8 Tips for Writing Awesome Headlines that People want to Read

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Do you know what the most important piece of your content marketing is? It’s not the actual content—it’s the headline that makes people click on your content and read it. Your content could have the most accurate numbers and the best written body, but without a great headline, no one will ever see it. Here are eight tips for writing awesome headlines that people will actually want to read.

  1. Write your headline first
    Headlines are far too critical to put off for the end of a project when you’re on deadline and are willing to accept any string of words in bold at the top. Good headlines get clicks and entice people to read content—without a good headline, you’re wasting your time creating the content.Besides being the most important part of your content, starting with your headline helps you distill the essence of your content into a tweet-sized package, giving you a clear purpose for creating the content piece. This helps keep your body content clear and crisp.
  2. Use the Upworthy headline-writing rule
    Have you heard of Upworthy? If not, it’s one of the most popular content sites out there. One of the secrets to Upworthy’s enormous success is the way they write headlines: Editors are required to write 25 headlines for each and every post. Yes, I said 25 headlines! As explained by Upworthy’s curators, the rationale behind this is “ You will write some really stinky headlines. Once you start getting desperate, you start thinking outside the box. Twenty-four headlines will suck. Then #25 will be a gift from the headline gods and will make you a legend.”Advertising legend David Ogilvy understood the value of headlines and he rewrote the famous headline 104 times to get it right:“At 60 miles an hour, the only thing you hear in the new Rolls Royce is the ticking of the dashboard clock.” If the great Ogilvy can write 104 headlines for his Rolls Royce ad, you can write 25 for your content.
  3. No clickbait!
    This blog post will change your life!Actually, no, but we’ve all seen headlines like this. Called “clickbait,” these headlines are annoying and attract attention in a way that degrades the content beneath because it can’t measure up to the promise the headline makes. Sensationalist, ridiculous, and frequently misleading, clickbait headlines waste readers’ time because they severely over-promise what the content can actually deliver.For example, on my post about social media superstar Sree Sreenivasan, I didn’t title it “Social media marketing secrets that will shock and amaze.” I called it simply “Secrets for social media success from Sree Sreenivasan,” because that is exactly what the post is.

    If you use clickbait techniques in your content, the only guarantee is that you will disappoint your readers.

  4. Don’t be too clever.
    Banish all puns, plays on words, and other clever ideas you have from your headlines. First of all, you’re not nearly as clever as you think and secondly, being clever often means being unclear. Be clear in your headlines and save the cleverness for the body of the content once you’ve hooked your readers in.For example, I recently blogged about strategic positioning, using a case study of one of my clients: Red Rabbit. I didn’t get clever with the headline and write something like “Red Rabbit hops into position.” Instead, I titled the post “5 tips for strategic positioning.”
  5. Don’t use song titles.
    Remember what I said about the headline being the most important part of a piece of content? Don’t use a song title for your headline—besides being plagiarism, it’s also really really really lazy. You can do better for your headlines.
  6. Answer your audience’s questions.
    Your audience is made up of real people and they have questions. Use those questions or their answers as your headlines. For example, my post “Five tips for using email as a lead generating machine” is the answer to the question, “How to drive leads with email marketing?” Likewise, my recent post, “How to do holiday marketing well” is could be either the question or the answer, depending how you look at it. Leveraging premium content: A how-to guide for marketers,” is the answer to the question “How should marketers to use premium content?”
  7. Tout the features your audience will like, not the ones you like.
    Do you know someone who incessantly posts selfies on their social media pages? While your friend obviously thinks quite highly of themselves, I’ll bet you’re not really very interested in those selfies. Sometimes as marketers, we forget what our customers really want as we get so enamored with our products’ features and we start to talk about the features we like, rather than the features our customers are interested in.Remember, you’re supposed to be solving problems for your customers, not preening yourself on your clever products.
  8. Use numbers and lists.
    People love lists and headlines with numbers and lists are highly effective. For example, my blog posts Top 5 Ways to Optimize Sales Enablement Efforts and Six Tips to Boost Your Creative Powers follow this model.

Implement these headline rules into your content creation and watch your content’s popularity increase. Happy headline writing!

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