9 Tips For Writing Irresistible Headlines

Jordan Sharp | 23 November 2015

Writing an effective headline is a tricky yet essential art to master.

On average, only 20% of people who read your headline will click-through to the article. That means the headline is one of the most integral parts of your content, and must be treated with sufficient time and thought.

Not only do your headlines have to be SEO friendly, they must also be creative and compelling in order to draw your audience’s attention – especially in this age of information overload. The bottom line is that there’s no point in writing great content if nobody cares to read it.

We’ve compiled nine essential tips that are sure to provide the va va voom your headlines need.

1. Make it Sparkle

Who is going to click on a bland headline? It doesn’t matter how spectacular your content might be – if the headline is dull – nobody is going to read it. When brainstorming ideas, let your creative mind run free and focus on coming up with strong adjectives and verbs.

Millions of blog posts are published on the web every day, making the competition for clicks intense in many niches. Make sure your headlines sparkle and stand out from the crowd.

2. Optimise for SEO

It’s important to make your headlines SEO friendly to maximise visibility in search engines. Ranking position is key to generating impressions and high click through rates in organic search, so keyword selection will play a crucial role in determining the success of your content.

Make sure not to stuff the title with keywords though – it still needs to look natural and retain its clarity. Pleasing the human reader is always more important than ‘over-optimising’ for search engines, and Google will know when you are trying to game the system.

3. Keep it Short and Concise

Don’t say something with eight words if it can be said with five.

Google has a 65 character limit for page titles, which means your headline will need to abide this rule in order to be displayed effectively in search results. If your title is too long it will be cut off with ellipsis, which is likely to reduce the click-through rate.

You also need to consider how your headlines will appear on different social media platforms. Twitter has a 140 character limit, but this is reduced to 93 characters when combined with a link and an image. Headlines should be short, snappy and to-the-point.

4. Swerve ‘Clickbait’

Clickbait is a term describing headlines that are created to generate a maximum number of clicks, at the expense of quality or accuracy. You must honour your headline to keep readers happy, or you risk losing the trust of your audience. It is far better to be honest and accurate than to make a sensational headline that is merely designed to trick people into viewing your content.

5. Keep Your Audience in Mind

Your content has to cater to your audience’s needs and interests. If it doesn’t, somebody else’s will.

Once you understand your audience, headline writing becomes a much easier task. Put yourself in you customer’s shoes and think about the language they use, and what they want to read. It’s better to shape your content, and your headline, around your specific target audience, rather than trying to please everyone with a neutral, broad headline.

6. Accompany the Headline with an Image

A powerful image is a sure fire way of catching people’s attention and turning a ‘maybe’ click into a ‘definite’ click. Whilst the image must reflect the topic, finding the right image can really boost the reception the content receives, particularly on social media sites such as Twitter. Buffer found that tweets with images receive 18% more clicks, 89% more favourites and 150% more retweets.

7. Use Digits

People love numbered lists. Any headline that lists a number of tips, guidelines, secrets or reasons will work because it makes a very specific promise of what’s in store for the reader. It quantifies exactly what the reader is going to get for the time they invest in your content. They also help to digest information easier, so as long as the content delivers with quality, you’ll have a happy reader.

8. Use Question Words

What, when, why and how to’s are great at enticing your audience with subjects they will be keen to learn about. These common search phrases are particularly relevant to smartphone users. People are naturally drawn to these kind of articles when they want to know, go, learn or do something, and you can leverage this to meet your audience in search engines and driving curiosity.

9. Spend Time on Them

The father of advertising, David Ogilvy once said: “On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent 80 cents out of your dollar.”

Writing excellent headlines can be the difference between gaining a new customer and being totally ignored, so spending time on them, choosing the right keywords and making them compelling is critical.