In the words of David Ogilvy:
"On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar."
Needless to say, the title of your content is pretty important. Whether it's a headline on a website, or a teaser Tweet, it's the first thing people see when deciding to read your content.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when writing headlines.
1. Evoke Emotion
Readers don't just want quality content — they want digital emotions.
They want to feel something. They want to share something. They want to express something, and that's what content is for.
People click on titles that make them feel a certain way. Make your readers feel something when they read your title and they will click it, share it, and remember it.
2. Write How You Speak
Since 1826 the use of whom has steadily been declining.
The Ghostbusters theme song — "Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters!" — is grammatically incorrect, but it's a lot catchier than "Whom are you going to call? Ghostbusters!"
Writing how you're supposed to write is a good way to win a Pulitzer, writing how you speak is a good way to persuade someone.
What's your goal?
3. Verbs > Adjectives
Managing director of M.B.A admissions and financial aid at Harvard Business School, Dee Leopold, reads a ton of student applications every year. In her exact words: "The best recommendations have a lot of verbs. They say, 'She did this,' versus adjectives that simply describe you."
4. Use Sensory Words
Sensory words are words that appeal to the five senses. They describe how we smell, see, hear, feel, or taste something
As advanced as the human brain is, it still doesn't know the difference between reality and imagination. Olivia Fox Cabane points this out in her book, The Charisma Myth.
- Imagine nails screeching (sensory word) across a chalkboard.
Did it cause a real response in your body? That's because just imagining the screeching sends triggers to your brain as if it were actually happening. Triggering the senses evokes emotions, and evoking emotion triggers action.
Just Google "sensory words" to find a list of words that will add zest to your titles.
Check out this study to understand what actually happens to your brain when you read sensory words.
5. Keep Titles Short And Direct
Attention spans are getting shorter and shorter each day.
Writer Nicholas Carr explained how the Internet was rewiring our brains just like the invention of the clock did. Precise timekeeping started with a church bell, for example, then came the clock, and before we knew it, working from sunrise to sunset turned into 9 to 5. Not only did the clock change society, it also changed the individual psyche.
We don't know what the Internet will do to the future of humanity, but we do know it's shortening our attention spans.
Focus your title on the most interesting part of your content. Don't try to jam everything into your title. And keep it short.
6. Use Pictures
Almost every eye-tracking study has shown the same thing: People love images!
The human eye immediately shoots towards images on a screen, but don't bank all your money on the pic — make sure it complements your text.
7. Readers Love Lists
In a leaked memo from Buzzfeed, founder Jonah Peretti wrote about "The Top 7 Reasons Buzzfeed Is Killing It".
Can you guess any of the reasons?
Readers love scrolling through lists!
If you're writing a listicle, you should let readers know in your title.
8. Use Persuasive Words
Words like: You, Free, Now, Because, Save, and Instantly are proven to effectively generate results.
If you want to persuade, you need to use persuasive words.
9. Pose Questions
Why are Family Feud, Wheel Of Fortune and Jeopardy three of the longest-running shows on television?
Because people love questions! They love answering them. They love thinking about them. They even love just reading them.
Maybe the most famous marketing copy ever crafted was: "Do You Close the Bathroom Door Even When You're the Only One Home?"
Aren't you intrigued to learn more?
10. Use Punctuation Wisely
The right punctuation in a title can help readers flow through your text, but the wrong punctuation will send them running for the hills.
PUNCTUATION THAT AIDS READERS
- Ellipsis (…)
- Commas (,)
- Dashes (-)
PUNCTUATION THAT CONFUSES READERS
- Periods (.)
- Semicolons (;)
- Colons [:]
Just because you're super smart and know how to properly use a semicolon, it doesn't mean you should add them to your headlines.
11. Make A Promise
Promise to show readers something useful, informational, entertaining, engaging, or inspiring, and they will click on it — just make sure to follow through with your promise.