Headlines are like ads for content. It can be a video on YouTube, an article on your company blog or a presentation on SlideShare. They should tell the readers what they will learn if they keep reading and entice them to do so. But not all the headlines fulfil this role and a huge quantity of content remains unread or not watched.
Nearly 4 decades ago, famed copywriter David Ogilvy said: “On the average, five times as many people read the headlines as read the body copy.” That was the time of print advertising. There was no internet, there were no mobile phones and people had a much longer attention span than they do now.
At the present, Ogilvy’s ratio would be welcome as fantastic by marketers and business owners. In reality, people are bombarded by marketing content from all directions and on all devices. Online content is dominant, and it is the type of content we are going to focus on. After all, when is the last time you published an article in a print paper or magazine?
What Would Make Someone Keep Reading After the Headline?
First of all, it is time to discard the old notion that people read in a F pattern online. This was true some years ago, when there was less content available and promoted through various methods to stand out in front of internet users.
Right now, people read the headline and make a momentous decision to read or not to read based on this sole element. So, what makes them keep reading? Most people look for:
- Content that helps them solve a problem,
- Content that teaches them something useful,
- Content that entertains them,
- Content that appeals to them on a personal level.
These being said, here are some new and updated tips to help you create powerful headlines for your online content:
1. Use Punctuation Marks in the Headline
Various A/B tests performed by many marketers found a curious feature of highly engaging headlines: they all contained a colon or a dash. An even closer analysis showed that the punctuation marks should follow straight after the main keyword and continue with a statement.
The reason for this preference could be that the title does not appear very long and complex. Indeed, punctuation marks like the colon, the dash and the semicolon, are used to fragment a sentence and make it easier to read.
2. Numbers Are Brain Candy
Our brains love numbers. Whenever we see them, we feel in control of our thought process. Everything is in order, everything is logical. And by a curious mechanism, we love odd numbers more than even numbers.
However, it is time to go beyond the “5 signs that” and “7 tips for”. It is time to go a bit higher. 9, 11, and 15 become increasingly popular numbers to use in headlines. If you want proof for this, go through the posts shared by one of the most popular websites – Buzzfeed. Since they started using odd numbers no one else did, they saw a tremendous rise in their reading count.
3. Add a Unique Rationale in Your Headline
That sounds like rocket science, but it is not. The term simply defines one good reason you should give your reader to keep reading. Rationale words that make headlines powerful are: tips, reasons, ways, strategies, best practices, etc.
They are an answer to what the reader was searching for when they found your article: a solution to a problem they have. A headline containing a unique rationale gives them the reassurance that they found exactly the answer they needed.
4. Add a Call to Action to Your Headline
“What? A CTA in the headline? But they didn’t even read the article!” That’s right, but with the CTA there, your potential readers will somehow feel compelled to do so. For example: “Try these 7 easy tips for a healthier life”. Everyone wants to live healthier. And you promise them that you will give them some easy tips to do so.
You can be sure that people who are looking for advice on healthy living will continue reading an article with that headline.
5. Use a Headline Analyser Tool
Not sure if your headline is really powerful and catchy? There are online tools to help you. For example, the headline analyser developed by the Advanced Marketing Institute uses a complex algorithm to tell you how good your headline is. You can choose the industry or niche for which you write from a comprehensive list of over 20 topics. The tool uses three factors to analyse the headline: intellectual, empathetic, spiritual.
Thus, besides getting a relevant score for the marketing value of your headline, you will also know if it is likely to appeal more to the rational or the emotional side of your readers.