15 Top Tips For Writing Winning Headlines

Picture of headlinesWriting winning headlines is extremely important because your headline is the first impression you make on a prospective reader. If your headline isn't compelling, visitors will breeze past your site or article and all your efforts go to waste. According to Jim Ackerman of Ascend Marketing, Inc, your headline accounts for up to 80% of the success of an ad or blog post—a good case for spending time on headlines.

Last week we asked a number of experts to share their top tips for writing compelling headlines. We asked:

What's your top tip for writing great headlines that draw traffic to your site or article?

Here's a selection of the great responses we received:

1. Solve a Problem in the Headline.

Most people don't care unless they feel pain or you really pique their curiosity. Pain always works better.  That's why numbers (odd ones, preferably) fit into so many How to Headlines:

  • 9 Way to Get Rid of Scaly Skin
  • 7 Ways to Remove Nose Hairs
  • 3 Ways to Kiss Better in 60 seconds.

When I'm stumped for a headline, I think of the readership, I think of a problem they have and I solve it (or offer to solve it) in the headline. THAT'S the formula and it works!

Thanks to Tom Peric of Galileo Communications Inc.

2. Why A Quickie In The Afternoon Is A Sure Pick Me Up

Nothing gets clicks faster than tantalizing the reader with the promise of something exciting to read, and my best headlines have almost all had something to do with temptation, excitement, or sex. In fact, it's often best if you get the main copy out of the way early in the morning and come back to it later in the afternoon to create a headline, rapidly reading through the copy and getting a sense for what will let you reveal the sexy part of the message and make people want more, more, more...

Thanks to Shadra Bruce from Solutions By Shadra

3. Do The Words in Your Headline Repel?

Headlines attract or repel based on the words we use. Words affect our perceptions, our attitudes, our beliefs, and our emotions. The words you use in your headline make all the difference in the world. Language used incorrectly will lose the reader you might otherwise have attracted. Successful headlines all share a common theme. These headlines use language in ways that evoke vivid thoughts and feelings in their readers.

Thanks to Kurt Mortensen of Advanced Influence

4. Ask A Question, Any Question

When you start with a question that pertains to the topic of interest to the readers it opens the door for them to answer.

Thanks to Derrick Hayes of WOE Enterprises

5. A headline should be concise- not more than 7 words.

Focus on a problem you are solving for readers. Use facts and minimize the use of adjectives.

Thanks to Jackie O'Neal of O'Neal Media Group

6. Use a Free Service for Optimizing Headlines

To ensure you're getting the best SEO for your blog or site, try LinkBaitGenerator.com, which reorganizes your headline for best SEO.

Thanks to Denise Dorman from WriteBrain Media

7. It Can't Hurt, Can It?

Headlines, whether in a journalistic venue, online in a blog, or at the top of a glassy advertisement must all do one thing well. They must direct the reader, unconditionally, into the body of the text that accompanies the headline. They may inform, but they'd better not tell the reader too much, or the reader won't feel a need to complete the read. Released from the compulsion to continue. Skimming headlines is a sign that the headlines are not doing the job they should.

I like questions that carry a tiny bit of information. The kind that can only be answered or explained through reading the text. While you need to start with something to connect the reader to your story or your product, there should never be a dead end in a headline.

A dead end is when a reader spots a compelling headline, but then is able to answer the question it either poses directly or implies, without reading the story.

I've never written a headline or title that can be answered simply, "No." If I pose a question, based upon universal, or at least targeted reader demographics/interests, in a headline, I give it a real work-over to determine if there is a "no" or even an obscure answer hidden somewhere inside before I go to press.

Remembering what exactly a headline is supposed to do will help you write better and better headlines.

Thanks to Richard Sutton of Kiva Trading Company

8. Tip For The Top

Tip for the top of the article: Because the headline has to grab the reader's attention and not let go, the writer has to play with the words. How? Use alliteration, for example.

Or, ask a question. Or, use a number ("The Top 10 ..."). Or,use a word that everyone's abuzz about. Or, give double entendre a try. Or, combine yin/yang words ("Gamblers 'up' about the Downs.")

A final note about the well-written, informative headline: To paraphrase Plato: “You can discover more about an article in a playful headline than in lengthy skim."

Thanks to Dr. Marlene Caroselli, author of 60 books and uncountable articles, curricula, speeches.

9. Follow Three Basic Rules

I have three suggestions for headline writers. The first is to write as many headlines as possible in as many different, proven headline styles as possible. (I always write a minimum of 20 headlines for warm-up). The second is to play "Headline Scrabble", substituting copy specifically related to your product, service or company into already written headlines that have already proven to be winners. The third is a one-time exercise write 100 headlines for one ad. (This to prove to yourself that you can do it and give you a lifetime of headline fodder.)

Thanks to Jim Ackerman of Ascend Marketing, Inc.

10. Keyword Research

Find the relative keywords to your article and place them in the headline, title and body.

Thanks to Mark Mckelvey of Hidden Equity.

11. Grab Attention

The best tip I have for writing a great headline is not to worry about how long or how short it is, but to simply make sure it is attention grabbing and says everything you need it to say. Headlines can't be too short or too long - just too boring!

Thanks to Diane Conklin of Complete Marketing Systems

12. Powerful and Dynamic Gets Results

My top tip is to keep the headline brief but powerful and dramatic. My name is Charlie Wachtel and I have end stage kidney failure. I am making a miraculous comeback and the headline that I use to get media attention is, "I was a day away from dying and had lost the ability to walk."

Thanks to Charlie Wachtel from CMW Enterprises

13. Get Emotional

Don't forget emotion! It's what drives us to take action & grabs our attention. What pain are you going to eliminate? What pleasure will you increase? Emotion produces response.

Thanks to Zenobia Garrison of Success Transitions, LLC

14. Make a reader care

Write from an objective point, thinking of your audience and what they need.

To evoke an immediate (intellectual and emotional) response in the reader compelling headlines must:

  • Involve readers immediately. Headlines must entice a reader to mentally ask, "why, how, who, where, when." If so, they feel it's valuable to read on and will opt in to read more.
  • Headlines build immediate interest and hold a promise to deliver answers, solutions instruction, connections, invitations, etc.
  • Make them relevant to current affairs, whatever the topic.

Thanks to Judy Dippel of JLD Writes

15. Combine figurative and literal

Writers may combine figurative language with the literal that should arouse the attention and interest of the readers to contemplate the existence of a paradox that seems to be true.

Thanks to Eugene Crowley

What are your top tips for writing winning headlines?

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  • Chad

    Great list! I didn't get number 15 though lol