How to Keep Readers Engaged with Good Subheads
An attention-grabbing headline may attract readers to your content writing, but you have to keep their attention, too.
Clever, well-placed subheads will do that, whether you’re writing articles, blogs or press releases. One function of these headings is to break up text, particularly in longer articles. Bullet points provide visual points of interest, but a content writer can also use subheads, which actually promote the text beneath them and are a good part of content strategy.
Cut the Bites Small
When writing a standard article or blog post that isn’t part of a template, use your first subhead following one or two opening paragraphs.
Short paragraphs of three sentences or fewer will give the readers small bites to chew on, rather than overload them with information. When telling a story with some drama, you may wish to transition into a new section with a tantalizing statement at the end of a paragraph — or make it a one-sentence paragraph. Then start the next section with a powerful subhead.
Honesty is the Best Policy
Your subheads must be honest. They should be compelling yet not misleading. If you imply something that is obviously untrue, your reader will feel cheated and may not finish the article.
You don’t have to be fake to write compelling headings that utilize keywords smoothly (readers can tell when you do keyword stuffing) and connect with people. Anything can be interesting, if you find the right angle.
Sometimes the right angle can be humor, particularly plays on words. “Got Silk?” could be a subhead in an article about types of scarves. “Get to the Point” in an article about medical fears could introduce a section that covers communicating fear of needles to a nurse or doctor. “Burn, Baby, Burn” could show negative results of not using sunscreen.
Humorous or light-hearted subheads don’t necessarily mean the content will be funny, but they can set the pace for a lighter tone throughout the article.
Time to Go
Use the final section to summarize the content or make a final point. Let the subhead get the reader ready to finish the article by setting a tone.
If we look back at our three topics we covered in the previous section, the article on scarves could conclude with the final subhead “Wrapping Up” as a play on words. The article on medical fears could say “You’re Not Alone,” followed by statistics on medical fears and resources to get more information and help. And the article relating to sunburn could end with a brief but sobering reference to the correlation of sunburn to skin cancer. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, a blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence doubles the risk of melanoma later in life, a risk that is also connected to having five or more sunburns at any age. So the subhead could be “Do You Feel Lucky?” or “Bad Odds.”
Consider the article, the client and the audience when deciding whether to use a light or amusing subhead or something more serious with some depth. By the end of the article, hopefully the reader is still with you and still enjoying what you’ve written.
How do you write good subheads? Share your writing tips with us in the comments section below.