Headlines are one of the most important elements of shareable content. Sometimes people share content based on headline alone, and it is often the only piece of information that will show on a social site. So make sure you come up with a killer headline to help attract an initial audience. How many times have you seen an interesting headline and immediately shared the article with someone you know?
Hooks of Strong Headlines
Are Useful and Relevant – While you want to attract attention with your headline, don’t forget that the headline should still inform and direct the reader.
Google Autocomplete Reveals the Fattest, Boringest, and Most Racist States in the Union — Slate.com
Play Off of Curiosity – Offer the reader something they have to see to believe. If your headline sounds odd, unique or strange, a reader will click just to see if your content lives up to their expectation. Hint: Make sure it does!
Synchronized Swimming Faces + Music = Terror — BuzzFeed.com
Imply Urgency – Have the headline make the content sound irresistible by making it sound time-sensitive and current.
Can Stand on Their Own – A really great headline is entertaining on its own. Try to make readers laugh or smile with just the headline.
Play Off the Fear of Loss – Have the headline make the reader feel like they will miss out or lose something by not reading the content.
Offer a Benefit or Reward – Through the headline, make sure that the reader knows that the content will offer some sort of enrichment to their everyday life.
Use Engaging and/or Action Words – Just one eye-catching, extreme adjective can really make a headline jump off of a page, especially on Social Sites.
7 Absolutely Insane Animal Defense Mechanisms — MentalFloss.com
Authenticate Your Proposition – In the headline, offer a sample of what you are going to provide in the content.
Use Shocking Statistics – Make the headline eye catching by using a surprising statistic that supports the text.
Goodreads Reaches 10 Million Members, 360 Million Books – SocialTimes.com
Alert the Reader of Special Features – If the content includes a video and or infographic, let the reader know in the headline by adding [Infographic] and/or [Video] after the title.
How to Make a Promise and Keep It
If you make a promise in your headline, keep it. This is one of the easiest ways to build trust with an audience, and the easiest way to lose it if you don’t deliver.
Make the Promise
- Offer a benefit or reward by using a declarative sentence instead of a question
- By making a statement you are telling the reader what you are going to tell them in the article
Then Keep It
- Don’t lure readers into an article with a flashy headline and then give them content that doesn’t deliver
- Readers might start to read an article with an ostentatious headline, but once they find out that the article doesn’t live up to the hype, they will stop reading and likely never believe you again
- Be mindful of your words so that you don’t unintentionally offer something you cannot possibly produce
This Guy Made What Might Be the Coolest House on Earth — BuzzFeed.com
- Be credible
- Right away your reader will trust you because you aren’t offering them something they know can’t be true
Types of Headlines
The Copywriter’s Handbook defines eight types of headlines that inspire action:
- Direct – Come right out and state your main idea
- U2 Tickets on Sale Now
- Indirect – Clever headlines that reference the main idea in a smart way
- U2 Need Tickets Now
- News – The announcement of a new event or product
- The words “new,” “at last,” “introducing,” “announcing,” and “now” indicate something newsworthy
- U2 Announces New Summer Tour
- The How To – Offer readers a solution to accomplish a specific task
- How To Find a Deal on U2 Tickets
- A Question – Either a question that the reader can empathize with or would like to see answered
- Do You Want to See U2 Tomorrow?
- How Can You See U2 Tomorrow for Free?
- The Command – Immediately tell the reader what you want them to do. The first word should be a strong word initiating action
- Hurry to Get your U2 Tickets Now
- Reasons Why – Tell why something is happening or should happen
- Ten Reasons You Can’t Miss the U2 Show Tomorrow
- Testimonial – Uses a quote from an influential person
- “I never miss a U2 show,” says President Obama