On average, 80% of people will only read the headline of an article or post. Headlines either pull people in or they push them away. While this is a bothersome reality, copywriters must find ways to harness their skills and write the most effective and attention-grabbing headlines they can muster. Otherwise, four out of five people will never make it to your very first sentence. Here are some ways to strengthen your headlines and grab hold of the limited attention of your readers.
The Effectiveness of Numbers and Lists
Numbers help a headline to stand out. The human eye is naturally drawn to a number’s close proximity to words. A numbered list can ease the reader into a comfort zone where they have a much clearer idea of what to expect from the text they are about to read. Also, certain buzzwords can be used to strengthen the chances of a reader making it through to the end. Strong adjectives catch the attention of readers. These are some good examples:
Also, be sure to include some rationale, further heightening the chances of piquing a reader’s interest. Some examples include:
These are good examples of word-combinations that can help prepare the reader for the material and at the same time, provide an easy reading experience. The reader knows exactly what he or she is going to get.
Short and Sweet
The old adage “less is more” has never been more true. Most people today scan text, instead of reading it. The perfect length for a headline is six words. The reason for this is that the majority of people scan headlines, only reading the first and last two or three words. The primary function of a headline is to get the first line read. Overwhelming a reader with a long, clunky headline will derail the attention span of a reader and leave your work unread. Try and keep your headline under 65-70 characters. In this age of Twitter and text-speak, the longer the headline, the less likely the reader will be to continue reading.
The Impact of Negative Wording
Negatives, by nature, draw upon our insecurities. As strange as it may seem, phrasing a headline negatively can have huge advantages. Data has shown that headlines with phrases such as “no,” “without” and “stop” have led to more shares than headlines without negative buzzwords. An example of this would be “STOP! Here’s 10 ways you can save money!” You’re grabbing the reader’s attention and at the same time, offering them a list of ways to benefit themselves. It’s easy and effective.
Use the Five W’s
We all remember these five words from grade school, but let’s refresh our memory, as these words can be very helpful in catching a reader’s attention. They are Who, What, Where, When and Why. Take for example “5 Reasons Why You’re Not Making Tons of Money” or “Where to Go When Visiting New York City.”
Sense of Urgency
Much like the effectiveness of placing a negative-sounding word in your headline, adding a sense of urgency can help to grab a reader’s attention. Readers are apt to consider themselves and what’s at stake for them or their business if presented with an urgent headline. An example of this would be “Are You Losing Sales by Ignoring Your Customer’s Needs?” or “What You Must Understand about Health Insurance.” People tend to read that which appears scary or concerning to them, so don’t be afraid to add a little bit of desperation and seriousness to your headlines.
Follow a Formula
While there are many ways to write a great headline, here’s a formula that includes all the above points.
Number + Adjective + Keyword + Promise.
An example of this would be “12 Ridiculously Easy Tricks for Acing an Interview.”
Make Sure the Headline Is Useful
This seems obvious, but many copywriters fail to understand this basic tip. If your headline doesn’t come across as helpful or of use to the reader, then you can forget about them reading the actual article. Know your readership and understand what they need and expect from you. Try and convey the big, long-term benefits of the product or service in the headline. Make sure the reader understands that by reading your article, they stand to gain something. If there’s no prize at the end, then what’s the point of taking the trip?
Headlines fail for a variety of reasons. They don’t coincide with what the article entails or they’re not specific enough. Sometimes they’re too boring or wordy. And many times, the subject matter just isn’t interesting enough to warrant further reading. By following the tips above, your headlines will start to carry that added level of oomph that is needed to grab the reader by the collar and demand their full, undivided attention.