Top tips for writing brilliant headlines that will make your content click-worthy
We all know that your headline is important for framing your content. However, did you know that 8 out 10 readers won’t actually read past it? You may have the most well written article on the web, but without the right headline the rest of your content may be completely overlooked.
Think of headlines the way you think of shop windows. If you like the presentation or if there’s a giant sale sign hanging by the entrance, you’ll be more inclined to wander in and investigate further. If there is a drab, boring window display and nothing particularly exciting at the front door, odds are you’ll just stroll on past.
Headlines for your brand’s blog and social media posts have the same effect. In terms of impact you want to aim for a Christmas display of a giant department store, like Harrods or FAO Schwartz, kitted out with twinkling lights, fluffy fake snow and piles of shiny presents.
The shopfront of a downbeat second-hand store with faded beige curtains and a broken mannequin sporting a nightgown from 1980 doesn’t exactly have the same appeal.
What exactly constitutes a great headline?
While there is no exact formula for a winning headline, there are certainly some common characteristics that encourage higher click through rates.
Research by BuzzSumo, a content analytics company, identified five different elements that contribute to successful headlines. The first is an emotional element, something that invokes a feeling from the reader such as surprise or joy, or provides them with inspiration.
There is a promise element, which is what the content will do for the reader, such as answering a question, solving a problem or providing some advice. The content element involves using things like images, charts and facts, and the format determines whether the article is a list, a story, a report, or similar. The final element requires the involvement of a popular topic, that is, something that is currently on trend.
Take, for example, the headline for this blog post. The emotional superlative comes from the word ‘brilliant’, the content used are facts and statistics (although not explicitly stated), the topic is content marketing, which has become well known for challenging traditional marketing methods and driving inbound leads, and the promise is that these tips will make your content click-worthy. It contains four out of the five elements, and is much more likely to stand out than a less exciting alternative such as ‘5 ways to write effective headlines’.
But, while all these elements are certainly important in creating your headline, separate research suggests that just turning your article into a list can be one of the best ways to win clicks.
Make a list, and check it twice
‘Listicles’ have shown to be far more successful than any other headline format. You know the ones I’m referring to, there are plenty of them on Buzzfeed, the hugely popular online news site:
‘18 Secrets Hotel Workers Would Never Tell You’
‘19 Times Aussie Slang Confused The Hell Out of Everyone on Tumblr’
‘14 Things Instagram Users are Guilty of’
There’s a reason why Buzzfeed uses this format so much: it really is highly effective at gaining click-throughs.
In a study conducted by inbound marketing firm Moz, ‘number’ headlines ranked first among five main headline types for attracting clicks, beating ‘reader addressing’ headlines by 15%.
It could be that consumers want information quickly and clearly, and lists are the most effective at presenting this information. It could be that due to time constraints and the amount of content out there, readers prefer to have some idea about how long a piece is going to be (one of the reasons some blogs now add “estimated reading time” to their summaries).
Whatever the reason, the statistics are encouraging enough to at least attempt to convert some of your blog posts into a list format or try out some of BuzzSumo’s 5 headline tips. It could be a great way to make your virtual shop window more appealing.