A Simple Headline Writing Tip That Gets More Readers

numbers in headlines
Want to hear a simple headline writing tip? It’s become extraordinarily popular recently, but the truth is that this headline secret has been used since the days of Claude Hopkins in the 1920s to get readers to stop and take notice.

It’s really easy too. And, it doesn’t even involve using words.

What do these headlines have in common?

“8 Habits of Highly Effective Copywriters”

This works because it promises something short (only eight items to remember) and offers a big promise.  Learn a few new habits and your writing will be far more effective. The unspoken payoff is that you’ll then earn more and get more clients.

“How to Write a Blog Post in 15 Minutes”

This headline offers to help you do something hard (write a blog post) and cut the time needed to a fraction of what you probably expected it to take.

“Increase Your Blog Subscription Rate by 153%”

This promises specific, definite results.  Not just 150%, but 153. The exact number makes the claim far more credible.

“103 Ways to Get Top Bloggers to Link to You”

We want more links because links can bring more traffic and more clicks.  Offering over a hundred different ways to do it, and telling us that we can not only get those links, but receive them from top bloggers is a compelling promise.

15 Marketing Terms You Need to Know

The common theme is that they all have numbers in them. I know, everyone “hates” list posts, but they do get people to stop and look. And, the secret to successful marketing isn’t what you personally prefer. It’s what works.

Why numbers work

Numbers work because they force us to focus – and because they give us a finite, concrete sounding example of something; only 15 minutes to write a great post, or 103 ways to get noticed by blogging superstars.  Spend a few minutes reading these tips and you’ll get something concrete and important when you’re finished.

The more specific the number, the better.  For example, if you increased your subscription rate by 153%, don’t round it down to 150%, the “odd’ number looks more believable.

Lists and checklists

Lists help us process information and tell our brains that we’re getting a reward. A short list tells us that we can find out something useful in just a few minutes. A longer one shouts that it’s definitive and comprehensive.

A list called “five steps to getting clients on Facebook” tells us that if we just do five things, we’ll be able to turn our Facebook efforts into a powerful marketing tool. “101” Copywriting Tricks” promises information that will make our writing better and more effective, all in an easy-to-follow format.  Just go through the list and you’ve accomplished something big.

Bullet points and lists may be the “fast food” equivalent of post writing, but they’re easier to read (and finish) than a gourmet meal of long paragraphs.

Just follow the list! You’re now a better writer, a twitter guru, or irresistible to reporters.
And, who can resist something that will make you irresistible?

Image by Daniel Ullrich via Flickr

Friday Fun: End of Year Holiday Party

Champagne and pate on Thanksgiving.

Image via Wikipedia

Get our your champagne glasses and your funny hats.  It’s time for the end of year holiday party.  Last year, I had a roundup of posts by topic. Here’s the list:

Five Free Ways to Market Your Business

What Every Marketer Ought to Know in the New Year

Creative Ways to Write Great Headlines

Get More From Your Email Marketing

Do You Make These Common Marketing Mistakes?

This year, I’m going to do something different. A countdown of my five best posts (ever). Stay tuned for number five on Monday, counting down to number one next Friday. (Hey, why should Casey Kasem – sorry Ryan Seacrest doesn’t count) have all the fun?

Meanwhile, happy, merry, and joyful to all of you.

Top 10 Most Popular Posts. Ever.

33rd America's Cup - Valencia, SpainThey certainly are a varied bunch (everything from fishing to sins to target practice, well sort of).

What Every Marketer Can Learn From Fishermen

Are You Reading These Blogs?

102 Great Headlines

Announcing a Painless Way to Stretch Your Marketing Dollars

A Marketing Mistake You Should Never Make

Is Your Marketing Missing Its Target?

Seven Legit Marketing Ideas From the Spam Folder

What a Giant Squid Can Teach the New York Times About Publishing

How to Write Headlines Your Readers Can’t Resist

7 Deadly Web Copy Mistakes

Actually, this gives me an idea.  Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post (your input needed).

OOPS:  Thought I posted this hours ago.  Apparently I never hit publish!

What’s Wrong with These Headlines?

Toppling of Saddam - newspapers

newspapers by Dan Brady via Flickr

Do you know one of the most important headline writing rules?

Here are some random headlines I took from Google News this morning:

Hunter Mahan wins Bridgestone Invitational with final-round 64


Rwandan president expected to win election handily


In the Gulf, scientific questions still lurk beneath the surface


The Other Guys’ Captures Audiences at Weekend Box Office

Any idea what’s wrong?

There’s a common thread in each of these headlines.  Every one of them has broken the first rule of writing headlines.

If you don’t know, the primary function of a headline is to arouse interest, entice the reader… and encourage them to keep reading.

Each of these headline writers has failed that test.  They’ve given the entire story away in the headline.  There’s no reason to click on the link or read more. Anyone seeing the headline already knows what happened, without bothering to read the entire article.

Why headlines matter

The purpose of a headline is to start you thinking or wondering. A good headline is the flag that waves down passers-by and says, “pay attention, you’ll want to know more about this.”

Five times as many people read the headline as the body copy. Five times. A bad headline equals poor readership and poor results. A story with headlines like these will get fewer clicks. That also means fewer ad impressions, fewer readers, and fewer potential subscribers or buyers.

Before you write a headline for your ad, or your blog post, think about whether you’re giving the whole story away.



Tips for Great Headlines Without Writing

magazine stand imageWriting headlines is hard.  You know (cause I’ve gone on and on about it) that the headline is what gets attention.  Write a bad headline, nobody reads your article.

Give everything away in the headline and there’s no need to read further. A headline that says, “Fed Raises Interest Rates One Percent” has told you the entire story.  On the other hand, a headline that says, “How the Fed Rate Rise Affects Your Savings” promises to explain how that action will affect your wallet (and your savings).  Big difference.

Good headlines engage your readers’ emotions; they become charged up, excited, curious, and suddenly alert.

They’re interested and they want to read more!

But sometimes  your brain is just stuck on neutral.  Nothing.  Nada.  Zip.

Luckily, there are some tips you can use to write a great headline with very little work.

Have Google do it

Search for your topic and check out the sponsored links and ads.   This tells you if there are a lot of other pages and posts on the topic and if it’s worth pursuing further.

Then, use Google’s keyword tool to see how many searches are made with those words.

Use a headline tool

Try the linkbait generator.  Type in a topic and get a catchy headline. You may have to revise it a bit (it’s a robot and sometimes the combinations it comes up with are a bit silly.  But silly or not, it helps to get you thinking.

Fill in the blanks

(OK, this requires some writing, but very little)

Who Else Wants to _______?

Little Known Ways to ________

Get Rid of [Problem] Once and For All

The Lazy [Bloggers/Developers/Designers] Way to [Get More Traffic/Code Faster/Get More Clients]

_____ That Wow

There! You’ve just written a week’s worth of headlines without writing very much.

On Monday, why these headlines work.

Image thanks to Mannoobhai