A few years back I developed a list of 7 headline writing tips. I am wondering if all of these tips are still relevant. Seems that today you have to be more outrageous to entice people with a headline. So here’s my list below. What do you have to add?
Keep It Short & Simple. The best headlines are less than 15 words in length and typically use simple words and concepts that convey your message quickly. Readers prefer simplicity. If your headline is long or confusing, they’ll move on to something else. Write your headline first and spend as much time writing it as you do writing the post. Don’t be like Mark Twain, who said, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”
Short & Simple Example: How To Invest Like Warren Buffett.
Use The Right Words. Advertising’s best copywriters know that there are certain words which always are effective. You’d think these words would be worn out, but they continue to persuade and compel. Here are a few of them: advice, amazing, breakthrough, discover, enhance, extreme, facts, free, learn, mysterious, new, protect, and secret.
Use The Right Words Example: Free Facts To Protect Your Family From Fraud.
Convey The Benefit. Readers like to know in advance what they will get for taking the time to read your article. Will this benefit me in some way, they ask? Your headline should truthfully tell them what they will get out of it. Don’t lie to them or craft a headline that doesn’t deliver on the promise.
Convey The Benefit Example: Learn How To Present Like Steve Jobs
Be Direct. Simplicity, as we mentioned earlier, is crucial. That’s why we prefer the direct to the indirect headline. A direct headline tells you exactly what is coming. An indirect headline may be subtle or use double entendre that can be confusing to a time-stressed reader.
Be Direct Example: Get A Free Media Relations White Paper.
Questions? A headline that just asks a question is OK, but one that asks a question with which the reader can empathize or a question he really wants to know the answer to takes it to the next level. Bob Bly, the man McGraw-Hill calls “America’s top copywriter”, offers this headline example from Psychology Today, “Do You Close the Bathroom Door Even When You’re the Only One Home?”
Questions Example: Who Else Wants To Make A Fortune While Sitting In Their La-Z-Boy?
By The Numbers. You have probably noticed that we really like using numbers – particularly uneven numbers – in our headlines. This is a classic headline approach that seems to have been done to death online. But it still works. This type of headline gives structure to your post before you even write it. And my number posts consistently do better in terms of traffic – and retweets – than do my other posts. Additionally, it tells the reader how much reading time the article will require. Three to five tips won’t take too long to read, while 9 – 13 tips may require a greater time investment.
By The Numbers Example: Top 19 Free Photo Sites For Bloggers
Be Active. We use active voice, active verbs and action-oriented words as much as possible in our posts and in headlines. These words can add color and power to your writing, as well as encourage the reader to take action. We like the works “Learn” and “Discover”.
Be Active Example: Discover Effective Headline Writing Secrets