Just seven words above have determined whether you went on to read the content of this post. That makes those words, the headline –of this post or any content –, the most powerful ones that you write.
My rough rule of thumb is to spend 50 percent of my post-writing time on the body of the post and 50 percent crafting a great headline. It’s that important.
Writing Successful Headlines
You only have to glance at the stats related to your content to see clear evidence that while many people may scan your headlines, few read the ensuing content. This is demonstrated when you have more views than clicks or when you have a very brief average time spent on page. Or, maybe your home page gets lots of traffic but the deeper pages get limited views.
Attention spans are short. People are busy. If you don’t grab them with your headline, you have lost them completely.
So, here’s what you should do:
Speak to the reader. The best headlines promise resolution to a problem or an answer to a question or pain point. It speaks to that classic question, “what keeps my reader up at night?”
Be specific. Highlight what’s in your content that makes it more worthwhile that everything else out there on the same topic. What do you have to offer that is a unique insight?
Use numbers. Research has shown that readers react better to headlines that have a number in them. If it makes sense to use a number in your headline, find a way to include it.Avoid numbers that make the content overwhelming, i.e. 100 Things You Must Do. I find that numbers under 10 generally work best.
Pick awesome words. Make every word of your headline pull weight that adds up to motivating your reader to dive into the rest of the content. Use emotional triggers and powerful verbs and adjectives. Your headline needs to connect with your reader and tell him or her that reading further is a must.
[Related: Writing Insight Ripped from the Headlines]
Tools that Lead to Awesome Headlines
Headline Analyzer – This free tool will analyze the words used, length, and project impact of your headline. You’ll get some tips on what you need to do to improve the impact. The site also offers a free download of powerful words, which makes a handy reference.
Topic Generator – This tool is best used before you write your content. Plug in a few nouns that represent what you plan to write about and you get 5 suggested headlines. Often, these suggestions help me refine my thoughts on what to present in a post. Sometimes, it helps me realize that I have enough content for more than one post. Another win!
[Related: Writing Great Headlines]