectual)
  • The secret to writing headlines that create curiosity – 62.50% (Intellectual)
  • Create curiosity with these proven strategies for writing click-worthy headlines – 60% (Intellectual)
  • Proven headline strategies to attract more readers – 57.14% (Spiritual)

Ding ding ding! Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

As you can see, my first headline above, which I wrote before writing this post, was not much of a zinger. But that’s ok, because I knew it wasn’t. It was just a baseline to give me something to create content around.

I had several other good scores, as you can see, and although I got two that were at least 60%, both of them had a more “intellectual” value, so I wanted to keep digging. Plus one was too long.

Even though my winning headline has a slightly lower score than a couple of the others, it had purely “spiritual” value according to the EMV, and since I know that people make decisions based more on emotions, I liked that one better.

It also highlights a benefit (“attract more readers”), while the one with the higher score highlights a feature (“create curiosity”). Remember that benefits are a result of features, so I asked myself, “What benefit does a reader get by creating curiosity?” The answer? They get more readers.

I played around with individual words, too. Instead of “get more readers,” I said “attract more readers,” which has a higher emotional impact.

Step 5: Edit ruthlessly

When writing a headline, every word must count. Don’t have fluff words in there, just for the sake of having them. As you can see in my winning headline, there are no extra words. It tells the reader exactly what to expect, no more, no less.

Perfecting your headline strategy

Writing click-worthy headlines is an art, and, with practice, you’ll learn which words are stronger, and you’ll get better at it.

One thing I like to do is keep a list of emotional or powerful words that tend to rank well on the EMV calculator. That way, I have them ready whenever I need them. This allows me to write better headlines faster.

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