Competition for readers is fierce. Millions of articles are published every day. Statistics say that 8 out of 10 people will read your headline – but only 2 out of 10 go on to read the rest. What does this mean?
Your Headlines Must Stand Out!
The better your headline, the better your chances are of reaching the right people, capturing their attention, and converting them into friends, fans, clients and customers.
As a former editor for one of the largest newspapers in the nation (Los Angeles Times) and editor-in-chief of an international print magazine for women entrepreneurs, I’ve written thousands of headlines during my career. And you better believe that I figured out what works – and what doesn’t.
If you want to stand out from the crowd, your headlines need to stand out. That’s why I’m sharing with you these 5 Copywriting Cues that will help you write headlines that stand out, get attention and make a first impression that makes them want more.
Let’s get started!
Copywriting Cue #1: The “How To”
We live in a chaotic, busy world. So when we’re scanning content online, our subconscious is automatically filtering out headlines that don’t show potential for immediate value. That’s why the “How to” headline works so well. Yes, it’s a classic, and there’s a reason why.
“How to” headlines offer the promise of learning something new, useful and actionable. Even though we’re busy, our brains react to the potential of value. Other key words you can use in a headline that follow the “How to” formula include Tips, Tricks, Strategies and Guides.
As you write your How To headline, remember to share the benefits clearly and entice your reader with the promise that they will learn something new, something clever or something of value they can apply to their business or life.
Expert Tip: Make your “How to” headline even more powerful by doubling up! One of the best headlines ever written follows this principle: “How to Win Friends and Influence People”
Copywriting Cue #2: Everybody Loves Lists
Headlines that promise a number of ways, types, secrets, strategies or steps always work because the provide a quantifiable potential our brains are looking for of learning something new. Lists are great for attracting attention. After decades of use, almost every late-night talk show hosts still relies on Top 10 lists because audiences love them. Don’t worry about your audience getting bored with lists either – as long as you deliver quality content, you’ll catch their attention every time.
Expert Tip: To really kick it up a notch, use “sexy” words in your list headlines like legitimate, sneaky, love, truthful or embarrassing.
Copywriting Cue #3: The “Why”
We’re a curious species. While we love to have lists and know How to do things, many times we also want to know the “why” of things. Headlines that start with Why are powerful, as they trigger your reader’s thirst for knowledge, desire to learn and grow, and general curiosity.
You don’t need to stop at “why.” Mix it up by using “what,” “when,” “learn,” “discover,” or “how,” and make a strong statement that will make readers want to know what you know – and read what you write.
Expert Tip: Starting your headline with “Why” is great, but remember that the words that follow are what truly draw your readers in. Be sure you provide insight into issues that matter, and you’ll be amazed at how many read on.
Copywriting Cue #4: Share Secrets
This is a blogosphere favorite that never fails, due to its attention-grabbing power. Who doesn’t want to be in the know about the latest secrets, right? Plus, this kind of headline is perfect for demonstrating your mastery of a subject and building your authority in your field.
And don’t worry about overusing the word “secret.” There are other words you can use that convey the same idea such as “little known,” “insider,” “rare,” or “unknown.”
Expert tip: Invite readers to join you in learning more about the “secrets” you are writing about by adding “Who Else Wants” to your headline. For instance, “Who else wants to know the secrets for on-stage style” invites readers to join in as it implies that this is high-value, in-demand information.
Copywriting Cue #5: Be provocative (sneaky, even)
Share something exciting, enticing, interesting, or intriguing that is a part of the topic you are writing about. When using this type of headline, you must know your audience well and what they respond to best. For instance, one of my favorite headlines from Marie Forleo was, “And Then My Pants Split.” Her audience expects fun, sassy content and, well, with an intro like that you can’t help but read on to learn more.
Your audience may not respond to headlines quite like that, but you can still write provocative content that dares them to read on, like these:
Expert tip: Add numbers and specifics and your readers will really feel like they are truly getting critical information. For example: How I Built an Online T-shirt Business and Made $1,248.90 in 3 Weeks.
If there is one thing I want to leave you with, it’s this: Say it simply and directly. Direct headlines using the strategies I’ve outlined above will never fail. Don’t try to be too clever. Rhyming, alliteration, wordplay… these are all great, but not for headlines. If your readers is confused, or misses the point, they’ll move on.
Really, the most important formula you need for writing irresistible headlines lies in using the strategies above – and combining them with your knowledge of your readers.
Understand what issues they are interested in. Answer their most burning questions. Give them knowledge that helps them. Serve your audience first and they’ll become your biggest fans, and most loyal readers.
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If you’d like to learn more about creating strategic content that serves your readers and grows your business, sign up for my Captivating Copy newsletter by clicking HERE. Readers receive expert guides, how-to’s, free writing templates, and lots more to ensure their websites, blogging, bios, newsletters and social media are filled with the “write” stuff!
Dawn Mena is a professional writer and overall lifesaver for busy business owners with no time – or often no desire – to write. A former Los Angeles Times editor, Dawn founded Captivating Copy to provide strategic writing support for entrepreneurs, helping to increase their impact, influence and income by sharing the right story and connecting with the right audience.
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