How do I write attention grabbing headlines that get more people to read and engage with my content?
This is one question that gives many bloggers sleepless nights.
It can be very discouraging when you toil for hours to create the perfect blog post only to attract a few views.
If you’re struggling to attract visitors to your blog, chances are, you are not giving your headlines the attention they deserve.
Yes, your headlines!
Your headline will cause traffic variation by as much as 500%.
It turns out that there is an 80/20 rule for headlines and it goes something like this: Out of every 10 people that read your headline, on average, only 2 proceed to read the body.
Apparently, content alone is no longer king.
You may be the most talented writer but if you keep adding the headline as a mere afterthought, you’re not going to generate much traction with your target audience.
Online visitors are an impatient lot and will not hesitate to skip your post if it does not capture their attention or imagination.
I’ve, therefore, written this article to give you creative tips that you can use to create attention grabbing headlines that will hook your online visitors and compel them to read your articles.
Ever wondered what makes listicles so popular? The magic is in the use of numbers.
A Conductor study revealed a high reader preference for “number” headlines, compared to “reader-addressing,” “how to,” “normal” and “question” headlines.
This is supported by BuzzSumo’s analysis of 100 million headlines. In the study, numbers feature in the top phrases starting headlines.
According to human psychology, the human mind reacts to organization and numbers reek of organization.
In a world where time is a gem and attention is rare, using numbers in your headline can:
Moreover, using figures work better than writing out the number.
For instance, instead of writing “Ten ways to write attention grabbing headlines” use the number like this, “10 ways to write attention grabbing headlines.”
Another surprising aspect of the psychology of numbers is that odd numbers have more appeal to the human mind than even numbers, for the following reasons:
A blog post with an even number of points can come across as forced, stretched or massaged to fit a predetermined format. But, a blog post with an odd number of points seems authentic and crafted out of available material.
The human mind is always sorting information. Even numbers are easy to sort because they are divisible. However, odd numbers cannot be sorted, hence stand out.
While even numbers have symmetry about them, odd numbers intrigue the human mind, hence easier to remember.
Believe it or not, some cultures consider even numbers as unlucky. So, they prefer odd numbers.
Lastly, numbers make your headline authoritative. They are indisputable hard facts which show that you did your homework. Therefore, using the right numbers can prove that you did more in-depth research.
Fake news is a crucial concern for most Americans (82 percent), which also applies to people in most other parts of the world. Truth has become a rare commodity.
Therefore, any headline with the word “truth” is likely to generate a lot of interest.
This can work especially when writing about something controversial.
For instance, there’s a lot of controversy surrounding artificial intelligence. Some AI enthusiasts believe AI will pose an existential threat to humanity. Others think AI is harmless and will complement – not displace or wipe out – human beings.
Therefore, a post with a headline like, “The Truth About AI,” is bound to create a lot of attention.
By presenting a headline that appears authoritative (as elaborated in sub-section one), you’re also giving the impression that your content is truthful.
Did you know 50+ billion chickens are slaughtered every year globally?
How much interest would that headline stir up compared to a hypothetical title stating that 1 billion people died last year? Most likely, the human deaths will stir up far more interest.
Humans love themselves. And, we are naturally curious about the lives of other humans.
People will relate to your headline at a much deeper level when you give it a human interest angle.
Newspapers have known this for a long time.
It’s highlighted in research on how local and national newspapers covered the First World War.
The core of those stories was human interest.
Catchy adjectives are attention grabbers and hardly go unnoticed. Therefore, always include one in your headline.
But, make sure your adjectives appeal to the needs of your target audience.
For example, many people consider starting a blog difficult. If you blog about creating websites or blogs, using an adjective like “easy” in your headline is a great idea. Rather than, “Learn How to Start a Blog in 5 Steps,” write, “Learn How to Start a Blog in 5 Easy Steps.”
Other appealing adjectives you might use include: juicy, crazy, awesome, effortless, controversial, compelling, irresistible and insane.
The type of adjective to use also depends on the main social media platform where you’ll share your content. According to BuzzSumo’s research, specific adjectives perform better on particular social media platforms.
Always endeavor to use trigger words in your headlines. They provoke people to take action.
For online users, words like how, why and what almost always do the trick.
The “how to” posts will always be popular because they promise to show visitors how to do something they consider valuable.
In fact, a top site like wikiHow is 100 percent dedicated to “how to” articles.
People are also naturally curious, and anything is worth questioning. That’s where the “why” part comes in. An example of a headline with the word “why” that can invoke curiosity is, “Why Humans Need Sleep.”
Top bloggers often use this tactic, as seen in this Quick Sprout headline:
Just like “why” you can also use the word “what” to quench people’s curiosity.
For instance, if you write about a hot topic like crypto-currency, you can use a headline like, “What Is Bitcoin? A Complete Guide on the Booming Cryptocurrency.”
In some cases, trigger words might apply subliminally.
For instance, Social Media Examiner’s, “6 Ways to Use Live Streaming Video for Business,” is a subliminal “how to” post: “How to Use Live Streaming Video for Business.”
There are different schools of thought when it comes to the ideal length of a headline. One group thinks longer ones work much better, especially on social media. The other maintains the traditional way of writing shorter headlines is still the best.
I tend to agree with writing shorter headlines. People can read them in a single glance and, as I’ve already mentioned, online visitors are not known for their patience.
How long should your title be?
Generally, people find headlines that are 62 characters or less easy to read.
Most of my headlines are generally short. See below some of the other articles I’ve written, for example. None of these exceed 62 characters.
However, make sure that your headline is a good summary of your article and does not leave out important information.
What important information?
At the very least, your headline should have three key features:
Here’s a good example from Neil Patel’s blog:
Starting your headline with your keyword is not only useful for search engine optimization but also your target audience.
Online users are unlikely to click on a headline in search engine results if it doesn’t contain their search words. It’s always better when those words are at the beginning of the headline.
That’s because of the serial position effect.
In some of my blog posts, for example the blog content checklist post, I’ve put my keywords at the beginning of the heading because I wanted it to have a high click-through rate.
Studies have shown that people remember the first and last few words more while forgetting the middle words. The first few words, in particular, are more likely to end up in the reader’s long-term memory.
In one study, researchers analyzed people’s recall of lists 10 to 40 words long. Subjects in the study found it harder to recall the middle words as the lists became longer.
Therefore, the two critical word positions (first and last) must feature the most significant impact of your headline.
You’ve compiled a captivating 2,000-word article. Now summarize it into an 11-word sentence. That will automatically be an attention grabbing headline.
But how do you summarize thousands of words into a few words?
It’s simple. Identify the critical aspects of your content. Then string them together into a sentence.
“What? If my headline summarizes everything, why would anyone read the content?”
You think I’m being sarcastic, right?
Most likely, you’re assuming that holding back vital information will force people to read your content. In reality, the opposite is true.
People fear and even hate the unknown.
The more you reveal concerning your content, the more comfortable readers will be to click through, read and share. In fact, a significant number of people only read the title before sharing content.
According to a 2016 study by Columbia University and the French National Institute, people don’t read 59% of the content they share on social media. Headlines likely drive those social media shares.
Human beings aren’t just omnivores. We’re also informavores – hard-wired for curiosity.
Information stimulates our brains, just like food and sex.
New information will stir our interest. Even newborns stare longer at new visual scenes compared to familiar ones. It’s an evolutionary trait, vital for survival and reproduction; therefore, it won’t change anytime soon.
Even when your headline summarizes your content (as revealed in the previous sub-section), present it in a manner that sparks curiosity in potential readers.
For example, the USA Today does this spectacularly with their headline, “NBC rescues ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ one day after Fox canceled it.” The post pulled in 102k+ Facebook shares (at the time of updating this post).
When you read the headline, you’re sure to wonder, “What special thing did NBC see in ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ to jump at it only one day after Fox canceled it?” Right?
Epistemic trustworthiness may be last on the list, but it’s the most important factor.
I placed it last only because it involves several other features in this list: a combination of expertise, honesty, and benevolence, to produce epistemic trustworthiness.
What is epistemic trustworthiness?
According to The Independent Magazine, “Epistemic trustworthiness refers to our decision to place trust in, and listen to, an expert when we need to solve a problem that is beyond our understanding.”
Without epistemic trustworthiness, no one will trust or listen to you, even if you have a solution to their problems. That’s based on a 2015 study by the University of Muenster in Germany.
Therefore, your headline must have a combination of expertise, honesty, and benevolence.
Never give the impression of a narcissistic, psychopathic genius; a mad genius having no moral compass and continually needing your ego stroked.
Presenting limited, dry, and complicated information produces that effect.
Your headline is arguably the most essential part of your content. Therefore, by all means, take all the time you need to come up with a great headline.
And as you do that, always have this question at the back of your mind, “If I were the target audience, would I want to keep reading after seeing this headline?”
You can start with a working headline, and then spend some time fine-tuning it when you’re through with the rest of the article.
Hi, I’m Mercy Mmbone. My mission is to help beginner freelance writers find success online. Even if you don’t have a degree, becoming a successful freelance writer is not as difficult as you’d think. The most important thing you’ll need to get started is self-motivation.
I’m honored to have worked with many popular companies including Ring Central and Freelancer FAQs.