Writing high-quality articles takes a ton of time, but sadly many high-quality articles won’t even get read.
8 out of 10 people will read headlines but only 2 out of 10 will actually click on it and read the rest.
To maximize your effectiveness with blogging, content marketing, your landing pages, or your homepage, you really have to write amazing headlines that people feel compelled to click.
This article shows different copywriting techniques you can use to write headlines to make them more enticing.
1. Write multiple headlines for every article
Try to write at least 5 headlines and then pick the best one. There’s no formula for writing the perfect headline every time, so we need to write multiple headlines to brainstorm ideas.
2. Incorporate specific numbers into the headline
Headlines work best when they are very specific and one simple way to be specific is to add numbers to your headline. People prefer headlines that contain numbers over other types of headlines by a significant margin.
For example, which of the following headlines is more compelling?
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The first headline seems very generic while the second one contains specific numbers which implies that the writer is credible on the subject.
You can also try to use odd numbers instead of even numbers. A study conducted by Outbrain and Hubspot found that headlines with odd numbers get 20% more clicks than headlines with even numbers.
3. Use parentheses or brackets
One way to create more engaging titles is to use parentheses in your headline.
Outbrain and Hubspot conducted a study of over 3.3 million paid links and found that headlines with brackets performed 38% better than headlines without them.
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You can think of parentheses as embedding a really short sub-headline into your article title. Adding just a few words in parentheses can strengthen your headline by adding credibility statements, promising added benefits or giving readers another reason to click.
4. Hyphens and Colons also increase click-through rates
The Outbrain study also found that using hyphens and colons can increase click-through rates by 9% on average. Similar to parentheses and brackets, hyphens and colons also add visual variety and encourage you to write more interesting headlines.
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5. Split test headlines when emailing your list
Another thing you can do to improve your headline writing skills is to split test headlines when emailing your list about a new blog post. You may be surprised to find which headlines work best. Sometimes shorter and simpler headlines can outperform longer and more detailed headlines.
6. Consider using questions
Questions can create curiosity and people who want to know the answer to the question will click your headline and read the article.
Make sure it’s not a question that they can easily answer, but one that will provoke thought and generate curiosity.
Example: Are You Making Any of These 7 Common Blogging Mistakes?
7. Look for SEO keywords so that searchers can find your content
Keywords are important if you want to get long term SEO traffic to your blog articles. Creating headlines that are SEO optimized can help people discover your content for a long time after writing it, so it’s worth taking the time to do it if you are investing time and resources into content creation.
8. Search for other articles on your topic in Google (to see other competing headlines)
Another good exercise when writing headlines is to search Google for other articles on the topic and see what other headlines you are competing against. Looking at other people’s headlines might give you some good ideas for your own headlines.
Think about how you can create a headline that is better than competing articles or how you can create something that offers something different.
9. Reuse past winning headline formulas
Consider reusing headlines formulas that worked well for you in the past.
Looper is an entertainment site that features articles and news about movies and celebrities. Here are a few of their YouTube video titles:
- Why Hollywood Won’t Cast Tobey Maguire Anymore (7 million views)
- Why Hollywood Won’t Cast Alyson Hannigan Anymore (2.5 million views)
- Why Hollywood Won’t Cast Tom Welling Anymore (2.5 million views)
Do you see a pattern?
10. Create a “Curiosity Gap”
The basic idea behind this approach is to evoke curiosity by writing a headline that gives information about what the article is about, but leaves the reader wanting more or hints at something interesting within the article.
Example: I wanted to know how Mister Rogers felt about gay people. Here’s what I found.
You can also use curiosity gaps in your sub-headings within your article so that when people scan your article, they will be intrigued enough to read the whole thing.
11. Test negative headlines
A study of 65,000 ad headlines found that headlines containing negative words like “never” or “stop” performed 30% better than headlines without them.
It also discovered that headlines with positive superlatives like “best” performed 29% worse than headlines without them. The reason that headlines with positive words performed worse is likely because such headlines are overused.
So once you’ve come up with a good headline, consider writing a version from a negative perspective.
For example, instead of “5 Amazing Ways to Lose Weight”, you might use a headline like “5 Things You Must Avoid to Prevent Weight Gain”.
12. Write different headlines for different channels
Your blog article title doesn’t have to be the same as your SEO title or the headline that you share on social media. If you are writing articles on a high traffic blog, then you may want to consider writing different headlines to target different channels.
Slate.com uses this approach to create headlines targeted towards different channels.
Article Title: Why Do We Keep Planting Stinky Gingkos?
SEO Title: Why we still plant smelly ginkgo trees.
Social Media Title: Ginkgo Trees Smell Like Vomit. Why Do We Plant Them All Over Our Cities?
13. Practice writing different sub-headlines (including the concluding paragraph)
Try to rewrite sub-headers so that each one is a compelling headline that makes readers want to read each section.
You can also try creating a unique sub-header for the concluding section. Most people simply use “Conclusion” or “To Sum It Up”, but with a little thought, you can come up with a better sub-head for your final section.
These tips will give you some ideas on how to write compelling headlines that people will click. Writing great headlines will allow you to write articles that get shared thousands of times.
Remember that writing headlines isn’t a skill that you can master overnight. It’s something that you should keep practicing and continue to get better at.
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PS. Whatever you do, do not use the “curiosity gap” type of headline with a “number [X] will shock you” or “[doctors / bankers] hate him”. It might have worked 5 years ago. Now it will instantly hurt your credibility.