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Elements of Great B2B Headlines

All of your business-to-business (B2B) content starts with a headline or title. Those words are the most important part of your writing. The right headline captures the reader’s interest. Without it, the rest of the content will never be seen.

Focus on Your Audience

As you review the advice below, remember that your headline and content needs to speak to your audience. Some of the advice may be more or less applicable to the audience you need to reach.

Know your audience. What do they like? Need? Get turned off by? Make sure all of your content is written with the needs and interests of your audience in mind.

The Best Headlines…

Research shows:

  • The words that come first in the headline have the most impact on reader interest
  • Headlines that introduce steps (“How to”) and lists (“x Tips/Ideas/Ways/Things”) get the most attention
  • The numbers 3, 5 and 7 create interest
  • Headlines that suggest forward-looking and predictive content provoke curiosity about industry developments
  • For B2B headlines, a focus on practicality and industry insights wins out over emotional appeals

7-12 Word Headlines Are Best

Headlines that are 7 to 12 words get the most B2B engagement. Shorter headlines work best for B2B messages.

SEO Considerations

To build in search engine optimization (SEO) know the focus keyword for your content and make sure that is part of the headline.

Do some research to understand the words that your target audience uses when looking for the content you are providing. Sometimes these are a little different than the words you would naturally use. Whenever possible, factor keyword vocabulary in your writing.

The words of the headline are a strong signal to search engines about the topic of content. Using the keyword first or nearly first in the headline is best.

 

Hook the Reader with a Great Headline

The headline or title is the most important part of your content. In the case of email, make that the subject line. It is the first thing people read and it is what they use to decide if they will read further.

Write the headline last, after you know exactly what content it will represent. Consider these important elements as you craft the right one:

  • Target audience
  • Purpose of the content
  • Importance to the reader
  • Accuracy
  • Right Language

Who Is the Content for?

Who do you really want to see the content? In other words, who is your target audience?

The target reader for each piece of content is generally a subset of your overall target audience. Not everything you offer is interesting to everyone, and that’s OK. Think about who this content is really for and write the headline to speak to that person.

What Is the Purpose of the Content?

Every piece of content must serve a purpose for your company.  You need to know the purpose to make the content effective. Common purposes include:

  • Entice someone to open an email
  • Share information on a website or social media channel
  • Increase brand visibility on search engine results pages

Write a headline that reflects the purpose as well as the key point of the content.

Why Would Someone Read This?

Your content has a purpose for you and a purpose for the reader. Understand why someone would be interested in the content from their perspective. Write a headline that clearly lets them know what’s in it for them.

A great headline will tease the unique attributes of the content. Give the reader a reason to read on.

Don’t Be Tricky

Clever headlines catch attention, but they must be related to the content. Don’t annoy readers by making them think they have been duped by a headline that does not match the content. That approach can do long-term damage to your online marketing efforts.

Keep Language Rules in Mind

There are some language rules that will lead to effective headlines, no matter the topic or the audience. Always use:

  • Active verbs
  • Concise language
  • Clear wording

Shorter is always better: few words with few syllables and few letters.

100 Million Headlines Don’t Lie

The headline is the most important part of your content. People decide what to read based on the headline. Shared content often includes little more than the headline with the link.

Buzzsumo recently analyzed 100 million article headlines to get insight into what is most effective. The research looked at the most shared headlines on Facebook and Twitter from March to May 20.

Headlines that Work on Facebook

  • The most powerful three-word phrase was “Will make you”
  • Two-word phrases that gained a high level of average engagements included “goes viral” and “most beautiful”
  • Emotional phrases such as “tears of joy” and “shocked to see”were consistently effective on Facebook
  • Headline phrases that provoke curiosity and a sense of voyeurism also gained a high level of engagement on Facebook, such as “What happened next” and “are freaking out”
  • Many of the most engaging phrases contain numbers, and the number 10 is the best performing number to use

Headlines that Work on Twitter

  • The headline phrases that gained the most engagement on Twitter were different from those that gained high engagement on Facebook except for “will make you”
  • Top Twitter phrases have a focus on newness such as “this is what,” “for the first time,” and “things to know”
  • Emotional phrases do not resonate on Twitter

Word Count Matters Too

Buzzsumo also analyzed the number of words in article headlines and plotted this number against the average number of Facebook engagements for all headlines in our sample.

  • Posts with 2-18 words in the headline receive the highest number of Facebook engagements on average
  • As headlines get longer or shorter, Facebook engagements decline
  • 80 to 95 characters is optimal

Add Your Intel

The research also demonstrated that a headline may perform poorly on Facebook but work very well a different social network. While this research provides some great guidance, knowledge of your target customer should be used to refine your efforts.