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Steal these secrets for more powerful headlines

Headline writing tips

Now more than ever, it is important to write a great headline for your content. Your headline needs to grab your reader’s attention, whether it’s for a blog post or email subject line. Great headlines tell your readers what your content is about. Your title needs to be catchy and clickable—your content is competing for attention in a sea of online information.

If you are business-to-business, learning how to master good headline writing becomes an even more urgent matter. Because 47% of B2B buyers read 3-5 blog posts or content pieces prior to talking with a salesperson. (Source: DemandGenReport)

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Start your headline writing with the end in mind.

To begin, reverse engineer your blog post. First, determine the type of blog post that you are writing. Here is a list of 5 blog post formats that are likely to go viral:

  1. List posts. Provide information in a useful, short list format so that your readers can share with others. 50 Smart Ways to Segment Your Email List Like a Pro
  2. How-to-posts. Teach people valuable skills or provide information that will help them solve a problem or achieve a desired outcome. How to Start Getting Traffic to Your Blog
  3. Resource posts. Deliver longer guides or curated content that provides a solution to a specific problem. The Beginner’s Guide to Twitter
  4. Question posts. Pose a question to your audience or provide direct answers to their questions. How Do I Monetize My Blog (Or Podcast)?
  5. Heart-to-heart posts. Share your deepest, most heart-felt stories and experiences with your audience. An Open Letter to Writers Struggling to Find Their Courage

Include infectious agents

Next, identify what feelings and emotions are appropriate to your blog post and your audience. You need to include an infectious agent that triggers your reader’s emotions. Here are some examples of infectious agents that will engage your reader’s heart and mind:

  • Awe
  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Joy
  • Lust
  • Surprise
  • Shock

Use these 3 key steps for crafting blog posts and headlines

First of all, decide what format of post you are writing. Secondly, identify what main emotional agents (from the list above) are appropriate for your post. Thirdly, figure out what storyline will work the best. That is to say, what reward are you promising your reader? What value will your content provide? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I solving a problem for them?
  • Are you preventing them from doing some wrong?
  • Does this post provide useful resources and information to help them decide or research further?
  • Do I provide instructions or help on how to do something?
  • Am I inspiring or motivating my readers?
  • Am I sharing an emotional, heart-felt story or challenge that they can relate to?
  • Or do I want to engage their curiosity, sense of fun, mystery and adventure?

In short, once you have completed these three steps, you can craft a blog post and headline that will capture your beloved reader’s attention and encourage them to share your content. To sum up, you want to craft the perfect headline to grab their attention and go viral.

9 tips to fix your headline headaches and heartaches

1. Know your audience. 

Do your research to find out what their interests are. Speak to them using their words and how they talk. Keep your customer persona guide handy. Follow your industry influencers on and offline to stay current. “The headline can select the right audience for your ad and screen out those readers who are not your potential customers.”—Robert Bly, The Copywriter’s Handbook

2. Be relevant.

Write about what they care about. Delight your audience with something new, unique and engaging. The more specific you are in addressing their greatest fears and desires, the more powerful you will be in attracting and keeping their attention. Delivering bland, same-old, same-old headlines and content is a guaranteed fast bounce away from your blog post and site.

3. Write your headline last. 

Make sure it aligns with your content. Upworthy's well-publicized process suggests writing 25 headlines per blog post. It takes practice to craft a great headline. You may nail it on the first try, or it may take you 25 to write the perfect headline. Read it out loud to make sure it is conversational, not jargony or fuzzy. Test your headlines with Coschedule’s Headline Analyzer.

4. Keep your headline short and sweet. 

Front load your keywords at the beginning of the headline as much as possible. Write your headlines with search engines and social media platforms in mind. 65 to 70 characters is ideal. Google, Bing and Twitter will truncate anything longer in their search results. Preview what your headline will look like with the New Title Tag Preview tool by Moz.

5. Include feelings. 

Keep your headline short and brief if you are appealing with emotionally powerful language. Use powerful positive or negative superlatives to show why your content is worth reading.

6. Use power words. 

As Coschedule says, friends don’t let friends write crappy headlines. I have several power word cheat sheets that I refer to when I get stuck with writer’s block. It happens to the best of us. Use these tools to get unblocked! Coschedule's Power Word Cheat Sheets

7. Provide irresistible benefits or value

Solve their problem, ask a compelling question or tell an engaging story. 

Examples of headline tactics you should try out and test:

  • Solve their problem. Your audience wants fast and easy answers to solve their problems. Headlines that use this tactic start with:
  • How to Train Your Dragon. How to Choose the Right Alternative Health and Wellness Provider for Your Baby. How to Measure the Effectiveness of Online Advertising.
  • The Best Keto Recipes for Top Performance.
  • (X number) tips or ways to…using numbers such as 3, 5, 7, 10, etc. 24 Indispensable Ways to Grow Your Brand’s Social Media Presence.
  • Why You Should Stop Using These Expensive, Ineffective Diet Aids.
  • What If You Could Brighten Your Teeth in 30 Minutes Without Strips or Expensive Dental Visits?
Give advice for improvement.

Show your readers why they should follow your advice. Give them benefits that prove why it’s worth their time. Can they do something better, faster, easier with your help? Add specific numbers and data to back up your headline. Several research studies have shown that headlines with numbers tend to generate 73% more social shares and engagement. Use odd numbers as brain candy. Our brains apparently find odd numbers more believable, according to research from Content Marketing Institute.

  • Stop Eating these 5 Foods to Lose Weight and Regain energy.
  • 7 Healthy Eating Tricks You’ll Actually Want to Try.
  • Don’t Book Your Flight and Hotel Until You Read This.
Catch your reader’s curiosity. 

Our brains are naturally hardwired to be curious. We want to know the technique, idea, tool or information that we don’t know—especially if everybody else knows it! Then it becomes a potent, viral-inducing FOMO (fear of missing out) type of headline and content.

  • Do This One Crazy Thing to Lose 10 Pounds in One Week.
  • Are You Making This Deadly Investment Mistake?
  • Which of These 10 Fashion Goofs Are Making You Look Frumpy and Out-dated?
  • When to Raise VC Money (And When Not to): The Ultimate Guide.

8. Avoid clickbait. 

Be honest and tell your users what’s in it for them. You may fool your readers once by using clickbait, but they will bounce and never return as soon as they realize you’re not delivering the content they were expecting.

9. Learn how to improve your headlines and copy. 

Use a headline analyzer such as Coschedule’s Headline Analyzer. Steal great headline ideas by visiting sites such as Buzzfeed and Upworthy. If your blogging platform supports A/B testing, do it! Finally, take a good copywriting and editing course to sharpen your writing skills. One of my all-time favorites is “The Copy Cure” from Marie Forleo and Laura Belgay. Fun, entertaining and I can use the information over and over and over again.

Additional resources:

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Featured image by Anamul Rezwan, Pexels