How to Write Better Headlines
Whether it’s for a blog, a social media post, a YouTube video, or a web article, a solid headline can always catch a reader’s attention.
Not everyone has the time to dive into the details of every story, which is why it’s important to learn how to write better headlines — the kind that draws readers in.
Data gathered by the American Press Institute found that up to 60% of Americans simply read headlines to get a sense of what’s going on rather than investigate topics further.
In the heyday of print newspapers, catchy headlines were essential to spark the imagination of readers. These days, headlines are a critical component of virtually any type of marketing strategy, whether you’re starting a blog, a video channel, or an email list.
Why knowing how to write better headlines matters
The purpose of a headline is to summarize a piece of content in the fewest words possible. By keeping headlines concise, readers can easily scan the title to determine the basic premise of the material.
As a small business owner, finding the right marketing headlines to accompany content is essential to ensure your message connects with potential customers. A vague headline may cause your blog post or email to be ignored; if it’s too long or wordy, people may simply look elsewhere for the information they need.
At the same time, search engines like Google use data from meta-descriptions and headlines to create Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) for internet users. Marketing headlines lacking specificity or relevance could mean your content won’t appear on search results, especially if you’re covering a topic with a lot of competition. Aside from these examples, there are a few other reasons why it’s so important to write better headlines:
Frame the conversation
A solid headline sets up the perspective and intention of your content in a few short words, clearly expressing what the content is about.
Imagine that you’re writing an article about popular tech trends in the ecommerce industry. Instead of creating a title like, “Emerging trends taking over ecommerce,” it might be better to spin it this way: “5 ecommerce trends that every business owner should know.” That headline draws attention much more effectively because it implies that not reading more would be detrimental to the business.
Reflect your brand’s voice
Whether they’re humorous, sarcastic, or authoritative, headlines reflect your brand’s voice.
No matter the approach, creating headlines that mirror your personal branding strategy will help your company stand out from the crowd in the long term.
For instance, if you’re running a lawn care business that takes a light-hearted approach to content creation, consider writing funny headlines for your blog posts or videos — something like “Lawn care tips for people who don’t even like trimming their own hair.” This is a great way to attract followers and appear relatable.
People share headlines, not stories
Remember, people don’t always look beyond the headline when they’re scrolling through content.
A study at Columbia University found that most links shared through social media platforms are never clicked at all, indicating just how important headlines are to generate interest in online content. You could have the most informative article or video in the world, but if the headline isn’t engaging, it may not gain traction.
8 tips on writing marketing headlines that convert
Writing the perfect headline can be tough. Luckily, there are several ways you can make the task easier. Follow these tips to write better headlines that lead to more customer conversions:
1. Use active voice instead of passive
Sometimes, it’s not what you say but how you say it. To make your headlines more engaging, phrase them in an active voice: “Managers overcome labor shortage problems using these strategies.”
This is much more impactful than the passive version: “Ways managers have overcome labor shortage problems.”
To avoid passive voice altogether, steer clear of headlines that imply an experience instead of a direct action conducted by the subject. Instead, always keep the verb as close to the subject as possible — the phrasing “managers change” and “managers start” is much more impactful than “managers are changing” and “managers have started.”
2. Be concise
The best headlines are short, sweet, and to the point. As a general rule, headlines should be six words long or under 70 characters for maximum impact. Longer headlines (11 words or more) can still garner interest as long as the message is succinct and concise.
Even if your content covers many different topics and subtopics, try to find a headline that neatly summarizes the material in a few words. For an article on how to start an ecommerce business from scratch, consider a headline like, “Create an ecommerce business in 5 easy steps,” so readers know exactly what to expect at a glance.
3. Make sense
Stay away from long-winded or confusing headlines that don’t accurately reflect the content. For instance, it wouldn’t make sense to use a headline like “Eco-friendly business practices” for an article that focuses on health insurance or workers’ compensation.
The best content delivers on the message delivered in the headline, so avoid veering off-topic or covering too much information at once. If needed, create multiple potential headlines and spend some time selecting the best candidate for the content.
4. Spark curiosity
Intriguing headlines are especially effective at piquing the interest of readers. Think about putting some foreshadowing in the title of your next article, video, or email to make the content more appealing.
A blog post entitled, “Most business owners don’t know about these work hacks” is a good example because it causes people to wonder what kind of secret knowledge they can discover by reading further.
5. Use numbers
If you’re creating a top 10 video or a list article, consider adding a number to the headline if possible. People are drawn to numbered headlines because they’re often easy to scan through quickly without needing to digest every piece of information. Instead, they can get the gist of the content in a minute or two, capturing the message of each point.
Another reason to use numbers in a headline is that it helps to break down the content into smaller sections that are easier to read. When confronted with huge blocks of text, some people may simply move on to something else.
6. Include a reason to read
Aim to write good headlines that give people a reason to continue reading or viewing your content.
There are several ways to do this. Presenting a problem and a solution in the headline is a great place to start. Something like, “Seeing red: 5 simple ways to cut business expenses” alludes to both the issue and how to address the situation.
It’s also a good idea to include valuable, insightful information that may be difficult to find elsewhere. Consider adding relevant statistics from trusted sources to give your content extra credibility and value to readers.
7. Write for your reader
Knowing your target audience is an essential step to writing good headlines. Consider the demographics of prospective customers, how they think, and what type of content they are most likely to appreciate.
If you’re running a business that primarily sells clothing to women, you’ll want to craft headlines that appeal to the female experience.
Likewise, a retailer that typically attracts male customers may want to write content from a more masculine perspective. Readers’ age, income level, and education are also important factors to consider if you’re looking to write better headlines.
8. Include power words
Headlines that use exciting or emotional language tend to stand out from more mundane titles.
Look for ways to spice up a headline by deploying power words whenever possible. Examples include words like “comprehensive,” “guaranteed,” “instantly,” or “free.”
The most effective power words create a sense of excitement and motivate readers to take action. While some power words play on fears or anxieties, others work to encourage or even seduce readers. If you’re looking for a simple way to write better headlines quickly, try inserting a few power words into your titles to make things more interesting.
Guidelines on how to write better headlines
To help individuals write better headlines, copywriter Michael Masterson created four basic guidelines anyone can follow.
These guidelines are known as the “4 Us,” and they cover the fundamental principles of creating quality titles for any piece of content. Before you publish your next article, make sure the headline you wrote adheres to these four rules.
Create headlines that allude to valuable information or a way to resolve a common issue.
Touch on how the content will help the reader and what kind of direct value the material provides.
While some people may consume digital content strictly for entertainment, engaging marketing headlines should offer an incentive to keep people reading. In other words, write headlines that convey the article’s usefulness to readers.
Good headlines should compel the reader to take action.
Consider presenting your content as a solution to a time-sensitive dilemma or reoccurring problem readers experience.
As discussed earlier, you can use both positive and negative power words to stir emotions, making your audience more likely to take decisive steps. If you can, try to relate this urgency back to your business in some way, such as how your services can help readers overcome immediate challenges.
With so much content published daily, it can be difficult to stand out from the crowd.
Take your time to create headlines that are entirely unique or put a new spin on an old idea. People are naturally drawn to novelty, so always look for ways to make your headline distinctly different from other examples found on the web.
Generic headlines are usually less likely to attract readers than headlines that appeal to a particular niche.
Before you publish your next piece of content, try adding a little specificity to the headline where appropriate. For example, a blog post titled “Car maintenance tips” doesn’t mention the type of vehicle in question and probably won’t provide readers with a lot of very useful information. A headline like “8 tips for maintaining used trucks” narrows the topic down to a much more specific domain.
The magic formula for writing compelling headlines
Writing good headlines isn’t always easy and can take time to master.
Start by testing out a few headlines to get a sense of their impact on readers. If a few of your articles seem to be underperforming, try editing the headline and repeat the process.
This formula is especially useful with email marketing subject lines where the click-through rate (CTR) is critical to gaining conversions. In this case, consider exploring A/B testing to determine which headlines perform best before launching your campaign.
Examples of effective headlines
Reviewing examples of what others are doing is a great way to start if you want to learn how to write better headlines for marketing content.
Powerful headlines are immediately recognizable. They capture readers’ attention quickly, sparking immediate interest and drawing them into the material. Here are a few excellent examples of exciting, engaging headlines that can help you to generate your own ideas.
Simple and to the point
In this headline, readers immediately know what to expect from the content at a glance. It’s clearly about starting a business, while the modifying words “this year” suggest that the content is likely highly relevant and up to date. Try to keep things short and sweet when it comes to headlines since fewer words present less of a barrier to readers. Remember, the objective is to simply get people interested in learning more, not overwhelming them with too much information.
Don’t be afraid of fear
Not all headlines need to be upbeat and super positive to garner attention. Writing titles that create tension or concern can be just as effective in many cases.
Readers like to have a reason to read an article, watch a video or open an email, and emotions (like FOMO – fear of missing out) can be extremely difficult to ignore. Whenever appropriate, consider using phrases like “don’t miss out” or “before it’s too late” to make headlines a little more exciting.
The best headlines offer an incentive for people to continue reading. This headline suggests that the article provides information that can help a business grow easily — if the 10 steps the article explains are followed.
This makes it clear from the start that the content will provide immediate value to the reader in a concise, simple, and organized way that directly benefits them.
No one said every headline needs to be serious and professional.
Think about keeping things light by creating titles for content that aim to make people laugh. This headline manages to inject a little humor into the otherwise boring topic of lawn care, making the article appear more appealing and entertaining to readers. If you find your headlines are too stiff and formal, try breaking the ice with a pun or a joke to get people interested.
Generate some excitement
An article titled “How to improve time management” sounds a little bland and likely won’t entice people to keep reading. Add the word “mind-blowing” to the mix, and suddenly the headline seems a little more interesting.
Always look for ways to spice up an otherwise boring headline with a few power words that generate anticipation and excitement. If your content covers a topic that isn’t very remarkable, one or two well-placed adjectives can make a world of difference.
Write those headlines right
Writing good headlines that convert web traffic doesn’t have to be a struggle.
By following these tips, you can begin to write better headlines and promote your small business in no time. Start by following the ‘4 Us’ whenever you’re trying to create engaging titles for your content, and don’t forget to use power words where appropriate.
After making a few simple changes like these, you’ll soon produce headlines that can draw readers in, keeping them scrolling to find out more.
Now that you know how to write better headlines, here are 9 Great Blog Post Ideas (That Every Great Site Needs).