How do you entice people to take action on your content? What are the keys to getting audiences to click through to your pieces, not just skim past them?
Fundamentally, it all starts with your headlines. These few words are often your only chance to both explain the topic covered and encourage people to engage.
So what makes a great headline? Many that perform well have a few things in common. In its advice to writers and editors, BuzzFeed sums up the core of what works with this line: “The headline must be persuasive and direct.”
How do you craft a headline that is persuasive and direct? Here are four approaches that tend to work across all content types and platforms:
1. Include a list or number element that implies the content is quickly scannable
List headlines are all over the Internet. Why? Because they work.
Including a number in your headline does two very important things: 1) It piques the audience’s interest; 2) It implies that the content is fairly short and quickly readable.
Example: BuzzFeed is the undisputed online leader in listicles, and for good reason. It has turned the numbered headline into an artform, seemingly categorizing everything on Earth (and beyond) into a list.
2. Clearly explain what will be covered and indicate that something will be gained
When you’re crafting headlines always keep this in mind: most people don’t have a lot of free time in their day.
Given that, it’s essential that each of your headlines explain what will be covered in the content – and then delivers on this promise.
Example: HubSpot does an excellent job on its blog of telling readers what the content is about while still leaving something to the imagination.
3. Be short, clear, and use words that spark emotion
If you want to craft a perfect headline, you’ll have to be a ruthless editor. Given that most people skim through feeds, and that only a certain number of characters can be displayed, it’s essential that every word serves a purpose.
One approach to doing this well is to combine the essential pieces – the topic, the question, the list number – with one or two strong adjectives in the headline.
Example: Upworthy is one of the best sites at tugging at the heartstrings with powerful descriptors such as “furious,” “devastating,” and “emotional.”
4. Tease just enough to encourage the user to click-through
Finally, ensure that your headlines say enough to be informative, but not so much as to give it all away. If you want people to click-through to your content, there will have to be some element of mystery.
Put another way, follow this old adage: Always leave them wanting more.
Example: Business Insider’s headlines often manage to indicated the topic while teasing enough to encourage click-through.