A great headline can boost the effectiveness of your content and tempt your audience to read on. The truth is, if you don’t capture them quickly, you won’t capture them at all, which means all that terrific content you’ve struggled over won’t get the attention it deserves. But because most people share content based on the headline alone, if you nail the headline, you can multiply your audience.
And here’s the good news. Headlines are words. And words are one of the few things you probably have complete control over. So with that power in mind, here are a few tips, ideas, and resources to help you craft the perfect headline…
ONE: Highlight the benefit
Put another way, tell your reader what the content will do for them. This means you need to include your most informative keywords in your headline. You’ll also want to incorporate some emotion if you can. The rule of thumb is to shoot for a length of roughly 50-60 characters, which is usually about 6-8 words.
Power words such as discover, powerful, more, proven and value perform well in headlines. Other high performing words include you/your, win, free/giveaway, how to and DIY. Data and numbers also perform well. Noah Kagan analyzed a million headlines and found that list posts got the most shares. And remember, people will pay most attention to the first and last three words so keep an eye on the beginning and end.
One simple way to frame the value of your content for readers is to rely on headline formulas. There are a host of formulas out there, many designed to make a promise, draw a picture, share a fact, or post a question. But our favorite formula is designed to ensure headlines are benefit forward:
Number + Adjective + Keyword + Rational + Promise
We started with this formula for this article – our working headline initially was: 3 simple tips for crafting headlines that grab attention. (Read on to find out why we changed it.)
TWO: Make sure it’s unique
The cardinal rule of good content is to always be useful. That’s why flagging the value of your content in your headline is so important. But a good headline aims to draw attention to your highly useful content. That’s pretty hard to do if your audience thinks they’ve seen what you’re offering a million times before.
So how do you make sure your headline is unique?
Start by getting creative. If you’re not sure how to do that, check out Portent’s Title Maker, a handy – and entertaining – tool that can unstick your brain cells and help you find a more creative headline solutions.
Write out a few variations, using a headline formula, keywords and power words, and a few of your more creative ideas. Read them aloud to get a feel for what sounds best.
Then, to make sure they haven’t been used before, put quotation marks around your drafted headlines and google them. (Be sure to use double quotation marks for best results.)
This might narrow down your options, which means you’re ready to test them and select the best one.
THREE: Test your assumptions
Yeah, we’re big on testing around here and headlines are no exception. The good news is, there are a few ways to test your headline before you put it out into the world.
There are a host of headline analyzers out there but our favorite is CoSchedule Headline Analyzer. You can pop your headline into the analyzer and get a score, along with thoughts on how to improve it.
Remember our initial headline: 3 simple tips for crafting headlines that grab attention? It maps onto our fave formula well but it delivered a not-so-impressive headline score of 63. The standard here is to aim for a score of 70 and above. But because we often follow our own advice, we’d written and researched a few variations. Here’s what we found when we tested them…
- “3 powerful tips for writing headlines that stand out” got us to a 67.
- “3 ways to get your headline noticed” delivered an almost there 69.
- “3 ways to make your headlines work for you” reached the low 70s … and if you’re wondering why, we’re pretty sure it’s the you.
- We thought we could do better so we added an adjective – “3 tested ways to unlock headlines that work for you” – to get from a 72 to a 73.
- Then we changed tested to reliable for a final score of 74.
Yes, that’s a lot of attention paid to a few words, but as psychologists have long known, first impressions matter. The things we see, feel, hear and experience when we encounter something new frames how we process the thing, and that’s as true for content as it is for people. So think of your headline as your content’s first impression, give it the attention it deserves, and give your brilliant content its best chance to succeed.