Grab Readers' Attention With These 13 Headline Writing Tips
WRITTEN BY Forbes Communications Council
Communications, PR, public affairs & media relations executives from Forbes Communications Council share firsthand insights.
As content marketing efforts have dramatically increased for modern brands, so has the importance of writing catchy, clickable headlines for online copy. Whether it's for a blog post, an email blast, a thought leadership article or a press release, the title of your piece needs to grab the reader's attention and entice them to continue reading.
Of course, this is easier said than done. Consumers are bombarded daily with advertisements and marketing content, so you need to refine your approach to cut through the clutter. Take a page out of the Forbes Communications Council playbook when you're drafting your next headline.
1. Leave them hungry for more.
There are several aspects that make for an effective headline. First, capture the reader's attention with something that will resonate with that particular audience. Second, leave them asking for more. If you unveil all the content in the headline, there is no need to read the article. Skim the surface of the topic to optimize opens and CTRs. - Cody McConnell, Keller International
2. Have a crystal clear purpose.
Headlines are interesting and attention grabbing when they connect the viewer with what they want or need. To write a great headline, make sure it clearly articulates what the viewer will get by clicking on it or viewing further. It's about honesty and interest, and it's harder than it sounds. A crystal clear purpose that matches headline to content means viewers will stay longer and share more. - Seth Waite, RevUnit
3. Consider what would make you click.
We are all consumers of online content. I pay attention to what I personally click on and use what I learn to guide my own headline writing. There are some topics I will click on regardless of the headline. But occasionally there is a headline on a different topic that I simply can't resist. I write those headlines down and save them so I can consider what drew me in and for future inspiration. - Candice Russell, pitneybowes.com
4. Keep it brief and emotionally powerful.
Consumers are inundated with headlines and advertisements on multiple platforms, so their attention span is quite limited. I always tell my team to keep headlines short and to the point while invoking emotion. Nike’s campaign for its Black History Month collection is a prime example that utilizes just the word "EQUALITY." The word means so much to people and piques interest for engagement. - Edward Bourelly, OMNI-CULTURE MARKETING, INC.
5. Say it out loud.
"Write like you talk" is vital when you only have a fleeting moment to capture readers' attention. Does your headline sound right when you speak it? Can it stand alone without a subhead? If not, it's probably too jargony or convoluted. Keep it simple and make sure your headline is something a human would actually say. - Dave Heinzinger, inMarket
6. Keep it conversational.
One of the best subject lines I have ever used is "hey." It was simple, but it got a great open rate because it felt personal and fun. Headlines can, of course, be longer than one word, but skip sensationalized jargon and keep it conversational. - Mandy Menaker, Shapr
7. Show readers what's in it for them.
My best advice is to keep it simple, clear and to the point. A good headline lets readers know the content has value and isn't just clickbait (because it isn't, right?). Headlines should convey that readers will either learn something new, glean impactful advice or be entertained and moved by the words coming next. Answer the question, "What's in it for me?" - Melissa Kandel, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices
8. Ask others for feedback.
Consider what headline/title will get the most clicks and views. I've seen influencers ask their followers via social media to either vote on a poll or pick between a couple of headlines that they plan on using. There is nothing wrong with asking others for feedback, even if it may seem unorthodox. - Benjamin Trinh, Postmate
9. Ask a question in your headline.
I find myself clicking headlines if they ask a question on a current topic and promise to answer it. It has always served as a teaser for me. But if this technique is used without providing answers, it can leave a bad taste. Make sure you only use it if you are answering the question and providing some direction. - Anshu Agarwal, Cedexis
10. Leverage the power of FOMO.
FOMO is a powerful motivator. Playing on the fear of missing out -- instead of learning more -- can be an effective way to draw people to your content. For example, "The One Time Management Tip You Can't Start Your Day Without" is more compelling than "Starting A To-Do List, And Other Productivity Tips." - Alina Morkin, Voices.com
11. Leverage data and test your headlines.
At its core, search and social media are the largest, most easily accessible panels a marketer can tap into. Test multiple versions of your creative against the audience segments you want to reach, then leverage the data from these tests to scale across platforms. - Jim Kensicki, Catalyst
12. Establish a human connection.
As our world continues on its path of commoditization, it forces a new relational pitch. The new norms of social media, mobile updates and media streaming are all competing with the stories, but not necessarily the headlines. Apply a title that does not simply title the story, but rather relates the story to the target audience. Remember, we’re all still human (for now anyway). - Patrick Corcoran, Luxoft
13. Be controversial.
The quickest way to grab attention is to make a somewhat controversial statement or ask a challenging question. Get your audience curious and get them to think. It's a teaser for the copy. In a world of shrinking attention spans and competing headlines, standing out from the crowd is crucial for getting the reader to take the time to engage with your copy. - Tracey Grove, Microsoft