Oh, the rabbit hole.
One day, as you’re taking a five-minute break from that day’s work, you come across an article that looks interesting to you. Figuring you have a few minutes to spare, you click and read it.
But that’s not all; there’s more. At the bottom of the article, you find another one that looks particularly interesting. So, you click there and read that one.
30 minutes later, you look up, dazed and confused, and realize you fell down the rabbit hole of content. You may have learned a thing or two, but you’re way past your allotted break time.
This is one example of the power of a great headline. Headlines have been around for centuries - from the first newspapers to today’s clickbait blog articles, they have played a huge part in spreading important information - and are even sometimes responsible for distributing fake news.
Writing a great headline can make or break the success of your content. Headlines can either captivate your audience and encourage them to keep reading, or bore them right off the bat and tell them your content isn’t worth their time.
But if you’ve ever sat down to write a headline, you know how difficult it can be to come up with just the right one. So, here are a few ways you can craft a compelling headline.
1. Start With The Benefit
Remember those 10-minute long infomercials they would show on TV? I think they still have them - for some reason, people are still making them - but, damn, they’re bad.
They say the same thing over and over again, screaming in your ear about the 5-speed whatchamacallit and the 293 things you can do with it that you caN’T DO WITH ANY OTHER COMPETITOR’S PRODUCT OR YOUR MONEY BACK SO CALL NOW.
I don’t know if you noticed, but the these infomercials tend to point out all the 1,283 ways their product was the best one ever. In other words, they sell their features - not the benefits.
Selling your product/service’s benefits allows your customer to imagine themselves in their ideal situation. For example, let’s compare the following:
“Get 300 photos of your family perfectly edited and ready for you to put in your home.”
“Capture your family’s memories and make them last a lifetime. Show off your beautiful children to friends and relatives whenever they stop by for dinner.”
Which photographer would you rather work with?
Example Benefit-Driven Headline: Capturing Your Family’s Memories One Photo at a Time
2. Make Them Curious
“There’s something I wanted to talk to you about,” Allan says to me one night as we sit down to dinner.
“What is it?” I ask, setting my fork down.
“Oh, never mind - it can wait until tomorrow,”
I don’t know about you, but nothing drives me crazy quite like having someone start to tell me something and then saying something like, “oh, never mind.”
Studies have shown humans are curious creatures. The curiosity theory by George Loewenstein in the early 90s explains it as a gap in between what we know and what we want to know. He explains that, “it feels like a mental itch, a mosquito bite on the brain. We seek out new knowledge because we that's how we scratch the itch.”
In other words, making your audience curious is a great way to keep them engaged. Just don’t end up saying, “never mind.” That is essentially all clickbait.
Example Curiosity Headline: Learn How This Female Entrepreneur Made $1M in Under 1 Month
3. Help Them Visualize
Oh, the power of visualization. Just saying that brings up images of “Yes Man”-style conferences and mindset coaches whispering, “just visualize your success and you will have it!”
Whether you believe in the law of attraction, practice visualization techniques, or just believe whatever happens, happens, because it’s supposed to - you can’t deny that visualization has extraordinary power.
What if I said you could take this power and use it to increase engagement and conversion rates on your website? No, really, sit back and think for a moment what this would look like. You’d get more customers, have extra $$$ in the bank (to save, of course!), and build up a community so large you’d never have to spend money on shitty advertising again.
See what I mean?
If you can help your audience visualize the reward they’ll get from working with you, you’re much more likely to get them to do just that. You can do this through analogies, metaphors, or just by saying, “Imagine if…”.
Example Visual Headline: You Can Be As Successful As Oprah; Here’s How
4. Address a Major Concern
If your target audience has landed on your website, chances are, they’re looking to fix a problem. It’s your job to tell them, with your headline, how you can help them solve that problem.
This is actually fairly simple. Think for a moment: what major challenges do you solve for your customer?
Going back to the photography example, maybe your customer is concerned about missing out on key life moments. They want to capture every moment of their child growing up - from when they learned their first word to college graduation. In that case, the headline would look a little like:
Example Concern-Addressing Headline: Don’t Miss Out On Your Child’s Life: We’ll Capture Every Important Moment
5. Specify a Goal They’ll Achieve
Goals are important. They help to make sure everything we put effort and energy into ends up somewhere meaningful.
Some goals, however, are difficult to achieve without a helping hand. Maybe you know you want 5,000 newsletter subscribers by the end of the year, but you’re not quite sure exactly how to get there. So, what do you do? You might ask a friend, colleague, or the handy-dandy Doctor Google.
If you make clear from the beginning what goal you’re helping your audience achieve, you can help them visualize (hey, that sounds familiar!) the success they’ll get from working with you.
Example Goal-Specifying Headline: How to Get 5,000 Email Subscribers in 90 Days
6. Identify Your Target Audience
Have you ever come across an article - whether sponsored on Facebook or through a Google search - that looked like it was written just for you? It might have said something like “The Female Entrepreneurs’ Basic Guide to Google Analytics”, for example.
There’s so much content out in the world. A lot of it is bad - it’s simply regurgitated content that you can already find on 50 other articles saying exactly the same thing. There are a million guides to Google Analytics, for example.
One great way to make your content - and your headline - stand out is to identify a specific target audience. As you’re writing it, think about: who is my ideal persona and what challenges are they facing that I can address specifically?
If you’ve done this correctly, your audience is a lot more likely to come upon your headline and say, “hey - that’s for me. Let me check it out!”
Example Audience-Targeting Headline: 10 Ways Freelance Graphic Designers Can Get Paid More
7. Tell Your Story
What makes you different from your competition? What is it about you that your audience can resonate with?
It’s your story.
Your story is what makes you unique. It defines how you got to where you are today and gives your customers a glimpse into who you are. And, in some cases, it’s a source of inspiration that makes your audience say, “hey - that worked for her. Maybe it’ll work for me?”
A great way to create truly unique content and an interesting headline is to tell your own personal story. This can work for a blog post, a services page, or even in an elevator pitch.
Example Storytelling Headline: How I Went From Broke and Confused to Making $150K a Year Doing What I Love
Headlines are just the beginning. Once you’ve captured your audience’s attention, it’s your job to keep it throughout the entire page - just long enough to convert them into a lead.
I offer content and copywriting services that can help you spruce up your website, write blog posts, or improve your About page. Start with a free 30-minute consultation where we’ll dive into your specific goals and determine whether we’re a good fit for each other!