The headline is the most important thing you will ever write. If it doesn’t get your potential reader’s attention, your first sentence will never be read. You may have created the finest article of all time, but no one will know it.
How do you write a good headline?
Make a specific promise, using your knowledge of what works and why. To learn how, let’s look at three principles suggested in Brian Clark’s e-book “How to Write Magnetic Headlines”.
#1. Make a Promise
You don’t have an audience of thousands. You only have one potential reader, thousands of times over. To that reader, the connection you make in your headline is personal. You make that connection by communicating a specific, tangible benefit in your headline.
Before you make the promise, you need to know who your audience is and what they seek.
Know Your Audience
Internet searchers have become more sophisticated, able to target precisely what they want. Their use of longer phrases are boons for good headline writers because it lets the latter use keyword research to micro-target audiences. SEO keyword analysis still matters, not in specific keywords, but in niche phrases.
Awareness of these search terms gives headline writers several leads on what to promise their most receptive audience.(note to Joy: blog article idea – free and low cost SEO tools and how to use them)
#2. Use What Works
Stop trying to create original headlines. Every effective headline idea already exists and has been used many times. The language might be a bit different from the 1950’s, but the formulas are the same.
The greatest copywriters of all time have all been unrepentant thieves, and you need to be one, too. Masters of the craft encourage you to adapt their ideas for your purposes.
Good copywriters keep lists of swiped headlines that have worked for others. The top resource in my swipe file is 52 Headline Hacks by Jon Morrow. Jon says that if you want to be a “serious” writer you need to write quickly by adapting the ideas of others to your purpose.
#3. Know Why Good Headlines Work
Our instincts and emotions dominate our intellect. We may try to guide our instincts and emotions with analysis, but we spend most of our rational energy on justifying our compulsive decisions. We even talk ourselves into believing our rationalizations are the basis for our decisions.
Copywriters have known this since the birth of persuasive writing. It is the reason headlines written 100 years ago still work today.
Seven Headline Types That Work
Lists are everywhere you look because they work.
One reason is numbers have emotional context for people far beyond “Lucky 7” and “Unlucky 13.” The number 10 implies trust and order while 11 has mystical properties. Large numbers fascinate us, and in every culture, certain numbers have special meaning.
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How To… Headlines
Most of us want to be able to do many things we don’t know how to do, but we don’t want to spend weeks, months or years learning how to do it.
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Make Life Easier Headlines
Modern life is busy. Most of us just never have the time to do all the things we want to do. A promise to make the things easy and manageable will get attention.
- How to Write 3,000 Words Before Lunch Without Breaking a Sweat (added punch of a definite time frame)
- 5 Easy Ways to Keep Your Dog out of Your Rose Bushes (with the power of a list)
This type of headline has many variations. All of them play on our fears.
- How Safe is Your IRA from the Government?
- Can We Really Trust PayPal?
Headlines that appeal to our vanity and prestige get our attention, especially when they touch on our hidden feelings of inadequacy.
- How to Have the Greenest Lawn in the Neighborhood
- How to Earn a Six Figure Income Online
Issue Resolution Headlines
This type of headline promises to solve a problem. Make it even more informative and convincing by discussing issues people don’t want discovered.
- How to Get Rid of Toe Fungus in 5 Days
- Cure Your Child’s Temper Tantrums in Less Than 3 Weeks
Be Like Mike Headlines
This concept sold millions of athletic shoes. Michael Jordan is one of the most successful people in the world, and this Nike’s “Be Like Mike” campaign promised the opportunity capture a little piece of that fame.
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The Fourth Principle: How to Become an A-List Headline Writer
- Practice writing headlines every day.
- List every possible emotional response your readers could have to your subject matter, and write five headlines for each.
- For each article you write, create at least 25 headlines. When you think you have the perfect headline, create more.
It is how the A-Listers became the best, and how you can, too.
Angel Britanico Junior Associate | Azeus Convene
Angel is a marketer by profession, a journalist by education and a storyteller by passion. Read more tips on management, corporate governance and technology at Azeus Convene’s blog or follow them on Twitter for weekly industry updates.
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