Could the livelihood of your business really come down to just 8 words? Yes.
I know, if I gave you 8000 words, you could dazzle me with your brilliance and convince me that I should listen to and buy from you, and only you. But, no one is going to give you 8000 words, or 800, or even 80.
Why do you only get 8 words to capture your audience of potential clients?
You know the answer to that one. Just take a look at your day.
You go to your email inbox, and choose which ones to read based on this:
Your RSS reader likely presents the blog posts from the day in a similar fashion. My Feedly inbox looks like this:
On Twitter, you’re limited to 140 characters. Facebook claims status updates of 90 characters or less do best. And even Google+ has taken the “description” out of the snippet that shows when you share an article there, leaving you with just the headline of the article.
Not only are we too busy to make decisions based on more than 8 words, we’re conditioned to make such decisions by what we’re given.
So, what are those 8 words? You guessed it ~ your headline. (Yes, it could be a few more words, or a few less, but “6-10” wouldn’t have made a very compelling headline for this article . . .)
Whether it’s the headline of your blog post, or the headline of the email you send to your subscriber list, you better treat it like a college final, or else . . . your audience will read the headlines of those who do, and click through to their articles and offers. Of course this leaves you unread, undiscovered and unpaid.
Headline Writing Secrets of the Rich and Famous
So, you know it’s important, but what’s the right way to craft an attention-grabbing headline? I’ll give you lots of ideas, but if you’re a skimmer, I want to make sure you get this take-away:
The key to writing an effective headline is to create curiosity in your potential reader.
Can you read your headline and say to yourself, “My audience will be so curious as to what I’m talking about that they won’t be able to stop their finger from clicking through?” If not, keep working.
Yes, I’ve spent an hour shaping the perfect 8 words, and so will you. But it’s worth it. Because if you don’t achieve curiosity, you might as well not bother writing the 800 words that follow the headline.
There are two parts to the perfect headline, and you have to get them both right. It’s much like the two sides of your brain ~ the left being the technical side, and the right being the creative side. As to your headline, the left “technical” side is the template, and the right “creative” side is the emotion. Let’s look at how to create each side.
5 Templates for Designing a Compelling Headline
These 5 templates are effective, and popular. They are a good starting point. As you get comfortable with your writing style, you’ll develop more templates that work for you.
Number templates are good because people like to be told how to do things in a finite, step-by-step fashion. When it comes to money, or a number of people, specific numbers work best because they feel like “real” results. Here are some good examples:
6 Steps to Make Sure Your Message is Heard
How I Turned a 40,000 Word Guide into 361, 494 Visitors and 8421 Email Opt-ins
30 Quick Conversion Tips Every Marketer Needs to Know
NEW VIDEO: $953,862.00 case study 🙂
2. How to . . .
This one is mostly common sense. Your audience wants you to teach them how to do things. The possibilities are endless here:
How to Get 1000 Blog Subscribers in 30 Days
How to Do Social Media Right
How to Connect Google Plus and YouTube
How to Start a Business Without a Big Bank Account
How to Build a Profitable Business While You Raise Happy Kids
Questions can either have obvious answers (of course I want to know how to make $1 million in a month!), or can peak your potential reader’s curiosity enough to make her want to find out the answer:
12,656 People Reading YOUR Book on Amazon?
Is Your Social Media Strategy a Waste of Time?
Are You Doing These 9 Things Wrong in Bed?
Want to Know What Makes Content Truly Successful?
People can relate to things better when you give them a time frame. It makes what you’re telling them more real and doable. Giving your reader a number allows them to set a goal and measure results. Again, the possibilities are endless, but here are some good examples:
76,469 in 4 months
Transform Your Body in 90 Days
Make-up Tricks that Erase 10 Years
30 Days to a Better Blog
5. Fast and Easy
Everyone is looking for ways to make life more effortless. Including words like “fast,” “easy,” “quick,” and “simple” is good:
7 Simple Ways to Convert Your Visitors Into Customers
1 Simple Facebook Trick (That Has Huge Benefits)
Get Ahead Faster: 12 Brilliant (and Slightly Badass) Ways to Do It
17 Quick and Easy Ways to Earn More Cash
5 Emotions that Evoke Curiosity
Having a template won’t do you a lot good if you can’t stir up an emotion in your potential reader that peaks his curiosity. If you can combine a good template with a good emotion, you’re almost guaranteed to be read by a good number of people.
You can’t go wrong with these 5 emotions.
Your readers will always appreciate being warned about something bad that might happen. You can either address a fear you know your audience has, or make them aware of something they should fear, but may not know about (and of course, offer a way they can avoid it happening to them!). Some good examples:
Read This or Go Broke
The One Asset a Business Must Have By Definition
If You’re NOT Doing This, You’re Leaving Money on the Table
Why Most Business Partnerships Don’t Work
Displaying this Emotion Can Endanger Your Life
Who doesn’t want to be happier? If what you’re talking about can improve your reader’s quality of life, say so:
Why You’re Not Getting What You Want
Want MY Blueprint on Designing a Life You Love?
The Article That Can Make You Feel Happier Almost Instantly
100 Ways to Live a Better Life
If your reader thinks you’re going to reveal something to her that most people don’t know, they want that information. Everyone wants the “inside scoop,” especially if it will give them a leg up on others. These headlines often contain the word “secret,” but don’t have to:
These People Will Make You Smarter
Creative Ways to Make Money
A Shocking Thing 68% of Chicks Do in Bed
The 3 Words You Must NEVER Say to a Guy
The Secret to a More Engaged Twitter Following
It’s always nice to feel like a Very Important Person. This emotion works especially well when emailing your list. If you can make people feel like you are writing to them individually, as opposed to a list of thousands of people, they’ll want to read it. Getting personal and admitting mistakes occasionally is also a nice touch. Article headlines that show people how to stand out from the crowd are also effective. Some good ones:
Most of My Readers Won’t See This
Behind the Scenes Tour with Kevin . . .
I Had it All Wrong [From Pam]
The Simple Truth of How to Get Your New Blog Noticed
5. Pattern Interrupt
A pattern interrupt is an unexpected interruption in the flow of thought. This is harder to pull off, but perhaps the most effective. It works really well when you are telling a story to your reader. Basically, any headline your reader completely would not expect to see from you qualifies here:
How Not to Win Any Marketing Awards Ever
What Being on a Plane in a Tornado Taught Me About Trust
If a 74 year old Florida Grandmother Can Do This
Weird Stuff that has Happened to Me
The Problem with Kids and Clients
(weird story) trashy magazines + sleazy novels = money
Dorks at Band Camp
Could Mother Teresa Have Been a Successful Network Marketer?
Meow!: Why Acting Just Like a Cat Will Get People to Come to You
Especially with the pattern interrupt, but really with all of these, you have to make sure your article or email delivers what your headline promises. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read an article that promised to reveal “6 secrets,” but instead gave the 6 most commonly known points on the subject.
Your readers will not be forgiving. They will quickly stop clicking on your awesomely-crafted headlines if they suspect their curiosity won’t be satisfied by doing so.
How to Write Good Headlines Quickly
I’m glad you didn’t stop reading when I told you it’s possible to spend an hour crafting the right headline. None of us have time to do that with every article we write. I hope that the above examples I gave you are a good start to your headline template collection. Use them. Just change a few words to make it apply to your article.
Each of the headlines I gave you came from a massive file of thousands of headlines I’ve gathered over the years. Here are my favorite sources for finding quality headlines to use as templates for my own articles. (And yes, it’s fine to do this. Just don’t use someone else’s headline word-for-word):
The Grocery Store: Cosmopolitan, World News, and similar magazines you see in the check-out line are great sources for headline templates. Yes, tips for the bedroom can become tips for your blog! Even if you shop at Whole Foods, I’ve found a lot of good headlines on the Yoga and Green Living magazines they tend to stock.
Alltop: Curates the RSS feeds of hundreds of blogs, which makes it a quick and easy way to browse through lots of headlines. They aren’t all great, but there are enough good ones to get your creativity flowing.
Amazon: Simply search your keywords and you’ll find book titles that have pushed their authors to the best seller list.
Early to Rise, Neil Patel, and Frank Kern: I recommend that you subscribe to the email list of each of these marketers. Even if you never read a word they send (and you should!), just their headlines will fill your swipe file.
Start a swipe file on your computer where you keep a list of: (1) every email you’ve opened because of the subject line, (2) every headline that’s made you click on a blog article, and (3) every grocery store headline that’s tempted you to go against your better judgment and open the latest issue of Cosmo. This swipe file will be a great time-saving resource when you’re drawing a blank on writing your next headline.
Other headline writing tips you have? Or characteristics you see that make you click? Please share in the comments below.