The more things change, the more they remain the same. Like any old adage, this one makes the most sense in context. It’s a known fact that people skim. Most print consumers are going to read headlines much more often than they’re going to dive into an article.
This was true when newspapers were king, and it’s still true today.
There was a time when newspapers had three editions a day and the occasional extra. Think of all those classic films, in black and white, with the newsboy crying out, “Extra, extra! Read all about it!” People did read all about it, and it was largely due to powerful headlines.
When people get to your website or blog, they’re still going to do what their grandparents did―they’re going to skim the headlines and they may or may not move on from there. The more things change, the more they remain the same.
According to Pew Research, in 2015, the newspaper sector experienced one of the worst years since the recession. Average weekday newspaper circulation, print, and digital combined, fell 7% in 2015. Pew says this is the greatest decline since 2010.
Is a powerful headline the panacea for all things that ail print and digital media? It’s part of it. Believe this―it’s all about relevant, commanding content with a powerful headline.
If the point hasn’t been driven home, the fact remains—headlines matter. When a strong headline is attached to irresistible content, people are drawn to read your copy. It’s simply a part of good writing.
Don’t underestimate a poorly written headline. Nothing will send potential customers searching for somewhere else to spend their time and money. And you cannot overestimate the returns when you craft headlines that grab your reader’s attention and essentially compel people to engage with your content.
Some copywriters admit to spending more time composing headlines than they do on content, this is how seriously it’s taken. The fact that a writer is so invested in writing the right headline, the headline that will resonate with readers and potential customers, calls attention to the need for honing our communication skills.
There is a difference between formula and communication, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start with a method. Here are some techniques to help make your headlines strong and pumped up.
#1: Use Numbers
You can talk to Jeff Goins and Neil Patel, and any other experienced copywriter, and they’ll say the same thing. People love list-type posts. They want their information concise and they want it fast and easy to follow.
“150 Ways to Eat Better and 47 Recipes”
I’m not reading that. A personal trainer friend of mine always tells new clients that he can get them fit and looking buff using two soup cans. His point? Keep it simple and keep it consistent. Do not overwhelm.
By the way, studies show that odd numbers perform better than even numbers.
#2: Offer Value
In a very real sense, copy is about initiating a value exchange with readers and potential customers. Communicate your understanding of needs and how you will provide the value people expect.
A great way to do this is with how-to headlines. Here’s a great example:
7 Tricks for Writing Powerful Headlines
You see how this guy grabbed your attention, used numbers and communicated the value of his post? And you get to learn something awesome in 7 steps, not 7 years.
#3: Make Promises
Make a bold promise in your headline then deliver in your content. Promise to teach a new skill. Promise to inspire your readers to try something new and exciting. Reveal a secret that will impact their lives or their business, their minds or their souls. And be specific.
#5: Add Power Adjectives
Some words are worth avoiding. Very is a good example. “I’m very happy” is fine when you’re talking to your bestie, but in print, it weakens the prose. Not is another. “I did not want this advice” is not as strong as “It was unwanted advice”.
Similarly, to punch those headlines, use adjectives. Incredible, essential, brilliant, effortless―words that grab your readers’ attention and get them to dive head-first into your copy are the words to use.
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. famously taught students to limit themselves to periods and commas―great advice I choose to ignore. In headlines, don’t be afraid of the dash and the colon. Punctuation is like a signpost on the road to your copy. Use them and use them wisely.
#7: Do Not Fear The Negative
According to an article (with a great headline) on socialmediaexaminer.com, headlines with negatives like “never” or “worst” performed 63% better than those containing positives like “always” or “best”. In fact, you may want to consider avoiding such superlatives altogether. It’s important to keep in mind that negative terms were viewed as more authentic and genuine by a majority of readers.
• We want people to visit, and come back and visit again. We want our visitors to read our work beyond the headline. A powerful headline makes all the difference in the world―that is, the difference between being unread and ignored and instead guaranteeing that your posts are read and shared.