Learn to Write Clickable Headlines that Drive Your Competition Crazy

August 26, 2015

Writing great headlines comes naturally to some people, but most of us need a little help crafting those irresistible lines that make readers want to know more. Sure, a lot is riding on the headline, but it all comes down to one overriding concern: does it generate an amazing click-through rate, the kind that your competition would kill for?

That measure of success can also reflect on your company’s image as a forward-leaning, innovative brand, not to mention your standing as an influential blogger or writer. You probably know that numbered lists and “how to” topics are always click-magnets, but relying on these heavily used formulas may not be enough (headline of this post notwithstanding). Generate the traffic results you need by upping your game with more creative ideas.

1. Use the Secret Sauce – Buzz Words

The right buzz words can convert scanners into readers, so that they engage first with the headline, then with the rest of your content. What kind of buzz words? Some can be relied on to generate gut-level response and curiosity, like: new, killer, odd, and of course, secret. Look for additional buzz words that resonate with your particular target audience, and check Google Trends for important keywords.

2. Make it Short and Sweet

Keep your headline brief, ideally at 55-65 characters max. Try trimming it down to as few as 6 words. Why? People don’t tend to thoroughly read every word in a headline, but they will read the first 3 and last 3 words. Even if you can’t say what you need to in 6 words, make sure the vital, most enticing information comes across in those 6 words.

Equally important, short headlines are better for SEO. A long headline won’t meet Google’s guidelines for search engine results pages (SERPs) and might be chopped back by the search engine. Brevity means social media shares are more likely, with Twitter being the prime example (140 character total limit, headline, URL, and all).

3. Engage the Reader on the Spot

Ask a question to set up an immediate interaction with the reader. This format can stimulate curiosity, which leads to further investigation. It implies that there will be an answer to the question at the end of a click-through. One note of caution—there is always a risk that some readers will reply to your question in the negative. Another key to engagement is the use of action words that become a call to action.

4. Don’t Be Too Cute

Clever wording can attract people, but back away from overly cute or difficult-to-decipher language. You could inadvertently obscure the real value in the information you’re offering. Recognizable buzz words are one thing, but deep insider lingo can turn off a potential reader who might have genuine interest in your topic. Besides, people will move on to something else if they don’t immediately perceive a potential reward for reading further.

5. Include a Promise of Improvement

Also known as an aspirational appeal, the offer of ways to earn more, work smarter, look better, and other promises, can be powerful. It helps to think about specific tasks or challenges faced by a member of your target audience, and tailor your appeal directly to one of those needs.

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