18 Jul 2020

7 Tested Techniques to Create a Powerful Headline

Headline writing is the foundation of our online experience. A well-written heading can perfectly capture the nature and tone of a specific piece of content and help us to prioritise what we decide to consume.

It’s important to remember that a headline can make or break your content:  8 out of 10 people will read your headline yet only 2 out of 10 will actually read the rest of your article.

With content marketing becoming so intensely competitive, it’s essential to have an edge. Articles will continue to be written and the market will continue to become more and more saturated. To ensure you stand out from the crowd, follow our 7 Tested Techniques to Create a Powerful Headline.

A poor headline can result in the following: 

Lack of Traffic

If your headline is dull, too descriptive or not informative enough, it’ll damage your traffic. It’s essential to give your audience a reason to initially click on your article.

Poor Rankings

Optimise your headline for a particular keyword or search term. Without this, there’s very little chance of ranking.

Loss of Trust & Excessive Clickbait

If you use an unrelated or misleading clickbait headline, users will learn to distrust your content – it only takes one bad experience to lose a reader’s trust. Excessive clickbait not only spurs false hope but most importantly, it leads to high bounce rates and Google lowering your ranking.  

Headline Clichés to Avoid

A poor headline can make a great article seem underwhelming. Here are some clichés that could devalue your content:

Empty Adjectives

‘Amazing’, ‘Spectacular’, ‘Awesome’

Using an empty adjective isn’t communicating anything of value to your article. As a brand, your audience chooses whether something is ‘amazing’, not you. 

Adjectives, however, can be evocative and engaging if they add realistic merit. For example: ‘7 essential tips’ is meaningful and is more enticing than simply saying ‘7 tips’. Using interesting and powerful adjectives add emotion to your headline.

Our Top 20 Recommended Adjectives to use in your Headline

Superlatives and meaningful adjectives will and pique the reader’s interest. We’ve highlighted a few below:

  • Essential
  • Horrific
  • Important
  • Killer
  • Mind-blowing
  • Persuasive
  • Simple
  • Ultimate
  • Valuable
  • Intriguing
  • Jaw-dropping
  • Disastrous
  • Exclusive
  • Powerful
  • Limited
  • Free
  • Tested
  • Improved
  • Expert
  • Advice

The 7 Rules of Headline Writing 

Chris Lim simplifies the purpose of a headline in 3 points: 

  • To Grab Attention
  • To Pique Curiosity
  • To Set Expectations

Follow these 7 pointers to ensure your headline meets its purpose and is ranked highly by Google. 

7. Think Hierarchically & Focus on H2s and H3s

It isn’t enough to simply focus solely on your main headline. Your H2s and H3s are also important. Readers tend to skim articles and eye-catching headings will grab and keep their attention. H2 relates to H1; H3 to H2 etc. These headings help the reader (and the search engines) understand how a text is structured, what each section is about and help the reader to easily find what they are looking for. 

6. Make it About the Reader & Know your Audience

Write for the reader – not the search engine

The sole purpose of the title is to lead to a click. Write informatively and ensure your message is valuable and accurate (matching the content on the landing page). Most content is written to help the reader, therefore using the audience referencing tactic (using the words ‘you’ and ‘your’ in your headline) is more personal and talks to the reader directly. This is confirmed in a study by Buffer into the most popular words in viral headlines, both ‘you’ and ‘your’ ranked among some of the highest. As Buffer writes: “make content about the reader, not about the writer.”

Understanding what your audience cares about will drive more clicks. Does your audience look for something descriptive and informative or will their interest be piqued by a more emotive approach?

5. Add Value & Be Specific

The saturation of content marketing has resulted in a lot of similar headlines being used. By offering unique and engaging content which adds real and actionable value to the reader, will save you from relying on clickbait tactics. Be sure to represent your distinctive content in the headline and let it speak for itself.

You may think an element of ambiguity is important if you want clicks. However, if you’re being too ambiguous, it can leave readers questioning what your article is actually about and result in a lack of curiosity and interest. 

When a searcher makes a particular query, they want a specific answer. If your article is answering a question or offering niche information, make that known.

4. Include Numbers (Digits not Letters) at the Start of your Headline

Neil Patel writes that headlines with numbers generate 73% more social shares and engagement. This powerful stat proves why lists should be included in your content strategy.

All in all, this is because list content is easier to digest and skim read. Remember, time is of the essence.

Titles with odd numbers claim to achieve 20% more clicks than those with even numbers. Beyond this, psychologists claim the number 7 is the most favourable digit for the majority of people (aligning perfectly with our brand: SeventhElement).

3. Incorporate Trigger Words: Why, When, What & How

If you are trying to persuade your readers to do something, for example, it’s better to use why and how. One tip here is to use either a trigger word or a number in your headlines, not both. 

2. Keep it Under 65 Characters

If your headline is longer than 65 characters it’ll be cut off in the SERPs. Following this rule also helps to keep your headlines direct and relevant. 

1. Keyword Research!

When you’re writing a headline (or any content for that matter) researching valuable keywords, is essential. 

SEO is incredibly important when it comes to headline writing. As Google is the primary traffic source to the majority of websites it’s important to consider the keywords you’re using in your headlines after you’ve done all of the above.

What are you targeting?

Long-tail search terms are often easier to rank for than generic keywords. Whatever strategy you choose, you need to ensure these relevant keywords fit naturally into your headline – preferably towards the start.

As with any optimisation, you need to ensure the user experience comes first. A perfectly optimised article which ranks first is pointless if it’s an uncomfortable read.

It’s important to gauge whether your headline will deliver. Try something new and measure the analytics. See whether the number of clicks and bounce rate increases or decreases. Just be careful not to damage your brand’s reputation in the process.

SeventhElement’s success formula has been distilled from years of experience; covering all elements – combining creative thinking, content & activation to deliver results that matter to you. 

Our team are experts in content marketing and fully equipped to fertilise your digital home; drop us a line.