Headlines are the first look (and sometimes the only look) people give your content. Think of all the times you have scanned title by title before clicking the one that stopped your scroll.
You’re not the only one who goes by without reading. We found that 73% of people admit skimming blog posts while only 27% consume them thoroughly. Without a compelling headline, your content will never get the eyes it deserves.
But what exactly are headline grabbers? And how do you write one that stands out from the black and white sea of copying monotony? Most importantly, how do you make sure it works for your audience?
Fortunately, we understand the ups and downs of catchy headlines. It takes time, thought, and a few simple tricks. So get comfortable with your favorite note-taking mode because it’s time to learn how to create headlines that will appeal to readers.
What is a headline grabber?
Headline-makers instantly grab readers’ attention and entice them to click on your content – be it a blog post, a Twitter update, or an email newsletter. They can help you increase click rates, views, awareness and approvals.
There are thousands of articles out there on how to write an attention grabbing headline. Every marketer has an opinion, from correcting terrible headlines to getting more clicks.
While most compelling headlines come from a similar bag of tricks, what works for one person may not work for another. This is because your audience, brand, language and content strategy is different from the companies that show up next to you in search results.
Here’s how to write an attention-grabbing headline
This is how you ensure that your headlines generate interest and work for your brand.
1. Write a working title.
Do you remember when you had to submit a rough draft of your work? Well, thank your high school teachers because this is a great first step in finding the perfect headline grabbers.
A draft heading is known as a “working title”. It’s a specific statement that clearly states what your post is about. For example, suppose you are blogging about topics like “being outdoors” and “staying active”.
You can write hundreds of posts on any of these topics. With a working title, however, you limit yourself to a specific heading. For example, you can create the following working titles from the above topics:
- “Why going outdoors increases happiness and long-term memory”
- “Anti-Aging Activity: 7 Science-Based Reasons to Get Off the Couch”
Each headline makes it clear what your post is about, but they still need to go through a writing workshop. They are called “working titles” because they will take some time to be perfect. But it’s the right start to create an attention-grabbing headline.
2. Avoid clickbait.
We have all fallen into this marketing trap. You can’t help but tap on the following headings:
- “You won’t believe this dog’s dance moves!”
- “Someone gave these kids scissors. Here’s what happened next.”
- “If You Read These 19 Shocking Facts About Food You Will Never Eat Again”
Often times, the article you end up reading is completely different from what the headline promised. Carrot cake has a lot of sugar, of course. So you get frustrated, you leave the site, and you vow never to come back.
While clickbait can be effective at getting views, it can also annoy readers by taking advantage of emotional triggers such as anger, fear, humor, inspiration, and surprise.
People won’t stay long if you keep promising too much and delivering too little through exaggerated headlines. But there is something to be learned from the effectiveness of clickbait.
The use of emotional language can resonate on a personal level and generate interest in readers. For example, these headlines nod at people’s emotional tendencies without being overly sensational:
- “Why you shouldn’t always achieve your goals”
- “Merriam-Webster Reveals What New Words Appeared The Year You Were Born”
- “12 Ways to Give and Receive Customer Love”
When you’re too promising about what’s behind your headline, take a break. Reevaluate the benefits to your audience and pull in the bait.
3. Stay on the mark.
Perhaps clickbait is part of your branding strategy. If so, you’re making the outrageous headlines. The point is, your brand is the starting point of your content strategy. So it’s important to keep this in mind when writing headline grabbers.
(To create a brand that will attract and inspire your audience, check out the Ultimate Guide to Branding in 2020).
Let’s take a look at how two big players in the outdoor industry – Patagonia and Outdoor Research – are using their disparate brands to make attention-grabbing headlines.
- Patagonia: “Will you vote for the winter?”
- Outdoor research: “How to Stay Warm While Moving Fast in the Cold”
Both headings would make me click personally, but the difference between the two is clear. Patagonia is known for its environmental advocacy expressed through the use of “vote” and asking readers to comment. While Outdoor Research solves a pain point with its proven equipment to help customers “stay warm … in the cold”.
As you brainstorm headlines, visit your audience again to see what type of messaging is resonating with your audience.
4. Turn heads.
You know the person whose looks are so on point that you can’t help but take a double shot? You can accomplish this with a headline grabber – if you use these writing style tips.
- Build up anticipation – This is about creating intrigue so that people have to find out what happened. Psychology professor George Lowenstein summed it up in the information gap theory, which states that “a curious person is motivated to get the missing information in order to reduce or eliminate the feeling of disadvantage”. Buzzfeed is known for winning people over with headlines like “33 Amazingly Useful Web Sites You Never Knowed Exist”. Click.
- Add numbers – Studies have shown that numbers ease the stressful paradox of choice, stand out odd ones, and help our brains organize information spatially. Researchers have even found that people can count using a numberless language. So next time you enter a headline grabber, try something like “27 Data-Driven Reasons For Personalizing Your Marketing”. People cannot resist.
- Solve a problem – When we encounter a problem, our brains work overtime trying to find a solution. Because of this, headlines that offer answers are great eye-catchers. Do you feel overwhelmed at work? “Quick and easy ways to get organized at work” would appeal to you right away, as it promises easy ways to solve your problem. Bonus points for giving actionable, inventive advice.
5. Optimize for SEO.
Learning how to write an attention grabbing headline and optimize it for search doesn’t have to be a painful process. The key? Do some research and sound like you are – human.
To find the right balance, do some keyword research to find out what topics interest your audience. When you have a list of relevant keywords, check the search volume for each keyword to see how many times it was entered into a search engine. (If you are new to SEO or need to develop a solid strategy, check out our Ultimate Guide to SEO for helpful tips.)
Once you’ve selected a keyword that interests your audience and has solid search volume, it’s time to include it in your headline. We recommend placing your keyword as close as possible to the beginning of your headline so that it can be recognized by the tricky search engine spiders. Just remember to keep your headline under 70 characters so it doesn’t get cut off in the SERPs.
For example, let’s say you’re creating a blog post on the topic of branding and your goal is to rank for the keyword “Examples of Brand Voices”. Your working title might look something like this:
“Let these 9 examples of creative brand voices inspire you”
While the feel is there, the key word is at the end – and pizzazz is missing. A few simple switches can turn this into a headline grabber.
“9 Examples of Brand Voices to Break Out of Writer’s Block”
Putting the keyword in the foreground of the headline will improve search engine optimization, and adding “Writer’s Block” can solve a problem that plagues any brand writer. Also, the headline is made up of 53 characters so readers can see all of your heading handicraft.
As users scroll past a perfectly optimized headline, a poorly optimized headline will show you at the bottom of search results. Try to find a balance that works for your brand. And above all, be human. If you’re not sure if your headline is strong enough to grab people’s attention, think: would you click?