Top Ten Tips: Writing Powerful Headlines


With the increasing amount of technology available in today’s world, we expect everything straight away, which in turn has shortened our attention span to just 8 seconds, compared to 12 seconds back in 2000. When it comes to digital and content marketing, this means you have just a headline to grab someone’s attention and draw them in before they click away. The question is, how do you write strong, attention grabbing headlines to keep your reader’s interested?

1. Be simple, yet effective
Say it simply and be direct. A direct headline gets straight to the point without any play on words or humour. This can work particularly well with big offers, and more so for well recognised brands and products. A simple and direct headline is heavily underused but can be hugely effective to your audience. Think about Twitter – just 140 characters to try and push your blog, your business idea, whatever it may be. Be direct.

2. What’s the Benefit?
One of the first techniques to explore is transforming your major benefit into a headline, making your number one selling point up front. This way, you stand the best chance of selecting the right audience and setting them up for a sale. Even if they read nothing else, at least they have seen the best you have to offer. If you’re struggling to write this kind of headline and cant state exactly what the benefit is, maybe you need to sit down and think about what it is your trying to push a bit more.

3. Challenge your Reader
Using a challenge in your headline can draw attention because it confronts your reader, instantly involving them what is it you’re saying. It sparks the reaction making them want to read more and perhaps test themselves. What are you waiting for? Give your readers a challenge.

4. Command Attention
If it’s a command, you’re telling them what to do, provoking their reaction in to what could turn out to be an eventual sale. Many blogs and articles fall flat because they fail to tell the reader what to do. It’s not conversational, it’s dictatorial — but in an acceptable way that readers have come to expect in clear writing.

5. Tell them ‘How To’ do something
This headline is a winner because it offers a solution or advice, appeals to the need that most people are constantly try to improve on something in their lives. Focus on a need or a want and promise to fulfill it. Be concise with this though; don’t explain the process in the headline – just final result or benefit. ‘How to’ headlines are especially useful for bloggers and those two simple words are two of the most searched on Google. Why? Because if someone wants to know something, it’s the first two words they type.

6. Use Powerful Words
Don’t underestimate the power just one word can have. The power of this is in its specificity. When you use this in a headline, the reader’s mind switches to a concrete view of whatever you’re talking about, as if the object in question were imminent and attainable. There is immediacy to the word.
The word you is very powerful. It allows your reader’s to feel as if you’re talking directly to them. The same goes for ‘your’.
What, Which, When and Why all promise some kind of explanation and pose a question, moving on to the next tip…

7. Ask a Question
Asking a direct question in your headline gets your reader thinking about the answer almost instantly and it’s a way to make them keep reading, as they’ll want to see if the answer you give is what they thought. Try to avoid a question that can easily be answered with a simple yes or no, and make sure the question relates directly to the major benefit of what it is you’re offering. It turns out that phrasing headlines in the form of a question can increase click-through rates – In fact, on average, it more than doubles them.

8. Use a Testimonial
Testimonials are powerful because the majority of the time, they come from real people. By turning a testimonial in to a headline, you’re presenting a strong third-party endorsement. If you don’t have a real testimonial, you can also write a headline in the first person and add the quotation marks for effect. People are drawn to quotations, resulting in high readership.

9. Announce Some News
People are curious. We not only want to know; we need to know. Using your headline as a news piece, like one from a magazine or newspaper, can be more powerful than just plain advertising. News can be anything from a new product or service to a new application of an existing product or service. You can also announce a special event or sale. Use the words “Finally,” “Introducing,” “Announcing” or “The first” to shout out your news.

10. Test Your Headlines
Write up a dozen possible headlines before you choose your final one. Not only will this give you practice writing compelling headlines, it’ll help you hone in on that perfect headline. And if you think you have a few winners you can always test them for conversion rates to find out which headline is more effective. It also helps you to see which ones definitely don’t work for future reference.

About the Author

  • Emma Stothard

    Emma Stothard is the Product Manager at The SME Club, part of pro.manchester. She is responsible for all marketing, research, promotional and online activities for The SME Club. The SME Club are the largest advisory group in the North West and are passionate about helping businesses grow and expand profitably. Emma has a broad range of experience and knowledge of both on and offline marketing as well as extensive experience in organising and managing events, having worked as an Events Coordinator at the University of Leeds, and more recently within Manchester Metropolitan University’s commercial Conference and Events department as Marketing Officer.


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