And how do you get their attention without dressing up like a loon?


Some tips and tricks for nailing those headlines

This week I’m doing two presentations about headlines (in Horsham and Portsmouth). Why? Because they are possibly the most important part of what you write but quite hard to get right. The rather hackneyed statistic on this is that 80% of people don’t read past your headline and if that is even remotely accurate it should be enough to get you to pay close attention to how you craft them. After all, why waste all that time and effort researching, writing and re-writing a beautiful post only to throw it away with a second rate headline which nobody reads past?

I’m not saying that they’re easy. Far from it, they take time and practice but to give you a helping hand on your journey to better headlines here’s a few guiding principles and short cuts.

Rule 1.

Learn from the masters and collate a swipe file of great headlines you’ve come across to build up a bank of ideas. Don’t copy them but take inspiration from them and adapt them. Try and work out what works about them. Copyblogger, Jon Morrow’s 52 Headline Hacks and Andy Maslen’s Copywriting Sourcebook all provide lots of help.

Rule 2.

Remember that your headline needs to:

  • Be irresistible… like those old News of the World headlines that you didn’t want to read but somehow they pulled you in!
  • Contain a keyword
  • Make a promise … what is your reader going to get from your post?
  • Include emotional & sensory words if possible
  • Grab their attention
  • Arouse curiosity
  • Be fairly concise

 Rule 3.

how to write headlines

When writing a post and your headline follow this step by step guide:

Step 1. Plan your content, including your objective first.

Step 2. Write down everything your reader is going to get from this piece of writing ~ all the benefits. And be as specific as you can. Within how many days will their hair grow back?

Step 3.  Choose the biggest benefit and write a long headline, explaining it in the best way you can. Maybe write 2 or 3 versions.

Step 4. Write the content and check that it fulfils your objective and the promise of your headline.

Step 5. Add some sensory and emotional words. Make sure it includes a keyword.

Step 6. Go for a walk and then trim, cull, edit and amend. Cut out all unnecessary words, try and get the keyword at the beginning and make it snappy.

Step 7. Remember it’s not just your blog headline that you need to think about. You need to do the same with email headers and social media posts.

And keep practicing.

Rule 4.

If all else fails here are some tried and tested templates:

  • 3 ways to …
  • 7 lessons we can learn from …
  • 5 mistakes to avoid …
  • The secret to …
  • The truth about …
  • How to …

And what about using a testimonial, a story or statistics to bring your headline alive?

Well that’s it. My at a glance headline guide and may it bring you many hours of happy headlining. As my presentation also includes a look CTAs (Call to Action) and sub-headings, I’ll be writing about those in my next blog. Fun, fun.