Once you know how to write headlines, you can pretty much rule the world.
First impressions are crucial, right?
If you make a bad impression in front of your girlfriend’s parents, they’ll probably hate you forever.
And if you write a bad headline, no one is going to read your article.
People may say “never judge a book by its cover,” but everyone does anyway.
(Don’t lie – you know you do)
Especially on the internet.
In this Newsie-less world, headlines are the thing that sells everything.
If the headline doesn’t interest you, you aren’t going to read it. Period.
And if you can’t get people to click, then the content you spent so long writing might as well not exist, because no one is reading it.
According to Copyblogger, 8 out of 10 people will read the headline, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest.
The purpose of the headline is to get at least the first sentence read and then the rest of your writing will hopefully get them to read the rest.
From a copywriting and content marketing perspective, knowing how to write headlines is a critical skill.
How to Write Headlines That Are Actually Successful
There are a few rules you can follow when you’re drafting headlines, but I think the ones you need to write down and tack on your wall are from Neil Patel’s Definitive Guide to Copywriting:
The 4 U’s of Writing Headlines:
- Your headline should be unique
- It should be ultra-specific
- Make sure your headline conveys a sense of urgency
- Your headline should be useful
You probably won’t be able to include all four into one headline, but if there’s one or two, then you’ve made a compelling headline people will want to click.
Think of good headlines you’ve probably clicked on lately.
They made you go “huh, I wonder what that’s about” as you click on it.
The headlines probably came from viral content creators like Upworthy or Buzzfeed.
But why do those headlines work?
Let’s take a look.
They’re specific, useful, and pique your curiosity.
This headline, 14 Things You Never Knew You Could Cook in the Microwave, is obviously one of the more tame Buzzfeed headlines.
But it checks off a few of the 4 U’s – it’s ultra-specific and it’s useful.
It also creates curiosity, because whoever reads it will think “huh, what else could I be cooking in my microwave?”
This headline also employs negative words that make you want to click on it. It’s telling you that you don’t know something, but you will once you read it.
They’re unique and tug at your emotions.
Upworthy is known for creating viral content that pulls at your emotions and it makes you want to share it with all of your friends.
They’re so successful at this at least partly because of their headlines.
The headlines are unique and often create that curiosity gap that makes you want to click.
They’re conversational and typically much longer than you might want in a headline – but it works for their social media promotional style.
Upworthy creates content that is designed to be shared on social media, so a headline like this works perfectly for them.
They give you a hint of what’s in the article with brackets.
This headline from Hubspot isn’t as exciting as the headlines above, right?
But the reason I’m using it as an example is their use of brackets.
Some people might click on it just because they want to learn how to write better headlines.
But more people will click because now they know there’s an infographic in there.
Using brackets or parentheses can add more specificity, usefulness, and uniqueness to your headline.
It gives your readers a hint of what’s to come without giving it all away.
And if you’re writing for your business’ blog, you probably won’t be using sensationalist headlines like Upworthy or Buzzfeed (even if you kind of want to).
Your headlines might be more straightforward, but you still want them to be clickable and promising something interesting inside.
That’s where the use of brackets can come into play.
They make a strategic use of numbers.
As a content marketer, I have to say “all hail, Brian Dean” because he consistently writes useful and informative posts that people love to share.
Another thing he does is make a strategic use of numbers (and in this case, parentheses too) in his headlines.
Not only does he tell you a highly specific percentage, but he gives you a specific number of days as well.
And on top of that, he gives you a hint of what’s to come in the article by using parentheses.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that your headline is one of the most important parts of your content.
If not the most important.
There are a lot of ways to make your headline stand out from the crowd.
When you’re drafting headlines for your next blog post, remember the 4 U’s, and write several different ones.
You aren’t always going to come up with the best headline on your first try.
Now that you know how to write headlines like a pro, go forth and rake in those page views and shares.
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