Headlines are important

9 Simple Ideas to Help You Write Effective Headlines

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Headlines are important

Writing great headlines is harder than it seems

Headlines are extremely important lines of content on your marketing material. The focus of this article is on writing headlines for web content and blogs, but the ideas equally apply to offline marketing – press releases, brochures, tender submissions and so on.

What the Statistics Tell Us

I’ll get to the interesting stuff – the headline ideas – in a moment, but first I want to tell you 2 things to set the scene, because the internet can a tough place:

  • Your readers are flippant: Some sources have found 8 out of 10 people will read a headline and go no further – only 2 out of 10 will go on to read the copy.  This is as true online as it is in advertising. As David Ogilvy out it, you are spending 80c of your marketing dollar on your headline.
  • Variation can be huge depending on the quality of your headline: This Research found there can be as much as 500% difference in performance (ie readership) depending on the style of the headline. 500%!

What the Research Tells Us

Over at Conductor they did some very interesting research into the effectiveness of various types of headlines. It showed that number headlines (eg 6 Ways to Cook a Steak) were clicked 15% more than the next best headline, which addressed the reader in a direct way (eg Why You Need to Cook Steak This Way).

overall-preference

Surprisingly, the worst performing headline was the ’question’. That’s an interesting one, since marketers have long spruiked the ‘question’ as a rock solid headline strategy. ‘What Are the Best Ways to Cook a Steak?’ is an example. (This result might have something to do with the quality of their test headline, which wasn’t exactly compelling– see above).

The other interesting point from this research was how readers responded to superlatives in headlines:

  • The understated headline performed well (ie The 6 Ways to Cook a Steak).
  • Throwing one superlative into the mix (The 6 Best Ways to Cook a Steak) worked slightly better.
  • Any more superlatives, however, seemed to negatively impact performance, until they reached 4 or more superlatives, which improved performance again. I’m not a huge fan of ‘The 6 Best and Smartest Ways Ever to Cook a Perfect Steak’, but if the research shows it works, there’s no harm in trying!

superlatives

With this in mind – as well as some other proven headline ideas – I offer to you my ‘10 Brilliant Ideas for Writing the Most Amazing and Effective Headline Ever’.

9 Brilliant Ideas for Writing the Most Amazing and Effective Headline Ever

  1.  Offer a benefit – When writing headlines offer the reader something and they’ll respond. ‘Finally! Learn How to Cook the Perfect Steak’
  2. Even better if it’s a ‘quick win’ – ‘Learn How to Cook the Perfect Steak in Minutes’
  3. Create something newsworthy – A Great New Way to Cook the Perfect Steak, or, You Won’t Believe This New Method to Cook Steak
  4. Offer evidence – Chefs Agree on This Simple Method to Cook Steak
  5. Include a numeral – We covered this one earlier
  6. Communicate urgency – Cook the Perfect Steak – Simple Ideas You HAVE to Learn
  7. Add a superlative – Perfect, Great, Amazing, Effective, Beautiful, Delicious… and so on.
  8. Get your keywords up front – Put your most important keyword at the beginning of the headline – within the first 65 characters. 6 Ways to Cook the Perfect Steak
  9. Try and try again – if you post blogs, try variations on your headlines and see what works with your readers. There can be no better strategy than testing on your own site.
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Chris Vincent

Chris Vincent is a communications specialist with expertise in copywriting and content strategy for traditional and online platforms. Chris helps organisations to communicate in a way that engages and motivates audiences to act. Chris is also an experienced tender writer with a background including multi million dollar bids through to helping small businesses to respond to government tenders. Chris is owner of Write House where he is both a working writer as well as manager of a small team of contract writers working with businesses around the country.
Chris Vincent9 Simple Ideas to Help You Write Effective Headlines