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How to Write Awesome Headlines That Get People Clicking

Remember, every section of compelling copy has just one purpose, to get the next sentence read so, it’s fairly obvious that if people stop at the headline, you’re already dead in the water.

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You’ve created some awesome copy for a Google ads campaign or killer content for a blog and you can’t wait to share it…bad news hotshot, if you haven’t got a great headline to kick it off then you might as well not bother!

This isn’t us being mean, it’s the truth.

In fact, only 20% of people who see your post will carry on reading and follow your cues – 8 out 10 people will read your headline but only 2 out of 10 will read any further.

The chances are this number will decrease even further as the online world becomes even more crowded.

You might have spent the whole day creating the best blog post of your life or maybe you’ve spent days crafting the perfect landing page and ad copy for a new digital campaign…if the headline is duller than dishwater on a really dull day then your words may never even get read.

Should you write your headline or copy first - it's the chicken and the egg situation!

WHAT CAME FIRST, THE CHICKEN OR THE EGG?

One of the most frequently asked questions is what comes first – do you write the content or the headline first.

The answer is; there is no answer. There isn’t a hard and fast rule that dictates how you should compile your content.

The important thing at the start is having focus, knowing what your topic is and what your intent is; is it a message to sell, inform, solve a problem, create debate or provide some much needed light-hearted relief?

Once you have your topic and intent then you can draft a headline – much as a film or song may have a working title.

If something engaging doesn’t spring to mind then go for something simple and descriptive, you can go back and change the headline as many times as you want as you start going through your content.

Honestly, it can be the dullest headline ever – as long as it gives you a starting point then run with it…no one ever needs to know how bad it was!

Frustrated woman writing headlines for blogs at her laptop

SPEND HALF YOUR TIME WORKING ON A PUNCHY HEADLINE

If you’re in marketing and advertising then you will have heard the name David Ogilvy.

Widely known as the ‘Father of Advertising’ and ‘Original Mad Man’, he founded Ogilvy & Mather and put his huge success down to ‘meticulous research into consumer habits’

His advice is as relevant today as it was back then, take this quote for example;

“On average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”

He said this back in the 60’s – when people saw just a fraction of the headlines that they do today.

Back then it was newspapers, magazines and TV – now we have more channels than ever; more newspapers, magazines and, of course, all the content that is put out online each day and which lives on forever.

This means that you need to spend time crafting the perfect headline to hook people in…you can’t just play fast and loose with it!

person doing a marketing brainstorm to come up with headlines for articles

ONE HEADLINE JUST ISN’T ENOUGH

You’ve got your topic, your intent, your working title and you’ve honed the content to make it engaging and valuable.

Now’s the time to grab a cuppa and get to work on creating the best headline to drive clicks and engagement.

Professional copywriters will, in general, brainstorm a good 20 or so headlines before working through the list and finally opting for one that they think will stand out and do its job.

You heard us right, 20 or more headlines!

Ogilvy once wrote 37 headlines for a Sears Roebuck ad.

A lot, we know, but it’s not a wasted exercise – in fact, it’s good practice, not just in terms of honing your skills but also because it will leave you with a number of headlines that can also be used to promote the content on other platforms.

Think about it, your headline will likely appear in a number of different places such as a blog post, email, social media, and search engines at the least.

Using a different, but equally engaging headline every time, keeps it fresh and can encourage different people to check you out.

If your headline is for an ad campaign then you don’t really know which headline will be the most ‘clickable’ until you test it; you’ll have your own favourite and maybe even a little inkling of which one will work best but until you’ve actually tested it, you’ll never really know.

Having a good selection to choose from will save you time when it comes keeping your campaign fresh.

lightbulb used as the body to a cartoon man - lightbulb moment!

Freaking out at the prospect of writing that many headlines? There are some simple wins that you can experiment with such as

  • How-To Headlines – offering simple and easy to follow advice, just like this
  • Listicles – countdowns, top 10s, you number it and we love it. Using numbers in the headline make it even better!
  • Ask a Question – questions breed curiosity and while you might have been told never to ask a ‘closed’ question, when it comes to headlines they really work on converting to clicks. If the question leaves you answering a simple yes or no in your head, give it a go!

ONE SIZE DOESN’T FIT ALL

Another reason to create a variety of headlines is the appearance on different platforms.

Your blog post title can be longer than the Meta Title that appears in search engine results.

The leading line on emails need to sharp and punchy so aim for around 50 characters to encourage a click while on Facebook you can at least double that and look at closer to 100-140 characters.

Using a tool such as Yoast SEO can help you when it comes to placing different text for different platforms, including the all-important meta titles. 

attention span of a goldfish

AND THAT’S ALMOST IT!

Before you hit publish, take a second to read back through your content and also make sure you have relevant and eye-catching sub-headings.

The average attention span is just 8.25 seconds so the body of your text need to hold attention and sign-post your readers through the content.

Remember, every section of compelling copy has just one purpose, to get the next sentence read.

And then the sentence after that, and so on, all the way down to your call to action.

So, it’s fairly obvious that if people stop at the headline, you’re already dead in the water.

For help creating copy that works, contact our copywriting team today!

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