Better headlines bring more ad clicks, SEO clicks, social media shares and engagement, even higher conversions.
8 of 10 people read headlines, but only 2 click through and read the rest. If you want your marketing messaging to perform well, the first step is to create headlines that draw your audience in, encouraging them to read on.
In this article, we’ll share a few tips and give you an insight into our own process that helps us produce headlines that work.
Why do you need better headlines?
Without a headline that moves people to interact with your message, everything else you do might not even get seen! A powerful headline that is impactful, clickable, and piques curiosity can be the difference between a successful marketing campaign and a waste of time and resources.
Use numbers and data
Using data and numbers in your headlines appeals to the hardwired instinct to organize the information we receive into patterns or lists.
Adding numbers into headlines has been shown to increase engagement and shares by up to 73%. As marketers and business owners, numbers are a powerful tool that we need to embrace but use only when relevant. After all, nobody likes a “clickbait-y” headline.
And when possible, you might want to pick an odd number to go with. A study showed that odd numbers are more thought-provoking, they make us stop and think as it takes our brains longer to process them than even numbers. And among odd numbers, seven seems to be the overwhelming favorite — from the seven wonders of the world to seven continents, deadly sins, days of the week, dwarfs, colors of the rainbow and more!
Headlines aren’t calls to action — they’re calls for attention
Headlines aren’t meant to convert. The purpose of the headline is to engage your audience and get them to click through to continue receiving your message.
With people being bombarded by thousands of messages every day, attention comes at a premium, and if your headline can convince a viewer to dedicate some of their attention to the content you offer, that’s the first step you’ve taken towards acquiring a customer.
Because only when you have their attention, your message — whether it’s a video, an article, an email or a social media post, can begin to do its work of moving them towards the call to action, converting them from casual viewers to customers.
Better headlines use the power of emotion
A great way to boost your headline performance is to appeal to emotions. Emotionally impactful words are commonly described as “power words” and can make for better headlines to spur your audience into taking action.
Power words are interesting adjectives, verbs, or phrases that pull your audience into the story you’re crafting and work to trigger a psychological or emotional response.
They could be words that appeal to curiosity:
- Top secret
- Invitation only
Or words that appeal to trust:
- No obligation
Power words could even appeal to your readers’ sense of fear, vanity, or their need for comfort. A quick search online will offer up tons of resources for power words you can use to appeal to different emotions.
You could use more than one power word, but make sure they’re relevant, useful to your audience, and that your headline still sounds natural, not overloaded with adjectives.
Better headlines utilize the 5 U rule
Another way to craft better headlines that grab attention is to follow the 5 U rule. Let’s look at what they are.
1. Create headlines that are Unique
A unique headline will get the attention not just from the audience who’ll pick a unique headline over similar ones in a list, but will also rank higher in search engine results.
An easy way to check your headline for uniqueness is to run a Google search for the exact phrase by enclosing your headline in quotes before you hit search.
2. It helps if your headlines are Ultra-Specific
The second U rule for writing better headlines is to be ultra-specific.
Tell your audience exactly what they can expect from reading the rest of your communication. If they have a specific question that you’re addressing in your content, make that clear up front and build a stronger connection with them. They’ll thank you for it.
If you’re sharing a step-by-step guide to help them achieve a goal, or if you’ve put together a list of useful tools, use headlines that will indicate how your content will meet their needs.
3. Great headlines create a sense of Urgency
This is really a principle of effective marketing, but it translates well into a rule for better headlines — create urgency that compels your audience to act, or miss out.
Without the sense of urgency in your headline, your audience is likely to put off clicking through or engaging with your communication for later, and will most likely never come back to it again.
Creating a sense of urgency works whether it’s an e-commerce platform announcing that there are only a few items left in stock, an email that contains a limited-time offer, or even if it’s an article that tells your audience they absolutely can’t spend any more time doing things the old way.
4. Better headlines offer the reader something Useful
The fourth U rule is probably the most important of all because if your headline and the content that follows isn’t useful to your audience, it doesn’t matter if your headline is unique, specific, or urgent!
If what you’re communicating isn’t useful to your viewer, your messaging will fail to deliver. There are many flavors of Useful that you might want to consider — practical advice, helpful tips, valuable insights, informative data or statistics, and more. The important thing is to understand what your audience is looking for and offer them answers to their questions, or solutions to their problems.
5. Use headlines that address YOU — the reader.
Using the actual word “you” in your headlines is the simplest way to achieve this. The word “you” helps you connect with your audience on a personal level.
However, there are other methods. Effective headlines might call out target audiences as a collective, like small business owners, or dentists.
What you need to keep in mind while creating better headlines
First, a great headline will not compensate for mediocre messaging. It’s not enough that they click your headline. They need to consume and appreciate the content beyond the headline.
Second, while there are broad best practices and guidelines to follow, there are no guaranteed formulas for great headlines. It’s important to test your headlines and find out what works best for your business, and your audience.
And finally, applying all these rules at once will leave you with a confusing mess of a headline, that doesn’t work. Instead of making sure your headline meets these criteria, focus on what works educating your prospects and customers, offering them what they’re looking for, packaged in a way that’s true to your brand.
If you need help with better headlines, or other support to improve your marketing performance, we invite you to schedule a no-obligation discovery call with us.
Click here to book time with us.