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How to Write Headings That Grab Readers

Kim Brebach - Monday, October 08, 2012

How great headings will get your content read

They don't 'read' anymore. 

The digital world's information glut have caused people to stop reading. There just isn’t time, so visitors to your website or blog will skip-read or just check the headlines. They'll look for things that stand out and grab attention. They want to ‘cut to the chase’ and make snap decisions about what to read, keep, share or delete.

While your subject might be of huge value to your audience, if your headlines and subtitles don’t grab them, they'll never find out. There's an art in crafting engaging headlines, and you need to learn it. It begins by putting yourself in your visitor’s shoes and asking: What problem will this solve for me? What pain will it ease? What will I get out of this? WIIFM (what's in it for me)?

Example 1. Cut and polish

See if this headline from a website that gives advice on blogging grabs your attention:

Increase Blog Traffic With These Four Free Techniques

I don’t think so, and here’s why not: the headline is missing an essential element. If you promise to increase traffic, it’s a good idea to use a number that quantifies the increase. Better would be: Increase Blog Traffic by 30% With These 4 Free Techniques

It’s still a clunky headline that needs more work. Either Four or Free has to go. Four is specific, and numbers work in headlines, so it stays (as a Roman numeral). Cost is most likely not top-of-mind for visitors at this point. And These doesn’t add anything, nor do the capitals. Better would be:

Increase blog traffic by 30% with 4 simple techniques.

Still not a great headline but much more likely to get traction.

Example 2: Start all over

One Simple Change You Can Make To Improve Your Blog Post In Under 5 Minutes

There are far too many words for a headline here, which hails from the same website as the last one. It doesn’t reflect what the author is talking about either. He talks about the many blog posts that ‘let us down in the last few paragraphs,’ and adds, ‘as blog writers, we have a certain responsibility to our readers to make sure that they are left with something valuable after they have visited our sites and spent some time with us.’

He suggests a call to action or a piece of wisdom that leaves readers feeling they got something valuable from the post. Ending on a high note, if you like. This is good advice, but the headline doesn’t reflect the message. What we have here then is a headline that doesn’t work as a headline, and doesn’t really describe the message in the post. That’s a double demerit.

One simple change can make your blog post memorable is a better headline but still doesn’t tell readers what we’re talking about (which is OK since we’re not misleading anyone)

Give your blog posts more punch with strong endings is just as short and tells the reader what she will find here (then we have to show her how to craft strong endings, but that’s another story).

Example 3: The irresistible headline

This one comes from Sean Platt, a writer and blogger of some renown.

The 4 Words That Will Get Your Email Opened

That’s a killer headline, a headline that will make just about anyone who sends bulk emails to mailing lists stop and read the post. No wonder Sean’s Post had a better than 90% open rate. There only problem with making a big call like that: you’d better be sure you have something special to put table at Show & Tell time. Sean does: You are not alone. Another way of saying that is: Lots of people wrestle with the problem you’re wrestling with, so lets talk about it and see if we can share some solutions.

Simple, isn’t it?

Genius so often is.


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Kim Brebach
Content Chief

I've always loved people and words. As long as I can remember, I've been a story-teller and the team here says I'm pretty good at it. That's probably why I head up the Content Team: I create the arc of the story and others add their magic. 

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The case studies are fabulous. I don’t know how you got quotes like that out of customers. They’re priceless and were written and approved in record time, so customers must’ve been happy about them. More than that, we didn’t have to worry about a thing. It was all just done for us.
Neil Bolton
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