First impressions really do matter. So when it comes to reading an article, blog, social media post or nurturing email, headlines can make or break the reach of your content.
On average, eight out of 10 people will read a headline, but only two out of 10 will go on to read the rest.
A headline serves many purposes in just a few words. The ultimate headline checks most or all of these boxes:
- Captures the reader’s attention
- Summarizes the content
- Conveys relevancy
- Sets the tone for the article
- Entices readers to keep consuming
Plus, a headline should ideally incorporate the right keywords to generate SEO and increase searchability. It’s a tall order!
What to say and how to say it
Luckily, there are a number of headline styles to help you meet the aforementioned goals.
Ask a question. Pose a question to readers that you’ll answer within the article. For example, You’ve Launched a New Website. Now What?. This candid headline clearly outlines the focus of the blog and attracts an audience who may be asking themselves the same question.
Take the direct approach. Four Newsletters Content Marketers Need in Their In-box NOW — there’s no beating around the bush here. A direct headline lets the reader know exactly what’s in store while creating a sense of urgency to find out.
Command action. Take this one: Give Your Marketing Content a Spring Cleaning. A commanding headline typically starts with an action verb (e.g. give), instructing your reader to do something. These are well-suited for motivational or inspiration articles where you’re urging your audience to make a move.
Make it a how-to. Simply put, this headline style explains how to do something, lending itself especially well to instructional content pieces. In How to Sidestep COVID-related Content Clichés, we gave readers a set of steps to do just that.
List it. If an article includes a list of tips, secrets, dos or don’ts, a list headline is a great way to be straightforward. Plus, it makes for an article that’s easier to skim! For example, 8 Simple Secrets to Better Proofreading invites readers in with quick tips to implement for a typo-free world.
Get emotional. Go ahead, tug at their heartstrings. Take a positive or negative approach to encourage readership and let them know you have a solution. For our blog article, Not Feeling the Love? 7 Tactics to Get More Eyeballs on Your Blog, we combined the emotional approach with a list format to pack more punch.
Play on words. Get creative with a wordplay headline. Keeping Everyone on the Same Page: The Power of the Creative Brief — see what we did here? Use puns, idioms or irony to add interest to a not-so-interesting topic.
We’re always on the prowl for new approaches to test, and suggest you consider doing the same. When a headline grabs your attention, take a minute to think about why — and how you can incorporate that technique into your own content.
Words are powerful. Use them strategically to make a first impression that will have readers diving into your content and coming back for more.