Writing headlines

Is the process of writing headlines that capture attention of the reader really that important?  That is a good question.  After all, the real meat of your article, blog, post or ad isn’t in the headline…or even the imagery, it is in the text.  However, people will never read your text if the headline doesn’t first capture their attention.

From an early age we were taught that you only have one chance to make a good first impression.  Have you ever been greeted by a handshake that felt like a dead fish, or a sweaty palm?  Did that leave a good impression on you?  Heck no!

Headlines are no different.  Your headline is that first handshake between strangers and it can make or break your future relationship.  A good headline will compel the reader to action to see what’s behind the title, clicking their way directly to your web site or landing page.  On the other hand, an unimaginative headline will send the reader adrift, on their way to something more persuasive.

The 80/20 rule

Studies show that 8 out of 10 people will read the headline but only 2 of 10 will read the accompanying copy.  Why is this?  Why don’t people hang on every word you utter or write?  The answer is revealing.  Most people don’t care about you and your product…not like you do.  In fact, they won’t ever care until you give them a reason to care.

I know what you are thinking, this doesn’t answer the question about the 80/20 rule.  In a roundabout way, it does.  You see, we live in a self absorbed world where most people scan over copious amounts of media in search of what interests them.  And by scan, I mean they read headlines searching for a connection.  Headlines…not articles, not entire blog posts, just headlines.

So if I live in a smog filled city and the headline references air pollution as the leading cause of lung cancer, I may take notice because that article sounds like it would pertain to me.


Does Accuracy Matter?

A few years ago the Daily Express, a U.K. news paper published an article with the headline “Air Pollution Now The Leading Cause Of Lung Cancer”.  Now that is a provocative headline that makes you take notice, especially if you live in one of those smog filled cities I mentioned earlier.  However, while the article did mention that air pollution was the leading environmental cause of lung cancer, it went on to say that smoking is still the main culprit.

Because the headline was deceptive and didn’t accurately portray the context of the article, the readers were left unsatisfied and felt deceived.  A deceptive headline will break the trust of the reader who may choose to ignore future interactions with your headlines.  Knowing that your headline won’t deliver what you say means what you promise you can’t deliver.

Google Search

Think of your headline as a Google Search.  If I am interested in how to purchase radio advertising, a Google search for Radio Advertising will not produce relevant topics.  However a search for How Do I Purchase Radio Advertising or How Do I Buy Cheap Radio Air Time will yield more accurate results .  If you think about your headline in terms of how people search, you will be on the right track.

why are headlines important


Some Rules of writing headlines

There are a few basic rules about headlines that will help you in your quest.

*Headlines must sell your product or you have wasted your money.

*News headlines have higher engagement rates.

*Headlines need to provide a benefit.

*Longer headlines sell more than shorter headlines.

*Headlines should contain the name of the product.


How many times in your life have you said to yourself, “I wish I could do that over again”?  Unfortunately, you only have one chance to make a good first impression with a headline.  So make the best of your time and write compelling, captivating and sometimes provocative headlines that will stand out from the clutter and deliver.