Headlines are the fire starters for getting your message out to your audience.  A good headline keeps your reader reading.

Photo by Yaoqi LAI on Unsplash

But, getting your client’s attention is tough.  We know that. Everyone is competing for your client’s attention.

You and I get hundreds, sometimes thousands, of emails in a week. We’ve learnt to skim and delete. Your client does the same.

In fact, 8 of 10 folks will scan a headline, 2 of the 8 might continuing reading. Does that mean the headline is awful or bad – maybe. But it usually means the headline just isn’t relevant to the reader.

The advertising world has developed a few formulas you can use to write stronger headlines. The reason for using formulas is simple: the formulas are tested (repeatedly) and are successful.

When clients are lost in the never-ending spiral of Google searches for a particular product or service, they need a guide.

Your headline becomes the flare leading them to you.

Before sending up your flare

Here’s 3 things to consider when writing a headline:

  1. Be real and authentic: this is not the time to lie or mislead (it never is). So, your headline needs to relate to a genuine benefit you offer.

For example: in the health food industry what are people using looking for? Healthy, fresh food, options for snacks, treatment of health concerns, improving health, and organic produce. Your headline should allude to a relevant concern. Maybe  “Are you preparing carrots properly?”

Or, if you’re coaching and counselling you know  what are you clients looking for, right? They want solutions to life’s problems (big and small) and your headline needs to reflect their interest. “How to make today….”

A headline is for your client – it’s not about you. It’s about a benefit you offer them. 

  • Know your intention:  What exactly you’re promoting or selling?  If you don’t know then don’t bother working on a headline. If you have too many ideas, write them all out and pick ONE. Focus.

Pay attention to headlines from others in your industry. What catches your eye? When you notice something you like, add it to your “inspiration collection.”

  • Start with a headline or start with content? The professionals are split on this one. Personal style will dictate if you chose to write the headline at the beginning of your article or if you write content first and then craft a headline. 

Regardless of which approach you use; be sure the headline relates directly to the content.

Now, once you have your client’s needs in the forefront, a purpose for your headline, and your content and headline jive,  you can look at some mechanics of headlines. 

5 hot tips from the pros

As mentioned, there are formulas for headlines. These are the most common:

  1. The 4-U’s: is your headline useful, urgent, unique, and ultra-specific to the reader? Try to hit at least two of these categories
  2. Know your platform guidelines.  For example, Facebook has limitations of the number of characters a headline can use, while long-form copy may use much longer headlines
  3. Keep the headline simple by aiming for an FK score of Grade 7 readability or less (you can find the FK score in the editing tools in Word)
  4. Identify your key words and use them properly in your headline and copy to meet search engine needs
  5. And always remember your client – it’s their attention you need to capture

Professionals will spend hours working on headlines. They rewrite them over and over – headlines are finely tuned.  Be prepared to spend some time writing them.

Need a spark to start the fire?

Remember, the point of a headline is to have your reader start and keep reading.

If you’re stumped and have no ideas just take a trip to your local bookstore and scan the titles of books. Publishers use headlines to get you to buy the book. Look for the headlines nestled in book reviews or on the back cover.

All magazines repeat the same information over and over. Maybe take a look at all the self-help magazines and you’ll see the headlines are very similar.  Look at interior design magazines or home improvement, you’ll see their headlines are very similar, too.  Study their headlines. Look for patterns.

Remember, those headlines are being used because they work with the target audience.

If it helps you, remember headlines are a vital part of journalism. Look at a newspaper and the headlines used for stories and in advertisements.

Your headlines are meant to get your client’s attention and poke their curiosity.

Need more ideas?

Since we just mentioned journalism, try using their questions: Who, What, Why, When, Where and How. Start a headline with one of those words. It could be something along the lines of “Why You Need …” or ‘How To ….” Or “When This Happens….”

Use a numbers list and begin a headline with “3 Reasons Why…” or “5 Secrets the Pros Know” or “Top 10 Reasons To…”

Bring in a reference to time and try something like “At last…” or Finally!…” or suggest time is running out   by writing  something like  “Last chance to…” or “Don’t be left out…”

In social marketing and in the online world, people receive hundreds, sometimes thousands, of pieces of information every day.  The result, most are overlooked and deleted. 

Finally

The headline is what your clients see first.  They see it and then hopefully read it. It doesn’t matter how great your copy is if clients dismiss the headline.

You’re in business to help people grow and thrive.

Your headlines are part of how you can serve your clients. Headlines focus on a benefit your clients are looking for, your copy proves the headline to be true.

Great headlines are matchless; a few stand the test of time. But a good headline is wonderfully powerful. It can burn for a long time letting its golden light guide your client to you.