7 Tips on How to Write Catchy Headlines
Headlines are one of the most important elements of any article. They serve as the first point of contact with potential readers. The majority of website and blog visitors spend less than 15 seconds on a page, so good headlines are crucial to attract the attention of readers and convey your message across effectively.
You’re still reading this article, so it appears our headline did pique your interest. What techniques did we use to draw you in? We’ll share those techniques and more below to help you master the myriad of ways to write titles that are compelling and effective.
Catchy headlines aren’t written on the fly. Copywriting legend David Ogilvy once said that five times as many people read headlines compared to the actual copy. Considering its importance, you should never treat headlines as afterthoughts. Don’t use the first headline that pops up in your head. You can use a placeholder headline while writing the copy, but once you’re done, brainstorm for the perfect title. Spend as much time as you need to develop the perfect headline for each of your article.
2. Use an Active Voice
While writing in passive voice is sometimes necessary in articles – primarily for a richer and more personal tone – you can’t do that with headlines. A passive voice (object -> verb -> subject, e.g., the apple is eaten by Tom) requires context and background to make it engaging. An active voice (subject -> verb -> object, e.g., Tom is eating the apple), meanwhile, is factual, precise and conveys more urgency. Consider the following examples:
Passive voice: A video of Perseverance rover landing on Mars will be released by NASA
Active voice: NASA releases video of Perseverance rover landing on Mars
Do you notice the difference between the two headlines? Not only does the second headline sound more elegant, but it is also catchier since the first three words (‘NASA releases video’) is enough to tell readers the heart of the article.
3. Use Numbers in Your Website or Blog Titles
I’m sure we all have heard of Buzzfeed, right? What many people don’t know is, its founder, Jonah Peretti, did an extensive study of headlines while studying at MIT. His PhD dissertation was actually on viral phenomena. One paper that he wrote in 1996, Contemporary Visual Culture and the Acceleration of Identity Formation/Dissolution, became the foundation of Buzzfeed’s publishing model.
A recurring element of his early writing is the use of numbers in headlines. He implemented the strategy at Buzzfeed, and the rest is history. Because frankly, how could you ever resist finding out the ‘27 reasons why eating an apple could kill you’ or ’11 secrets to starting a successful business”?
How effective is the use of numbers in headlines, you wonder? Well, it is the most preferred type of headline, based on one audience survey.
So instead of writing “The Best Methods to…”, consider writing “5 Best Methods to…” instead. This will signal to the customer the promised value of the article. Give it a try – the traffic boost will be noticeable.
4. Use Keywords When Writing Article Titles
Keywords are one of the factors used by search engines’ algorithms when presenting search results to readers. So when you’re crafting titles, especially when writing SEO headlines, try to include relevant keywords into your headlines. This serves two functions: the first, it makes the article more attractive to search engines. The second function is that your readers may be using the exact keywords or a synonym of it when searching for articles. So they will be more inclined to click on your article link and read it.
In our headline above, we used two keyphrases – ‘Catchy Headlines’ and ‘Catchy Titles’.
5. Use Superlatives!
Here’s the secret about superlatives: using them once is a great way to enhance your headline, but if you use them too many times, your headlines become weaker!
In the same study cited in the Moz article above, we learned that 29% of readers prefer headlines with a single superlative. When the number goes to two superlatives, audience preference drops to 22%. When three superlatives are used, the figure drops to 9%!
In conclusion, “5 Best Tips” is better than “5 Tips”, but “5 Best and Cleverest Tips” will be weaker than the first two!
Additionally, list or numbered posts tend to do better on social media where immediacy is a key criterion in information sharing. As such, if you’re looking to strengthen your social media presence, focus on developing such content.
6. Ask a question?
Crafting your headlines into questions is a very powerful technique. In fact, according to one study published by two Norwegian researchers, question headlines outperform statement headlines by as much as 175%!
Such headlines invite your readers to join a hypothetical discussion. As we all know, establishing an emotional connection is the surest way to engage readers.
As such, instead of writing “A Proven Method to Increase Your Easter Sales”, try to craft something like “What’s the Secret to Consistently Increase Your Easter Sales?”. The latter headline will also attract audiences who are just curious.
7. Test Your Headlines
Unlike print publications, digital publishers have the option of changing their headlines. But why do you want to change your headline? To find the best performing headline, of course!
As we’ve discussed earlier, headline creation is a subjective process that requires considerable thought. Many different elements must be factored in during the brainstorming process. More often than not, you will generate more than a single headline. Instead of just picking one, pick all the good headlines and test them out.
If your organisation has access to A/B testing tools, perform a split test between different sets of headlines to analyse the click-through rates (CTRs).
Depending on your volume of traffic, this process could take anywhere between several hours to a few days. Once the dust has settled, a winning headline will emerge.
As a bonus, if you repeat this process with every article, you will gradually understand the headline structure that works best for your organisation. You might even start teaching others on how to write compelling headlines. What a turnaround!