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Business Blogging
Email Course

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Lesson 4:

Write a killer headline

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Now that you have an idea of the topics you’re going to write about for your business blog, and how and when you’re going to publish them, it’s time to start creating the actual content.

And the best place to start is with your headline. Many people skim over the headline, not paying it much attention at all. But the title of your blog post is just as important, if not more so, than the content itself.

The title says it all

According to Copyblogger’s 80/20 rule of headlines,

“On average, 8 out of 10 people will read a headline, but only 2 out of 10 will go on to read the content.”

The title is what draws people in. There’s no point having great content if nobody reads it. And they won’t read it unless you grab their attention with a great title.

According to the 4-U approach taught by AWAI (American Writers & Artists Inc), your headlines must:

  • Be USEFUL to the reader,
  • Provide him with a sense of URGENCY,
  • Convey the idea that the main benefit is somehow UNIQUE; and
  • Do all of the above in an ULTRA-SPECIFIC way.

4 tips for attention-grabbing headlines

So, how do you ensure your headlines are fulfilling all these requirements? Follow our 4 tips and you can’t go far wrong.

1. Make a promise

A great title should make a promise. It should clearly state what the reader will learn or gain from reading the article, with just the right amount of mystery to keep them interested.

So, you need to make an intriguing promise that’s irresistible to your audience. And understanding your audience is key here. As we saw in lesson 1, it’s so important to get to know and understand your customers, readers and email subscribers. Who are they? What are they interested in? What do they need? What problems do they face that you can help solve?

Using words like “how”, “why” and “what” in your headlines is a clear way of stating your promise and grabbing your readers’ attention. Make sure your promise is specific and to the point.

For example, if this lesson was a blog post we might title it, “How to write killer headlines for your blog”. This would set out exactly what our promise is (how to write killer headlines) and be specific about the context (for your blog). We could even go further and include the benefits of the promise with, “How to write killer headlines for your blog so that more people will read it”.

2. Do your research

It’s a good idea to do some research into headlines that have been proven to work in the past. You could study headlines from the following sources:

  • direct response advertising headlines
  • magazines
  • tabloids
  • popular blogs

You can then use these as a basis for your own headlines, by editing them to fit your content.

3. Learn why

Rather than just copying someone else’s headline, you need to understand why it works. This will help you formulate more headlines in the future, as you’ll have a better understanding of what works and why, for your particular audience.

This is largely a matter of research combined with trial and error. If you learn which kinds of headline structure work best for your audience, and how to tweak it to best fit your audience, you’ll be generating great headlines in no time, which will attract more visitors to your blog.

4. Be credible

Remember we said a good headline always makes a promise? Well, now you have to make it credible and deliver on that promise.

It’s important to have high quality content to back up the promise you made in your headline, otherwise readers won’t come back. Nobody likes an empty promise – it encourages a lack of trust and respect.

So, keep checking back to your headline and make sure you’ve delivered the goods with your content. Your aim is to inform and entertain your audience, whilst instilling authority and demonstrating your expertise. If your readers feel you’ve done this (whether consciously or unconsciously), they’re more likely to want to read your content in future.

9 ways to write a great headline

We know we need to make an intriguing promise with our headline, but just how do we do that? There are many different approaches when it comes to writing a killer headline, but these 9 proven formulas from Copyblogger are a great place to start:

  1. Say it simply and directly. No fuss, no wordplay, just be direct.
  2. State the big benefit. Be upfront about your No.1 selling point.
  3. Announce exciting news. Write a headline that suggests news rather than advertising.
  4. Appeal to the “how to” instinct. But make sure you highlight the main benefit not the process itself.
  5. Pose a provocative question. But don’t make it random or clever. It must relate directly and clearly to the major benefit of the product.
  6. Bark a command. Be dictatorial rather than conversational: this allows you to be direct, provide a benefit and take a commanding posture simultaneously.
  7. Offer useful information. People don’t just want more information, they want to simplify their life and feel organised. Offer useful hints, tips and advice to help them.
  8. Relay an honest, enthusiastic testimonial. People like to know what others are saying.
  9. Authenticate your proposition with a little something extra. People distrust sales copy so use something a little quirky or specific to help add believability.

Remember: you must understand why a headline works before attempting to use it.

Headlines proven to work

There are 2 types of headline which are very popular right now, which you’ve undoubtedly seen a hundred times:

  • The “How to” headline, and
  • The “list” headline.

These headline formulas are foolproof – following one of these is a sure way to ensure your blog post will attract attention.

The “How to” headline

The “How to” headline is one of the most effective headline types in the world. To maximise its effects you should emphasise how people’s lives will be improved by reading the article, using words like “easier”, “better”, ”happier”, etc. It’s also important to focus on the benefits.

For example:

  • “How to Start a Conversation With Strangers at a Networking Event” (Entrepreneur)
  • “How To Create An Easy Content Marketing Strategy You’ll Actually Use” (Forbes)
  • “How to Plan Meals and Make Your Life Easier” (Huffington Post)

The “list” headline

The “list” headline is also very effective and makes a very specific promise. It makes the article easy to follow for the reader and also provides an easy structure for the writer to follow when crafting the article.

For example:

  • “8 Public Speaking Techniques To Wow Your Audience” (Brian Tracy)
  • “5 Common Grammar Mistakes to Avoid in Business Writing” (Shutterstock)
  • “13 DIY Decor Solutions That Will Make Your Life Easier” (House Beautiful)

Other proven formulas

Apart from the “how to” and “list” headlines, there are plenty of other tried and tested headline structures. Here are just a few examples:

  • Who Else Wants….?
  • The Secret of…
  • Here is a Method That is Helping… to…
  • Little Known Ways to…
  • Here’s a Quick Way to…
  • Have a… You Can Be Proud Of
  • What Everybody Ought to Know About…
  • The Lazy…’s Way to…
  • Do You Make These Mistakes?
  • Warning: …

How we do it at Wildheart

Here are 2 examples of headlines we’ve written for our blog that we think are pretty awesome:

4 things you need for successful content marketing

  • This headline follows the popular list format (‘4 things’).
  • It contains an important keyword for our business (‘content marketing’).
  • It contains the word ‘successful’, which appeals to our audience as a positive outcome.
  • It’s simple and to the point.

How to ride the content marketing wave to grow your business

  • This headline follows the ‘How to’ format, which is one of the most effective headline types in the world.
  • Again, it contains the keyword ‘content marketing’.
  • The benefit to our audience is clearly stated (‘grow your business’).
  • It also includes a metaphor (‘ride the wave’) to create a sense of story and intrigue.

Today’s task

So, now you’re armed with all the tools you need to write a killer headline, you can head back to your email to complete today’s task and start writing your own.

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