Do you know the single most important function of a headline?
Just in case you’re not sure, here’s the short answer:
To boost your readership. Specifically, to get the reader to move beyond the headline and continue to read your post.
For that reason, your headline must pack a punch.
Your headline should consist of a few well-chosen words conveying an interest-sparking message. It’s sort of like an elevator pitch if you think about it. And it may seem easy at first blush, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t understand the real significance of a headline. And how many get it wrong.
There are, fortunately, a few types of headlines that you can learn to use, and use well, to get you started. The subject of effective headlines can consume pages of content or hours of study, but if you want to learn how to write headlines that get your reader actually to read your post, I have three easy headline styles you can try to get you started.
The Elegance Of An Elevator Pitch
When I say a headline is like an elevator pitch, what I mean is that it shouldn’t be long and wordy, though some great headlines are somewhat lengthy. But a headline must be able to convey, with as few words as possible, and as powerfully as possible, the subject matter of your article or post.
And if you think about an elevator pitch, you get a feel for how little time you have to get your message across and generate interest. So perfecting the art of the elevator pitch is time well spent.
Effective headlines generate interest and curiosity, grab reader attention, and help grow your audience. And that helps to build your business. Yes, it’s all related.
It all starts with that elevator pitch — your great headline.
Building Blocks Of A Well-Crafted Headline
So what do you need to do to be sure that your headlines are working for you? Let’s take a look at a few key elements you must understand before you ever sit down to write any content, whether a blog post, an eBook, or ad copy.
Know your audience: This may be the most important element of content creation, no matter what form that content will take. You might write a compelling headline, but if it completely misses the bullseye, it’s all for naught.
If you don’t know who you’re writing for, what their worries and fears are, what keeps them up at night, then how can you write content that will speak to those concerns?
It’s so important to determine who your target audience is and what they need help with before you can craft any content, much less your elevator pitch. So spend some time studying who you’re talking to and what they need before you write anything.
Know the keywords specific to your target audience: Once you know who you’re writing for, you’ll better understand the kind of content to create. And as part of that content, there’ll be certain words and phrases that apply to that audience.
For example, say you have a cosmetic company. Does that company specialize in coverup cosmetics? Is it geared toward young adults and teenagers who struggle with breakouts? Or is the main product line targeting a more mature audience interested in antiaging products?
All of these examples are under the cosmetics umbrella, but for teens and young adults, the concerns are acne, preventing breakouts, concealing breakouts and acne scars. Things along those lines. While the mature audience is more concerned with wrinkles, sagging skin, and age spots. Keywords that talk about acne will totally miss the mark with the mature audience.
You can use tools such as Google Adwords, my personal favorite, to research keywords. Once you know your keywords and phrases, you can incorporate them into your writing. And into your headlines, where they’ll grab attention quickly and entice the reader to keep reading.
Study headline structure and formats: Once you know what you want to write about, and who you’re writing to, it’s time to learn more about how to structure effective headlines.
There are many ways to craft headlines that will grab reader interest, and a good way to study well-crafted headlines is to read headlines on magazine covers. Think about when you’re standing in line at the grocery store, and you see a headline on a newspaper or magazine cover. How many times have you picked up the magazine and thumbed quickly through to the article because a headline thoroughly piqued your interest?
I’m guessing you’ve grabbed that magazine and looked for the article on more than a few occasions. And if you didn’t have time to find the article, you tossed the magazine in your cart so you could read it when you got home.
That’s what a good headline will do — it’ll make you want to read the article. And you’ll spend the money to buy the magazine if your interest is high enough.
3 Tried And True Headline Formats
So what are some easy, effective headline formats to get you started quickly? Well, this is a topic that can cover a lot of ground, and I intend to write an eBook with more detail on this subject soon so stay tuned for that.
But we can touch on three distinct types of headlines you can start writing today that will make a difference in your readership.
- The how-to headline. You see this type of headline over and over again, and for good reason. It works. People are always looking for how to do things. How to cover blemishes. How to write effective ad copy. How to make a chocolate cake from scratch. When your headline says right up front, How To __________, you’ll draw in your target audience. In fact, when all else fails and you’re not sure what your headline should be, doing a how-to headline and post is always a good option.
- The alarm sparking headline. A headline that targets fear and worry is great for grabbing attention. Are you making these 5 critical mistakes? Protect yourself from _________. When people are worried they may be doing something wrong, they’ll want to read on to learn how to avoid that mistake. These headlines can even spark a dormant interest. They may seem negative, but your article is going to tell your reader how they can sidestep the mistake and subsequent repercussions. And for that reason, it’s a compelling headline to grab interest.
- The list headline. Lists are almost always effective. They’re easy to read, they succinctly cover a lot of ground, and they tend to grab attention immediately. 5 ways to ____. 10 great examples of _________. 8 tips to help you __________. There’s a reason you see so many list headlines. It’s because they work.
These are just three of the easiest headline styles you can use to start writing great headlines. There are many other ways to craft effective headlines, but these examples are a good place to start. They’re easy to learn, easy to mimic, and they work.
Make Your Elevator Pitch Work For You
When it comes to writing headlines, there’s a ton of information we can cover. But I don’t want to make you read a super long blog post so look for an eBook soon that will go over headlines in more detail, and with more examples.
Start studying headlines. Read magazine covers. Make note of which headlines draw you in. Keep a swipe file of examples of headlines that you want to copy.
Create how-to, list, or alarm headlines for content you’re creating today. Try experimenting with different types of headlines. See which ones work best for your audience.
Don’t worry about sounding repetitive. What matters is, does your headline capture attention? If it does, then you’ve done your job well.
Practice your elevator pitch. Perfect the use of keywords and phrases to reach your audience.
Refine the art of writing a well-crafted headline. Like anything, it takes time to learn to do it well.
Just remember, you only have a short amount of time to capture your reader.
And nothing beats a great elevator pitch.