FAST FACT: Want to know how to write headlines? The job of the headline is to get people interested enough to click to read. To write a great headline, it’s important to make it:
- Simple and direct
- Creative and compelling
- Keyword-rich for SEO (search engine optimisation)
You never get a second chance to make a first impression, right? That’s why your headline is one of the most important elements of your online content.
In print, the point of the headline is to sell the story and make people pick up a newspaper or magazine. It tells the story in a few short words but doesn’t give everything away.
It’s the same with online – you want people to click. It’s a teaser, a taste of what’s to come, which invites your readers to make the journey down the page.
Think of your headline as your introduction to the viewer who’s landed on your page. It’s like saying: “Hi, how are you? You want to come in.”
You want them to stay a while and become a regular reader as a result.
To write a headline that packs some serious punch, it should talk straight to you and only you, like a personal message.
But writing the headline can be one of the most daunting parts of your content because a lot rests on this important click tool!
It’s got a big job to do.
So here are some tips on how to write headlines that get clicks and make people want to read on?
- Be clear and factual – Make sure your headline is clear and sticks to the facts. You don’t have a lot of words to play with (use no more than 10 words in a headline, about 7-8 is ideal).
- Keep it short and sweet – Your headline is not your first sentence. It is a short and frank compilation of words that don’t contain a thesaurus of adjectives or adverbs. It simply states what the upcoming copy is about.
- Communicate your message – When it comes to online content, it’s all about educating, not selling (even if it’s an ad). So give your reader enough information in your headline to provide a quick snapshot of the whole story.
- Plug in your keywords – Make sure your headline contains your keywords – preferably in the first three words, according to Yoast.
“Sometimes, when you’re optimizing for a high-competition keyword, everyone will have the keyword at the beginning of the page title. In that case, you can try making it stand out a bit by putting one or two words in front of your focus keyword, thereby slightly “indenting” your result. In Yoast SEO, for example, if you start your SEO title with “the”, “a”, “who” or some other function word, followed by your keyphrase, you’ll still get a green bullet.” (Source: Yoast)
5 hot formulas you can try today
- How to – This is proving to be one of the most popular headline formulas because it works. Online or off, these headlines easily capture attention because you are teaching your readers something important. For example, “How to write online content that rocks and gets results.”
- Numbers – Lists are one of the best ways to inform and inspire your readers. How many of these headlines have you seen: Top 10 ways… , 5 must-have… , 7 types of…
- Hot tip – What will reading your story give them? What benefit are you trying to deliver? Be specific. What is it that your content will teach your reader? For example, “Top tip: Write for your readers first… always.”
- Question – Spark curiosity by asking a question. It could be controversial (to a degree) or just something that gets people thinking. “Are you making these 7 content writing mistakes?”
HOT TIP: The Why Headline is another goodie – Closely related to the “Ask a question” headline, a “Why” headline has only one job to do: to get people to click through. Try adding the word why to your headline. For example, “Why 50% of businesses fail and the reason yours won’t.”
- In under/less than – I like this headline because it promotes time-saving tactics and isn’t that what everyone wants? If you can help your clients save time, well, you’ll be a genius in their eyes. Try: “Quick and easy recipes: Dinner in under 5 minutes.” You can also use the words less than… for example, “in less than 3 hours.”
Hot writing tip: Take a look at the experts.
How to write headlines: Magazine and newspaper editors get paid a lot of money to make sure the headlines on their covers and front pages stand out so people buy their publications over others in the newsstand. Borrow their formulas and just change up the words for your industry.
Word Styling Step: How to write headlines that stop scrolls
Try this. Just say you have one of the latest fashion magazines and one headline on the cover says: Dress dreams: 45+ frocks your wardrobe can’t live without.
You can turn that into a headline for your blog post so easily.
One formula is simply: Keyword/phrase: 45+ tips to <insert your topic>.
For makeup artists, it could be: Winter makeup trends: 45+ products you need now!
An interior designer: Interior decorating ideas: 45+ tips to make over your home
A hairstylist: Hair-cutting techniques: 45+ styles guaranteed to turn heads
A business coach: Business growth ideas: 45+ lead generation ideas
A divorce lawyer: Divorcing your spouse: 45+ things you need to know
So what does a good headline look like?
Well, it grabs attention, sparks interest, and creates curiosity. It tells the story in only a few words. Let me show you.
- How to write headlines: What does a good headline look like?
For example: “They laughed when I sat down at the piano, but when I started to play… ”
This headline is actually from an advertisement from 1926. It’s one of the most successful headlines in history. Why? Because everyone needs/wants to read on to see “why”.
- How to write headlines: What does a bad headline look like?
This…“What we know and don’t know.”
I found this headline and it was written by a well-known news source. The problem with it is that it doesn’t actually say anything … at all. There’s no reason why someone would want to read more.
My first question is… about what? “What we know and don’t know” about what?
There are some really simple ways to fix this headline. First of all, I’d add the topic your content is about.
For example, we saw this a lot during the pandemic.
“What we know and don’t know about Coronavirus”.
Next, you could also break this up into two different headlines.
The “what we know” headline and the “what we don’t know” headline.
I’d also swap the word ‘we’ with ‘you’ to make it relative to your readers and get them interested. You are writing for your readers, after all. So make it about them.
And it needs something punchy like a statistic or a number, and some urgency.
Try: “7 things you don’t know about lip gloss, but need to.”
Or “SHOCKING: Before you pucker up, you need to know this… ”
Or “Why you really don’t need to know about <insert topic>.”
See? Better already!
Are you feeling less-than-confident when it comes to your writing skills?
Gah! It’s a toxic feeling that can plague any business owner. You feel stuck, frustrated, discouraged, anxious (and any other ill feeling you’re having right now!).
I can relate to what you are feeling; I’ve been there and so have hundreds of other business owners we’ve worked with.
The truth is, content takes time and effort – and not all content works the way you want it to.
But it is a skill that you can master with the right tools, templates, and mentorship. I promise!
This is what one of our Wow School Global students shared about our self-paced course:
“I would highly recommend Liz, as The Word Stylist, who keeps it real and easy to understand. She’s generous and knows how to get you excited to get those results. Before I started this course (Writing For Results), I was struggling to find ways to come up with engaging content. I now have so much clarity and am creating content easily. I’m loving working with Liz and so glad I joined Wow School. Best investment I’ve ever made. Thanks Liz!” Dee Wells, Soul Whispers by Dee
Ready to get the skills you need to move forward? Join the free training here.