As a writer, you know that every bit of your content matters. You definitely have experienced a moment of glory when you would write something that delivers quality to the readers. You have composed a perfect piece of writing, but for some reason, you don’t get the response you were sure you were going to get. So where did things go wrong?
Poor response to your written content can occur because of multiple different reasons. However, if you eliminate the possible candidates like low quality, typos, low value, boring content, etc, you might be in a situation where your headline and/or subheadings are just not good enough.
“But I wrote a 3000-word article, and I nailed it. How can I be tripping over a few words?”
Exactly, the problem lies in those “few words” simply because of the fact that they are just a few words. Within the content, you can express your thoughts as long as you would like, but headlines and subheads are very limiting in terms of length.
Know The Purpose of Your Headline
To nail a headline, first, you need to establish what’s the purpose of the content that will go below that headline. Are you trying to sell or to inform? That’s the first question you need to ask yourself.
But before you go into the choice of words, several things apply:
- The rule of thumbs says that headlines need to contain anywhere between three and ten words.
- For email marketing headlines, keep the length up to 70 characters
- For web content that will be appearing in search engine results, keep the maximum to 70 characters.
What Makes an Effective Headline?
An effective headline can be described by four C’s
- Clear – A headline should be clear enough to tell the reader what to expect
- Concise – Headlines should not be misleading in any way. Don’t disappoint your readers.
- Correct – Your headline should tell your reader what they will read about when they head to your website
- Compelling – The headlines you write need to grab the reader’s attention in order for them to even consider reading more
On top of these four characteristics of the perfect headline, you also need to think about the SEO aspect. Headlines are important for SEO and placing a keyword within those few words is always a smart idea.
That’s the recipe of the perfect headline, but it is naturally much more complicated in practice than in theory.
Tips on Writing a Compelling Headline
It is estimated that your headline accounts for up to 50% of the article effectiveness. A non-compelling headline will be overlooked and even if you have the best piece of writing beyond the click of the headline, not too many people will know about it. Here are the best tips for writing a killer headline:
- Use numbers: As stated by SEO Guru Neil Patel, numbers are “brain candy.” When seeing a number, our brain can easily organize information and make an estimate. For example, a headline such as “78 Percent of Marketers Say Headlines Are Important” makes sense to our brains, and we can conclude that the larger number of marketers agree with the notion. Because that is an easy information to digest, the user expects that within the content they will read about the reasons for that opinion. You should also be using numbers in instances such as “10 Tips for a Successful Blog”. This immediately gives readers a rough idea of how long the content would be and that they will get ten separate tips they can quickly skim through it in a hurry.
- Grab Attention: Since we are exposed to some much information online, people take less and less time to make a decision whether they would like to read something or not. According to Source Global Research, the attention span of the average human of today is around 8 seconds. That’s the time you have to grab the attention of the user. Hence why you need to keep it clear, concise, correct and compelling.
- Provide value: Tell your customer what value will the article provide them with. For example, clickbait headlines are disliked by a lot of people, but they often work. If you add value to a clickbait content, then you might have a magic formula. Instead of writing “You Won’t Believe What This Mum Uses for Colds” try the variant “Mum Uses A Simple Ingredient To Beat The Common Cold.” The clickbait element is visible, yet there is a crucial piece of info within the heading – it is a common ingredient that you probably have at home. Our brains will make the connection.
- Question everything: Using a question as a headline is a good idea. If the reader doesn’t know the answer to the question even though it might not be of a complete interest to them, they will probably still click to reveal the answer since they expect to get value out of the read.
- Choose words wisely: The difference between a good and a bad headline lies in the choice of words. Avoid using “fancy” words that are not commonly used in everyday communication. Words that are perceived as highly technical or professional will scare some of the potential readers off because they give out the impression that the entire article will have a technical or professional tone that they might not have the background to understand (unless, of course, that’s your goal). Use emotional words such as amazing, beautiful, cheerful, miraculous, etc. to establish a stronger connection with readers.
How About Subheads?
As mentioned before, there is a lot of information online, and usually, we want to find what we are looking for quickly. If your content is long and it isn’t broken down into sections, you are risking people leaving your website if they are looking for a specific piece of information within your content but they can’t find it without reading through the entire piece.
According to The Nielsen Norman Group, as much as 79% of people will first scan the content before they decide if they want to read it or not. It isn’t hard to grasp that subheadings are almost as important as the heading, so you should give them the required attention when writing your next article.
How To Approach The Subheads?
The simple answer doesn’t differ much from how you should approach headlines. However, you will have more subheads within your content, so you need to make sure that they follow a logical order to start with.
Think of subheadings as teasers within the content. They need to be related to the headline and let the reader know what to expect in each section.
Here are some tips to help you out when writing your subheads:
- Be Creative, But Don’t Lose the Meaning: Catchy and creative subheads are always welcomed, but don’t overdo it since you might make it unclear what the reader should expect.
- Don’t Let Everything Out: You want your subhead to encourage readers to continue reading and not skip the entire section because you summarized everything in the subhead.
- Continue Questioning Things: Pose a question in the subheading and provide the answer in the content below it. Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?
- Use Strong Words: Use words that have a strong and unambiguous meaning to clarify what’s being discussed for the reader.
Your heading is the first deciding factor if people will read your article or not. However, the headline should deliver what it describes; if your headline is over the top but the content fails to deliver, readers will be quick to bounce. The same applies to the subheads – they are the guiding lights within your content. Never underestimate their power.