When you’re running short of time, you instinctively scan instead of read an article. What do you scan? Significant pictures and keywords that capture your attention. Where are the keywords usually located? In the headline, of course. If the headline interests you, you will naturally feed your curiosity by reading the article further, and then it seems like you have some time to afford after all.
It has been said that the headline constitutes 80% of the first impression of a piece of content, therefore it is a critical element of written communication. Some marketers have a mistaken idea that headlines are restricted to advertising copy. No, headlines pervade everywhere including landing pages, social media posts and blog posts. In fact, the following 3 reasons are why we must adopt a “headline first” mentality in everything we write:
1) Readers are always short of time (I believe this is not a baseless presumption).
2) Readers must get interested before they read further.
3) Writers must not lose sight of what readers are looking out for.
Famous copywriters are known to earn millions out of writing words, or as business guru Rich Schefren said, “selling electrons.” But marketing through written communication (like copywriting) is an age-old skill that will always be in demand. For marketers who want to reach out to a wider audience, learning to write compelling, attention-grabbing headlines is a good starting point.
Today, you have 4 tips to writing a powerful headline.
1. Use Trigger Words (e.g. what, why, how, when)
Trigger words promise the reader that he or she should learn something after reading your article. Rather than your headline simply making a statement, trigger words make it sound more persuasive.
2. Use Numbers
It is no secret that the most successful headlines use numbers in order to sound specific, like “7 Tips To Lose Body Fat Fast!”
Numbers are a copywriter’s best friend, and they work like a charm.
3. Use Interesting Adjectives
Here are some examples:
Adjectives are what I call “sentence enhancers”. They add flavours to the written word so readers can feel good or have positive visualization of what is being said to them in their mind.
4. Create A Curiosity Gap
Peter Koechley, the co-founder of Upworthy, one of the most visited editorials on the Internet, says, “Tell people enough to get them interested but not so much they don’t need to click. Our goal is to create an itch you need to scratch.”
While you shouldn’t reveal too much in your headline, you have to include enough information that intrigues the reader to begin with, so find that balance.
Here’s a simple headline-writing formula:
Number + Trigger word + Adjective + Keyword(s)
For instance, if you were to write an article on “eating bananas”, you could phrase it as “Why You Should Eat Bananas”, or take it a step further and make it: “14 Unbelievable Reasons Why You Should Eat Bananas”.
Apply the formula and you get: Why You Need These X Essential Headline Writing Tips.
We practice what we preach.
So overpromise your readers with your powerful headlines, just remember to deliver too.
Nelson Tan is an Inbound Marketing consultant at iSmart Communications, an integrated marketing communications agency serving the Asia-Pacific region.