How to write compelling headlines that attract readers

“You catch more flies with honey than vinegar” — an English proverb.

This proverb applies to headlines because it is about the power of positive thinking.

In other words, you make more friends by being nice than by being rude.

You get more readers with sweetness rather than sourness.

An attention-getting headline captures your reader’s attention right away and brings them in.

Headlines create that first impression of your content. They either draw your readers in or push them away.

If your headline is compelling, your readers will want to find out more right then and there.

The right headlines can draw in even the most disinterested and skeptical readers.

If your headlines are not compelling enough, you could be losing your audience to other blogs and websites and losing potential clients or customers.

So, how do you write compelling headlines that attract readers?

Here are 7 tips to help you write better headlines:

1. Make them emotional with positive and happy thoughts

CoSchedule analyzed more than 5.5 million headlines that have been entered into their Headline Analyzer tool.

coschedule headline analyzer

They combined that data with social sharing analytics and top content reports to understand what headlines work the best.

Their conclusion:

Emotional headlines that are positive and happy drive more shares.

Why?

The anticipation of positive benefits and emotions cause us to share.

When it comes to anticipation, our emotions play a big role in how we respond to our own curiosity.

In other words, most people anticipate happy experiences.

How to Write Emotional Headlines

How do you write emotional headlines?

You use words from a list of trigger words and a list of power words to empower your headlines with more emotion.

But make sure you have a balance of common, uncommon, emotional, and power words.

A structure with emotional balance helps your blog articles be readable yet command attention from your readers.

To see some headlines in action, check out this these seven emotional headline makeovers.

2. Keep them short, simple and specific

Let the reader know right away what your blog article is all about in your headlines.

Cut down on the length of your headlines. Your readers may be using their mobile devices so your headlines should be short and simple.

Less is more.

According to CoSchedule, the best length of headlines that earn the highest number of click-throughs is 55 characters and approximately 6 words.

CoSchedule Headline Length Analysis.PNG

Include numbers (there are certain numbers in headlines that perform better than others) and statistics.

In HubSpot’s study of their most shared blog posts, they found that headlines with numbers, years and fewer than nine words worked the best.

HubSpot Most Shared Posts

Don’t mislead or trick people into reading a blog article that is completely different than what the headline promises.

Give your readers some compelling reasons so they want to dive deeper.

Tease the story in the headline without giving it away.

When you are specific, you provide clarity to readers about what they will be getting with the content.

You can always use your sub-headline or intro paragraph to elaborate a catchy but short headline.

3. Tell your readers what they’re getting

Headlines that explain something make it clear to your readers that by doing X, you will get Y.

When you turn your headlines into explanations, your readers will know exactly what they are getting before they read more.

For example, you know what you are getting from this article published by the Business Insider:

Business Insider Morning RoutineWe want to feel like we have control over our world, so we seek out tips, tricks, rules, and systems that help us make sense of things.

Don’t always try to come up with something clever. You may be confusing your readers rather than drawing them in.

Tell your readers what they are getting in your headlines.

4. Use lists and “how to” in your headlines

List posts and how-to posts work well because they capture the attention of your readers and keep your readers on track and focused.

List blog posts

List blog posts or listicles are blog articles that are organized around a numbered list.

The numbered list posts are here to stay if you write them correctly.

The brain loves lists.

Why?

Our brains are organized to function in a specific way and we prefer ordered lists.

We have a strong desire for order and organization.

Numbered lists meet that desire.

Blog articles that are lists have been proven to get results, especially for generating website traffic.

How-to blog articles

How-to articles and headlines work well because they are so clear.

Your readers see immediately the benefits of reading the content.

According to research by BuzzSumo of 10 million articles shared on LinkedIn, they found that articles that begin with “how to” had the most shares.

Top-Two-Word-Phrases-Starting-B2B-Headlines.jpg

Your readers most likely are searching for information because they want to know how to do something better.

How-to articles and headlines help your readers learn how to do that something.

According to Brian Clark, the founder of Copyblogger, how-to articles are some of the most sought-after, linked to, and bookmarked content online.

5. Ask questions your readers are asking

Ask questions in your headline that your readers may be asking themselves.

They may ask what’s the difference between X and Y?

For example, when the new iPhone X was released, Forbes wrote this article about the difference between the iPhone X vs. the iPhone 8.

iPhone X vs iPhoneThe best questions are about something readers can relate to or want to know about.

Questions are powerful in the brain because they prime our curiosity and stimulate the brain.

Questions get your readers involved and get them to say “yes” to your content.

Don’t ask a question that your readers can say “no” to.

If you are using questions in your headlines, remember to at least tease the answer to your question in your introduction to keep your readers interested.

We turn to Google to find the answers to our questions.

Is your content answering those questions?

6. Make it timely by including a year

Add years to your headlines so it relevant for that year.

For example, one of the most popular blog articles on Knowledge Enthusiast has been top 20 marketing conferences you should attend in 2018.

HubSpot’s most shared blog posts, they found that headlines with years in them worked the best.

Years work in headlines because they help readers with expectation management so that they know exactly what they are getting into and they know the content is up-to-date and relevant.

7. Keep your readers guessing

A good headline keeps a little mystery so the readers want to read the entire blog article.

If your headlines are ambiguous, your readers won’t read the articles but a little mystery will pique their interest.

Curiosity requires a little bit of initial knowledge because we are not usually curious about something we know don’t anything about.

For example, this article published by the Business Insider may pique your interest since we all went to school at some point:

Facts Learned in School Business InsiderAs soon as we know even a little bit, our curiosity is piqued. we want to learn more.

In fact, research shows curiosity increases with knowledge.

The more we know, the more we want to know.

Carnegie Melon University professor George Loewenstein coined the term: curiosity gap to describe the gap “between what we know and what we want to know.”

This gap produces emotional consequences since we seek out new knowledge to scratch the mental itch.

It creates a feeling of loss so we seek out that missing information so we can stop feeling this way.

Bringing Everything Together

While a headline is one of the most important parts of your content, you still need to have “meat” or good, helpful information after your headlines.

It can’t be just clickbait headlines.

Your headline needs to answer the intent behind what your audience is searching for.

The key to writing good headlines is practice.

And the key is to really understand what works and doesn’t work for your readers.

It is an art and a science.

Take a look at other headlines and see what catches your eye. What makes you want to read the blog article?

There is no magic formula to writing headlines but following these seven tips mentioned above can help you with your headlines and capture the time and attention of your readers.

You will get more readers with sweetness rather than sourness.