10 compelling headline styles: Have you seen number eight?

HeadlinesI’ve just run a webinar for In-Tuition, with listeners from Ireland, UK, USA, and Arab Emirates. One of the questions was about headlines, and I promised to provide a list of 10 compelling headline-writing styles, so here it is:

  1. Keep it simple
    e.g. World’s worst websites
    It’s a quirk of today’s world that more people read negative headlines than positives.
  2. Announce news
    e.g. Man bites dog
    Dog bites man is not news. Turn it around and it is.
  3. Start with ‘How to’
    e.g. How to find fiends and influence zombies
    Apart from e-commerce, people don’t search the Internet to be sold to. They search for information (and entertainment). That means you need to provide hints, tips and ‘how to’s.
  4. Include numbers
    e.g. 50 ways to love your liver
    The social media world loves sharing a list. It can be top 10, top 3, top 101 – whatever number is relevant to your content. You can give more detail about each item in a subsequent blog post.
  5. Use the imperative
    e.g. Understand dogs, at-a-glance
    The imperative suggests ‘you must’. So use your headline to bark a command. Woof.
  6. Offer useful information
    e.g. Social media insights for industry leaders
    You need to add value, not be an advert. (One of my pet phrases.)
  7. Quote somebody
    e.g. “It’s not just drill-and-fill,” say dentists
    Especially if the quote is controversial
  8. Ask a question then state the answer
    e.g. Bad back keeping you awake at night? Then try our Comfy Cosysleep system
    Questions draw people in because it’s about THEM, not about YOU.
  9. Include a benefit
    e.g. Claim your free plastic daffodil when you sign up to my tipsheet
    Choose something with high perceived value to incentivise response.
  10. Offer a guarantee
    e.g. If you don’t agree this training course will double your income, I’ll give you your money back
    Guarantees take away the risk, and are rarely claimed on.

By the way, did you notice what I did with the headline of this blog post?

It’s a combination of 4 with added ‘clickbait’. You have probably seen these Upworthy-style headlines appearing all over Facebook. They usually include something like ‘One weird trick’ or ‘You won’t believe what happens next’. Some people love ‘em. Some people hate ‘em. But there’s no denying they get clicks.

Top tips:

  • Headlines should be punchy, simple and sum up the whole story (they don’t have to be short)
  • It is often easier to write them last
  • For marketing headlines, include or imply the word ‘you’ if possible
  • Answer ‘What’s In It For Me’ from the reader’s point of view and/or include keywords for SEO
  • Puns and teaser headlines can be fun, if that’s your house style

Can you think of any more headline styles? Post them in the comments.

photo credit: reinvented via photopin cc

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