If you’re reading this, then two things happened – the headline lured you in, and you made it further than most of the readers I was trying to attract.
That first part makes me feel good. The second? Not so much.
But that’s the harsh reality of modern content – most people won’t even pause as they scroll past the supposedly high-converting article you published.
Unless, of course, you have a great headline.
Good headlines are like the luminescent globes that hang from the heads of anglerfish (if you’ve never seen one, Google that) – they draw readers in. They’re your first and likely only chance to make an impression.
While headlines alone aren’t enough to get someone to commit to reading your entire article, they’re an invaluable first step.
Learning how to write magnetic headlines is an indispensable skill that every writer and editor needs in their toolbox.
But how do you learn?
Follow the subheadings below, and I’ll show you.
Why Headlines Are Important
Your headline is your reader’s first port of call before they view your article.
It offers a glimpse of what the reader can expect. For that reason, it needs to be beyond catchy – it has to be magnetic.
For a headline or subheading to be effective, it needs to be:
- Urgent (although this isn’t a dealbreaker, depending on your intent, unless you’re trying to sell something)
Let’s break that down more by using an example.
This is a headline I wrote for one of our clients in the self-help niche. It offers value to the reader (providing a method to stay motivated), is very specific (actionable strategies as a method of boosting motivation), and is uniquely written.
I know this last part because I compared it to competing articles.
Prospective readers looking for a specific topic (in this case, how to stay motivated), are more likely to click on your article as opposed to others offering stale, abstract, or vague information.
How to Write a Killer Headline
Now that you know why headlines matter, it leads us to the next question – how do you write one?
I briefly touched on what a headline needs to be useful, but let’s expand on that.
Every killer headline should:
- Be specific. Use numbers, statistics, or other specific details to grab attention and give readers a clear idea of what the post will be about.
- Be urgent. To create a sense of urgency, use action words such as “must-read,” “how-to,” “rare,” or “exclusive.”
- Be emotional. Ideally, your headline should trigger a strong emotional reaction in the reader about the subject. Use trigger words to invoke an emotional response and strike a nerve with your readers.
- Be concise. Headlines should be short and easy to read and understand. You also want them under 580px so that the meta title isn’t cut off when it appears on the SERPs (Search Engine Results Page). I use this tool to ensure I’m always within the pixel limit.
- Promise something. Every headline should give readers something to look forward to. You’re promising them a useful reward which they can expect to find in the intro and body of your article.
You’ve likely seen a lot of “how-to” articles floating around the internet. That’s no accident – those types of headlines are incredibly effective at drawing in readers.
Why? Because readers want actionable information, and “how-to” articles demonstrate this from the get-go, and they provide a solution to a problem.
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Let’s go through the process of writing one.
For example, imagine you run an online store selling pet accessories. Your content marketing strategy includes helpful blog content for dog owners. You’ve decided that you want to write an article that will attract potential customers for your dog-cleaning products, then use this post to funnel readers toward some of your products.
“How to Keep Your Dog Clean” sounds like a good logical starting point for a headline.
Not bad, but it’s general. Anyone reading this won’t understand exactly how you intend to keep their dog clean. Be more specific: “How to Keep Your Dog Clean Without Water: 5 Easy Methods.”
Now we’re getting somewhere. But you could still make it a bit more unique: “How to Keep Your Dog Clean Without Water: 5 Easy Methods Recommended by Experts.”
Way better, but also way too long. Let’s shorten that a bit: “5 Water-Free Ways to Clean Your Dog: Skip the Bath!”
Now that’s a headline! Can you see the logical editing process I went through to end up here, ensuring that it meets all of the requirements I outlined at the beginning of this section?
While this strategy is time intensive, you can use it to ensure that every headline you write meets the same standards.
What About Keywords and SEO?
Are keywords required to make a good headline? Not at all.
But relevant keywords in your headline will help with your SEO and content strategy.
Any SEO professional worth their salt knows that you don’t start by going after the broadest keywords out there – you target niche phrases.
This works out perfectly since niche keywords fit so well into specific headlines. And since Google and other search engines want to bring the best and most relevant information to their users, they’re likely to promote headlines containing keywords that answer search queries directly.
This doesn’t mean you have to include the exact keyword phrase verbatim in order for Google to understand what your article is about.
Search engines evaluate the quality of the article as a whole. While your headline should clearly signal what your article is about, it also has to read well and deliver all the points covered in the rest of the article.
Remember, writing headlines (or any content for that matter) is about value. You should be writing for humans first and algorithms second. So while SEO is important, you shouldn’t sacrifice value or quality to climb a few levels in the ranks.
Ready to Take Your Headlines to the Next Level?
If you value quality content and headlines – and you really should – then get in touch with us today.
Our expert editorial and SEO team knows a thing or two about creating solid content marketing strategies that will lead to more organic traffic to your website.
We’re not a good fit for everyone. But when we are, the results speak for themselves.