What grabs the attention of an editor or potential client? How do newspapers sell millions of copies? What makes you open an email or read a blog post?
The main purpose of a headline is to grab the attention of the reader.
Headlines need to be accurate and consistent with the rest of the work. If you are writing a serious article, a humorous play-on-words is not in harmony with the rest of the writing.
Headlines should also be concise. If you are a blogger, you may have discovered a limitation to the size of blog titles. Learn to wordsmith a creative title with only a few words.
Use key phrases that sum up the rest of the piece. They are the hook that catches the reader and pulls him or her in.
In his book Advertising Headlines that Make You Rich, copyright expert David Garfinkel states that 75% of the buying decisions are made at the headline alone. According to Garfinkel, there are the three main underlying causes of headline problems:
1. The headline doesn’t pass the “So what? Who cares?” test. It needs to have relevant emotional power.
2. The headline is cute, clever, or obscure. While it may titillate the reader, it does a poor job of capturing them for the rest of the content.
3. The headline means everything to the business but nothing to the prospect or reader. Words are meant to target an audience wherever they may be.
How do you write a good, powerful headline? Garfinkel offers his 10 Golden Rules:
- Make it conversational. Use everyday language and make it engaging for the reader.
- Enter the conversation already going on in the reader’s mind. In other words, start where they are at not where you are.
- Remember V.E.R.V.E
Visceral…physical and immediate
Emotional…appeals to feelings
Resounding…the reader hears you
Visual…reader can picture what you are saying in their mind
Empathetic…reader feels you understand how he or she feels
- Walk the fine line between fact and hype. Don’t be timid but don’t over-exaggerate either.
- Understand the ultimate purpose of your headline is to get the reader to the next line of copy. Create curiosity and desire.
- Don’t be clever. Be straightforward.
- Don’t be boring. You don’t want a yawn.
- Don’t assume your reader knows what you know. Meet them at their level.
- Don’t focus on your process. Focus on the benefit to the reader.
- Don’t merely try to arouse curiosity. Make sure you stimulate desire and intrigue.
Headlines are the first words that your audience reads. Make them concise, meaningful, and consistent with the rest of the composition. Headlines can be the difference between connecting with a new reader or losing them forever.