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How to Write a Headline that Captures Attention

Knowing how to write a headline that will win your reader’s heart is an important part of writing an engaging piece of content. After all, your headline is the first place people will look when they click on something you’ve written. It’s crucial that you understand how to write a headline that will capture a reader’s attention and leave them curious enough to read the rest of your article.

Whether you’re writing a blog post, an eBook or a white paper, a good headline generates more clicks on your written content. On the other hand, a bad headline drives traffic away as people bounce away from your page to go look at something else.

As you can see, your headline is a key part of whatever piece of content you’re writing. The good news is that, with a bit of practice, you can write engaging headlines which will boost clicks and attract more curious readers.

how to write a headline

Examples of winning headlines

In our quest for the perfect headline, we came across 5 categories of headlines which have a tendency to perform well:

  • Making a promise

For example: “Do your Business Accounts Faster with this Simple Formula”

  • Drawing a picture

For example: “Design Visuals that Will Turn Heads”

  • Stating a fact

For example: This is the Best Diet for your Dog, According to Veterinarians

  • Asking a question

For example: Have you Heard what Carrots can Do for your Skin?

  • Disputing common knowledge

For example: Here’s why Drinking Milk is Actually Bad for You

Before we move on, all the above headlines are purely hypothetical. We don’t actually believe that milk is bad for you, so don’t quote us on that.

How to write a headline that will capture attention

1) Do your research

In order to write an interesting headline, you need to first know what you’re writing about. Your topic should be appealing to readers, so it’s important to know what they want.

Doing some research beforehand should help you to understand your target audience’s pain points and, therefore, how to write a headline that they want to read.

A good way to start this research is to find out what kind of things people go to Google for. When they need help with something related to your industry, what do they type into the search bar? By evaluating common keywords, you can find out what your readers want to see more of.

If you don’t know where to start, you can go to Google. Type the keyword you have in mind into the search bar and see what suggestions pop up before you click search.

Alternatively, tools like Google Trends can show you how popular certain keywords are. Similarly, Google Trends will give you a list of suggested search terms and related search terms, along with their popularity in each case.

Google Trends

For example, here’s what pops up when I use “DIY Decor” as a search term. As you can see, this search term is not as popular now as it was back in November. You can also see that Google Trends has suggested some related search terms which I can compare with my original search term.

Google Trends

“DIY Ghost Decor” is an even less popular search term than “DIY Decor” right now. Validly so, since this search term would’ve been popular around Halloween, not in the middle of March. Let’s try one more.

Google Trends

As expected, “Easter Decor” far outperforms “DIY Decor” as a search term at this point in the year. So, if you were a company which sells home decor accessories and you also ran a blog, writing about Easter decor would be a great idea. As before, Google Trends has listed related search queries along with their popularity. These queries can help you refine your headline to make it more focused.

2) Know the ideal length of a headline

Once you have an idea of what you want your headline to be, it’s important to know how long the most impactful headlines are. According to research by Kissmetrics, people only process the first 3 words and last 3 words of a headline.

For this reason, keeping your headline to 6 words long makes it easy to digest. If you absolutely need to write more than 6 words, then you shouldn’t go beyond 10 words. And if you do write those 10 words, you know you need to make the first and last 3 words good, because they will have the most impact.

Likewise, your headline should remain between 50-60 characters long. Packing too many characters into your headline will result in it being chopped in SERPs. And very few people will click on your search result if your headline is incomplete.

3) Brainstorm a selection of headlines

Getting to the perfect headline takes time. It’s important to be patient with yourself and give the process time. You can’t just come up with one headline and decide that this is the magical headline that will make heads turn. Instead of doing this, brainstorm at least 3 headlines and choose the best one.

Popular blogs like Upworthy actually start with 25 headlines. This might sound like overkill, but the more headlines you start with, the more likely you are to find one that works. Once you have your list of headlines, start eliminating the ones you don’t like. From there, it’ll be easy to choose the winner and run with it.

4) Get to the point

A good headline gets straight to the point rather than beating about the bush. Many brands make the mistake of crafting vague headlines because they believe readers will be drawn in by the mystery. On the contrary, readers who can’t make heads or tails of what your article is about are unlikely to stick around and find out.

Be direct so that people can see the value in your article immediately. Including keywords in your headline is one way you can communicate value to your reader immediately.

5) Size your headline to stand out

In order for your headline to stand out, it should be displayed in a bigger font than the body of your text. This might seem like common sense, but when you’re writing on a deadline it’s easy to forget the small stuff like font size.

Most content editors offer different heading sizes pre-formatted and ready for use. If yours doesn’t automatically do this, then this is definitely something to keep in mind.

6) Use visually impactful alignment

The way you align your headline also determines how prominent it is to the reader’s eye. Centering your headline will have the most impact, while a left-aligned headline seems more formal. Whatever you do, don’t justify your headline, as this leads to imbalanced spacing.

7) Write for SEO

When you’re writing your headline, you need to appeal to both human readers and search engines. The search engines also “read” your article so that they can categorize it properly.  For this reason, you need to optimize your headline to help the search engines understand your content.

As you’re writing for SEO, it is important to include the keyword in the title. Moreover, you should include it as close to the beginning as possible. Just make sure your headline still makes logical sense, as you’re also trying to attract human readers.

Including your keyword in the headline will help search engines to understand what your article is about and include it in the correct SERPs.

8) Use “you”

how to write a headline

Addressing your reader directly is a good strategy if you want your headline to grab their attention. Instead of speaking abstractly, say “you.” For example, in the titles we listed previously, we said “Do your Business Accounts Faster” when we could just as easily have said “Do Business Accounts Faster.”

Adding the extra word – “you” – is worth it because it helps you develop a more personal headline that will stand out in SERPs.

9) Highlight the value

Regardless of the style of headline you choose to use, it’s important to highlight the value that you’re offering the reader. This is a good way to convince them that your article is actually worth reading.

You can do this by talking about a problem that your article solves. Similarly, you can talk about “The Best Way to ABCD.” You can also present your headline as advice or mention interesting research data within your article. Finally, you can promise to teach the reader something useful.

10) Use statistics

Including statistics in your headline will pique your reader’s curiosity, especially if it’s a surprising statistic. Include the statistics as close to the beginning of your headline as possible so that it grabs a reader’s attention right away.

11) Use numbers

Our brains are attracted to numbers so adding numbers to the beginning of your headline is a sure-fire way to stop someone in their tracks. Numbers are especially effective if you are writing a “how-to” article. Just remember to use digits instead of words, this will help your numbers to stand out more.

12) Avoid clickbait

As a content creator, the last thing you want is to earn a reputation for being pretentious or making exaggerated claims. This is exactly what clickbait will do to you, so steer clear of it.

All a reader needs to do is click on your grandiose headline, only to find out that you’ve misled them with clickbait. This kind of dishonesty will cost you a reader’s trust. This person is unlikely to click on any of your headlines in the future, no matter how interesting they seem.

13) Use interesting words

Headlines containing “X Tips for ABCD” are a dime a dozen. Instead of promising your reader some tips, try to use a less common word. For example, you can offer “X Secrets for ABCD” or “X Reasons to ABCD.”

Less commonly-used words will help you stand out from the crowd.

14) Check your competitors out

You shouldn’t settle on a headline before you’ve checked your competitors out and seen what kind of headlines they’re using for the topic you’ve chosen. Having an idea of what your competitors are doing will give you a good idea of how to write a headline that stands out from the crowd.

15) Do A/B testing

There is no single magical solution when it comes to writing headlines that stand out. Ultimately, you will have to experiment with a few strategies until you find one that works for your audience.

You can test your headlines in two ways:

  • Twitter

Once you’ve published your article, you can choose your two strongest headlines. Use them separately to promote your article and see which headline gets more clicks.

  • Email marketing

Again, once your article is published, send it to your mailing list using both headlines. Divide the people on your mailing list by half, and send the article to those people using one headline. Send the other half of your mailing list the other headline. Whichever headline gets more engagement should give you an idea of how to craft your headlines in the future. That’s email marketing made easy.

As you can see, learning how to write a headline that will stop people in their tracks is an important part of doing content marketing for your brand. Follow the tips above and you’ll be writing outstanding headlines in no time.


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