No matter how great a copywriter you are, a bad headline will destroy your chances of reaching your audience. Think of a newspaper: headlines should inform the reader while enticing them to read past the jump. For once, the internet is no different; your headline should drive link clicks by introducing the article and piquing the reader’s interest.
Writing headlines is a specialized but necessary skill for anyone writing for an online audience, and there are no shortcuts. With readers’ short attention spans and the competition from crowds of competing writers, you have to catch their attention with concise, sincere language. Here are some tips.
Make it Relatable
You may find that your content is best framed as a personal story, which can be especially useful if the subject matter is controversial; personal experience can disarm critics and skeptics. However, you must keep in mind that anecdotes aren’t data and that readers need a reason to care about your perspective. Make it clear from the headline that this is about your experience, not necessarily everyone’s.
Use Facts and Evidence
People tend to be selectively skeptical. They frequently accept claims with which they already agree unexamined while applying arbitrarily higher standards of evidence to claims with which they don’t. Therefore the more controversial your claims, the more likely people will need solid evidence to accept them. If you’re writing such a piece with substantial evidence, lead it in the headline. It’ll help establish your credibility early and make your readers more likely to accept your contentions.
Don’t make promises your piece can’t deliver. Doing so might get you a click, but at the expense of future clicks. Once you burn someone with a flashy headline that leads to poor or unrelated content, it’s unlikely they’ll be back for more. Don’t drop cute hints, either—tell your reader what the piece is about. Don’t make them click to find out who a “Hollywood star” or “politician” is. A good headline is catchy and concise, not vague or misleading.
Write More Than One
Instead of racking your brain for the perfect headline, try writing as many quality headlines as you can think of. This will not only give you a good selection pool, but it will also help you frame your content from different perspectives. The headline is the shortest part of your piece yet the most important. Don’t waste the opportunity to get and keep an audience’s attention.