I’ve been running from writing headlines for a long time. Such an annoying task. And the more I learned about it, the more puzzled I became about how to write blog post titles that deliver readers. Headline hacks and formulas all over me, stuck by confusion!
Can you relate to that? Then this post is for you.
In the following, I want to share with you how I decluttered the headline mess and found a strain-free strategy (and attitude!) to craft catchy titles that work day in day out.
Everything begins (or ends) with your headline
It’s crazy but true, just a few words in a row make-or-break people’s engagement with your content, offers, products.
They protect us “deviced people” from getting lost in millions of new blog posts, asking for our attention every morning again.
Headlines are simply our single most effective means against death-by-information-overload. They help us to skip most of the content that is flooded over us each day.
Hence, content marketers have no choice but to put all their efforts into crafting tempting headlines that get the click instead of the skip.
I don’t want to put you under pressure, but your business stands or falls with the performance of your headlines…
It’s your headline that gets the click (or skip) in the search engines. It’s your heading that decides if someone subscribes to your email list. Only your headlines make your blog visitors stay for more. Only your awesome titles help you not to get lost in the shuffle of social media. And again only your headlines make people click through to your product offers…
Your headlines simply have to convert. Pretty daunting and probably the reason why so many bloggers run from crafting them!
What headlines do make people click through?
So, what does it take to make people take action and click our titles?
There is something, stronger than anything else that activates people (not only with headlines but with anything in life). This little something is called emotion.
Emotions drive actions.
Our behavior is lead by emotions. Most of that emotional power within us we do not even realize happening. It’s inside our subconsciousness, centered in the limbic system.
That’s why neuromarketing prefers to speak in outcomes and benefits, rather than (only) in facts and figures. Of course, we want to know the features and facts about a product or service in detail. But it’s the outcome and benefits that make us buy a product.
Need an example? Okay. Let’s say you want to automate your emails with an autoresponder. You are amazed by all the features to create and automate your emails. Your final buying decision, though, is triggered by the outcome and benefits: driving your email marketing hands free allows you to spend more time with your family and friends, do your business from wherever you want, make money while sleeping, etc.
If the emotions of your readers are part of your headline, it will outperform many other titles they are exposed to.
I am going to show you now how to address your readers emotions. But before I go into that, I want to make a big emotions disclaimer:
People are driven by emotions. Hence they can be badly manipulated by emotional triggers. That’s not what we want. So, whenever you intentionally speak to the emotions of your readers, I urge you to do it with a great portion of responsibility.
If you try to manipulate people, if you make promises you couldn’t keep, you will lose your reputation, ergo, your business, in the end.
8 emotional principles every blogger should use for headlines
In the following, I introduce you to some very powerful emotional elements you can apply to whet your reader’s appetite for the content behind your headline.
Make sure that at least one of those elements is part of your headline. Likewise, avoid applying all of the elements in one title, which definitely would be overshooting.
Let’s get started!
#1 – Speak in outcomes and benefits
We’ve been into that already. Outcomes and benefits trigger people’s emotions a lot.
Make a clear statement about what’s in for your visitor. What’s your big claim that speaks to your audience’s biggest wish?
A very powerful method is to make promises about the outcome. But, make only those you can keep. If you promise your visitor to achieve something in a very short period of time, that period should be doable. It’s the same with promises about certain levels of income; they need to be realistic.
Outcomes, benefits and promises are not only very powerful on an emotional level. They also make your statement clear and tangible, which is very important too.
#2 – Arouse curiosity
Curiosity is another strong emotional element. The moment we get curious about something, we can’t help ourselves but need to satisfy that curiosity.
If something makes us curious, we immediately want to take action to find out more about it. And immediately taking action (click) is exactly what we want to spark with our headlines.
Although curiosity seems to be a bit overused in titles, it still catches almost anyone. Even those who feel annoyed about another “secret” or “little-known way” popping up, still find themselves clicking on it more than randomly.
But again, if you make people curious, you need to deliver something great with your content. If they are disappointed with what they find, it will be even harder to get their click next time.
#3 – Use power words
The style of your language, all the particular words that you use, have a huge impact on the emotional effects your headlines can trigger. It’s more than worth your while to choose your words deliberately, especially when it comes to the use of power words.
Power words are words like “breathtaking, sensational, proven, exposed, etc.” that shoot straight into our emotional epicenter. They are highly charged with positive or negative emotions and can move people in a split second.
You can’t speak about power words without mentioning Jon Morrow, who is the godfather of power words. On his blog, he provides hundreds of mind-blowing power words and how to use them properly.
Power words are stronger than any other words. That’s why you have to use them cautiously and well dosed.
#4 – Use controversial standpoints
If people are baffled by something, they want to clarify that confusion. Controversial standpoints entice people to look into the content behind the headline so that they can solve the riddle.
Make unexpected, uncommon statements. These can even be unpopular standpoints people can’t stand to click just for the reason of outrage.
Of course, the content behind your controversial headline has to not only deliver clarification but also bend a bow that unites your readers with your standpoints.
For example, your title is “10 reasons why SEO is dead”. People think what a steep statement and click through to your content. There, you solve the confusion, by saying the old SEO is dead and then provide 10 reasons to shift to the new SEO.
#5 – Speak about mistakes to avoid
I love this one. It reminds me of my good old days of being employed as a Marketing Manager. My CEO always wanted to showcase solutions while I always wanted to illustrate the problems of our customers.
His principle was to never mention negative things (like problems), he expected it to be destructive.
I said (and still say it today!), speaking about your customer’s problems is one of the most powerful things to do, as long as you provide ultimate solutions for those problems.
Not that I am self-opinionated, but between the two of us, it was me who ended up to be right:)
If you address the problems of your audience, they live through the pain again and they feel your true empathy. Both effects will make your audience very interested in your solution.
It’s the same with “mistakes to avoid.” People feel the pain of mistakes and are willing to do everything possible to avoid them. Your content tells how to avoid them. That’s why they are likely to click into it.
#6 – Use question style
In essence, all the content you provide delivers answers to the questions of your audience.
Whatever people are at, they make progress by finding answers to their questions. Google is entirely made to respond to questions (search queries).
Interrogative headlines can help people to identify things they seek solutions for quickly. If your title is one of the questions in your readers head, he will very likely click through to your content.
Needless to say, when using interrogative headlines, your content behind it has to answer that question entirely.
#7 – Address people directly
Your readers connect much better with your headline when you try to speak to them as personal as possible.
Using “you” in your titles can be a great way to do so. Then, people feel addressed in person, rather than just beeing a number among the crowd.
Also, if you address a particular group within your audience, name them in your headline. For example, put “for beginner bloggers” in your title.
#8 – Use the language of your audience
This is vital. You need to use the lingo that resonates with your audience.
Since you are participating in your niche, you are very likely already speaking your niche’s language. Prefer to use that lingo, rather than trying to address your readers formally.
Blogging is refreshingly unconventional, take that to your advantage by using conversational language that attracts people. That includes to always prefer active over passive voice.
Why emotions are not everything
There are a few things more than emotional elements you need to take care of to write catchy headlines and blog titles that get clicked.
First and foremost, your headings always have to be a clear and easy to understand message. Don’t overdo with headline formulas and keywords. They are worthless if your readers are forced to skip your indigestible construction of words.
Whatever claims you use, make sure they are precise, realistic and no castles in Spain.
The length of your headline is also a crucial factor. Make sure the most sparkling part of your heading is not what gets cut off in Googles search results.
CoSchedule is providing an awesome tool to check all important aspects of your headline.
And don’t give up on practicing with headlines! Natural-born headline masters are very rare. Most of us get there simply by doing it over and over again.
Trust me, the longer you are into headlines, the more natural they will come up. Make it a habit of reading powerful titles every day, they will sink into your unconsciousness for recall.
Here is some inspiration for catchy headlines to feed yourself with:)
And watch your own behavior for more inspiration, the headlines you click are very likely great examples you should adapt for your own ones!
To your very blogging success,