How to Write a Powerful Headline That Will Get Shared More

28/12/2016 17 comments

If you’re reading this, that means I did something right with the headline of this post – I grabbed your attention. And that’s exactly what a good title should do. But lots of things can grab attention and that’s not all you should be looking for in your header.

Your headlines should not only be “attention-grabbers”, they also need to be helpful, useful and specific. As they will convey your content tone and voice, headlines are an important part of your content strategy. So, how can you make sure your does all of this?

Here’s how:

Make the Headline One With the Content

When people read your headline, they already establish a certain picture in their heads of what the content should be about. The heading of this post is “How to Write Powerful Headlines That Will Get Shared More”, so I better make sure that’s what the content is about, isn’t it? Otherwise, I might make a lot of people angry.

If your head says one thing, but your content something else, that won’t help you at all. You should especially be careful here when writing headlines that promise something. If you can’t deliver on that promise, you’re screwed.

Keep the Headline Short and Sweet

There’s no rule on how short your headline should be. It all depends on where you want it to appear and what you want to do with it.

Let’s say you want to create a title that will get shared or liked more often on social media. In that case,  according to this study from HubSpot, you’re best bet is to go with headlines between 12-14 words on Facebook and between 8 an 12 words on Twitter.

Of course, it’s not only the header that determines how often your content will get shared (the length of the article and the quality of content also play a big role here), but with a good heading, you’re off to a good start.

Another thing you should keep in mind is the character length, especially if you want to rank well on Google search. Keep your headline under 70 characters. Otherwise, the search engine will cut your headline and users won’t be able to see it fully in their results.

Make the Headline Unique

Your headline should also differentiate from what your competition has to say. It has to be unique if you don’t want it to get lost in the shuffle.

When writing your headline, always keep this question in mind: “why should the reader care about this?” If you can’t answer that question, start all over again. Don’t be satisfied until you find a reason why consumers would want to buy from you rather than your competition.

Of course, it’s a thin line between being unique and, well, lying. Consumers are more savvy today than they have been yesterday. That means they are able to smell a fraud a mile away, just from a headline. In other words, your headline should never promise something you can’t deliver for sure.

Use Numbers in Your Headline

When thinking of a headline for one of my earlier posts, “6 Big Mistakes Freelancers Make in Their Proposals“, I could have went with simply “Mistakes Freelancers Make in Their Proposals”, but I didn’t. Why?

Because headlines that include a number in them are much more specific. Adding a number in your headline has a number of benefit, such as:

  • It makes it easier for reading. 

If I went with “Mistakes Freelancers Make in Their Proposals”, I’d have some problems keeping the content structured. Reasons would overlap, there would be no clear beginning or end and the reader would be confused. Clearly, I didn’t want that.

  • You can promise something specific

If you write a headline like this “Learn German in 30 Days from Home”, that will surely get you more interested readers than if you choose the title “Learn German” Why? Because you clearly state that you can help readers learn another language in a specific time period, versus simply telling them to “Learn German”. How are they going to do that? Where? How long will it take?

  • It helps with speed reading

Okay, let’s face it, with so much content online, people rarely read anymore. Instead, they scan. As such, if you include a number in your headline, the reader can quickly go over the content and have a pretty good idea what’s it about.

Convey a Sense of Urgency in Your Headline

Photo by Zhen Hu via Unsplash

People don’t like to miss on things. They like to be in-the-know all the time. This is why you need to compel the reader to stop doing whatever he was doing and divert all attention to your headline now.

This can mean something like making an offer that will expire in 2 days or asking a question that directly affects your readers. It could be something that solves a current problem or future problem that can impact their business.

For instance, a blog titled “Are You Losing Sales by Giving Customers Too Many Choices?” was very successful on the KISSmetrics blog. Why? Because business owners don’t like losing sales and the title just showed them one way of doing so they probably haven’t considered before. So naturally, they will click on that title right away.

Make the Headline Useful

Your headline must convey a benefit for your readers. Otherwise, they will simply move on, without glancing back. Don’t try to be witty or smart, the goal here is not to create a clickbait headline, but something that will actually help your readers.

You don’t people merely clicking to your headline out of curiosity and then promptly looking for a way out. The time of BuzzFeed clickbait headlines is over and you are much better off avoiding them. There has to be a value in the headline and this statistic provided by Mike Giannulis shows that including certain phrases like “will make you” will make your headline more interesting to users.

Instead, focus on how you can actually help your readers with a problem they have.

Use Emotional Words

Remember that you are writing your content and the headline for actual human beings and not the search engine. This is why you need to convey emotion in your headline. By doing so, you will be much better able to drive a response from your readers.

People respond better to strong and positive triggers, so writing a headline where they can anticipate something good for them will get shared more.

Words like: “quick”, “amazing”, “important” “urgent” are always a good pick for your headline, but so are “insider”, latest”, successful” and many others.

Have Someone Else Look Over it

You think you just created the most awesome title in the history of writing titles? What if you’re wrong? What if your title simply bounces off the reader without him paying any attention to it at all?

Then you’ve just wasted a lot of time and effort.

But how to avoid that from happening? By asking someone else look over your title. Another pair of eyes will be able to see some things you can’t and will be able to point to what’s wrong in your title.

Perhaps your headline is confusing without you ever realizing that. Or it’s not interesting to the reader at all. Maybe it’s not specific enough? A search engine won’t tell you this, but another human being will.

Do you have something to add or ask about this post? Got any tips on how to write a headline? Let me know in the comments below and don’t forget to like, share and follow my blog.