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Ah, the headline. A carefully crafted string of words that can mean the difference between a company email that totally flops or a blog that goes viral.
As a writer, I can’t even guess how much time I’ve spent writing and re-writing those few short words (with fingers crossed), hoping they will be the perfect combo that will pack a punch. Can you relate?
To help you out, here are seven simple headline writing tips — to make your headline pop:
1. You can’t be outNUMBERED: People love lists. And they love numbered lists even more. But don’t spell out the number (five), use the digit (5). Takpiki research has shown that headlines starting with digits are shared more often – and the higher the number the better. If you have “50 reasons to….” It will more likely be shared.
Really – science backs it up. Stanford Business School research found that one of the six principles to make your brand or headline “stick” is to make your statement concrete – and numbers accomplish that.
2. Choose the right words: Yes, it’s even a popularity contest among words. Here’s a short list that really captures your readers:
e. Hacks (or hackers)
3. If it bleeds, it leads: We all like sensationalism. You can’t get around that. Takipi studied tech blogs to measure which were shared on social media the most. The outcome? Negative, dark, or aggressive words in titles got the most attention. Some examples of this are:
I realize nobody likes that kind of negativity all the time. So spin it a bit differently, like “10 Things You Should Stop Doing to Write a Better blog”
4.Spark Curiosity: Content Marketing gurus Upworthy says to make sure every headline you write has a “curiosity gap” – meaning it needs to say enough to get the reader to click through, without giving everything away. They give this example from a Mitt Romney story:
- Too Vague: Mitt Romney Says Something Bad, Again (huh?)
- Too specific: Mitt Romney Says, “I Want The Middle Class To Be Tied To The Roof Of My Car.” (this basically gives away the whole story and most will feel that they don’t need to click )
- Just right: You Will Not Believe What Mitt Wants To Do to You (just enough to intrigue your readers – and hopefully get some shares.)
5. Surprise them: It’s scientifically proven that our brains like the unexpected. In journalism, it’s called the “man bites dog” theory – it catches us off guard. These surprises are stimulating to our brains and more quickly catch our attention.
6. Take Action! Verbs are our friends – and they are clearly very persuasive. Social media scientist Dan Zarrella analyzed 200,000 tweets that included links – and those that had more adverbs and verbs had noticeably higher click through rates.
7. Word Play: Research your audience to hone in on their attitudes and goals. From there, test varied headlines to see what strikes them. (For example stagger tweets for the same blog over a couple of months….but with different titles. Track the clicks or likes to see how well your followers engaged)
So why not put these tips to the test — and do your own scientific research!
Back to you:
What headlines have worked best for you?
What headline writing tips would you add?