How much content are we creating and publishing? Facebook users post 1.7 million pieces of content in 60 seconds, Instagram users share 95 million photos in 24 hours and Youtubers upload 720,000 hours of video.
That’s a lot of noise!
Why headlines matter
Because there is so much noise (content), capturing attention and holding reader engagement is a tough gig. And the importance of a great headline to capture eyeballs and clicks is more important than ever.
In a world of AI-driven content generation, the attention bar is going to get higher and harder and the content creation growth will be exponential.
Why are headlines important?
The job of the headline is to get people to read the first line. The job of the second line is to get people to read the third line. And so on.
It’s all about holding engagement to realize the goals of the content and article.
The other reasons a headline is vital include the following:
- Building brand awareness
- To convert attention into a lead (a name and email address)
- Or it could be to create trust and credibility
- To start the journey to sell a product or a service
- Or maybe just to entertain
Attention first and everything flows from that.
Next, you need to understand the power of using human emotions. Tap into the latest neuroscience and the psychology behind the art and science of headline writing.
Understanding the psychology of headlines
There are many emotions you need to use and experiment with when writing great headlines. Also, you need to understand that it is an imperfect science and you will need to have some fun and test and experiment.
As a writer, it is always satisfying to see the headline you write go viral. It is almost addictive and can lead to an almost obsessive attention-seeking behavior.
Writing a great headline often involves tapping into fundamental emotional triggers that resonate with readers.
These triggers can spark curiosity, evoke emotions, and drive engagement.
7 key emotional triggers
Writing a great headline involves tapping into the following fundamental emotional triggers that resonate with readers:
- Curiosity: Curiosity is a powerful emotion that compels readers to click and learn more. Headlines that pose intriguing questions, tease a surprising revelation or offer a hint of the unknown can trigger curiosity and entice readers to engage further.
- Fear or Concern: Headlines that address readers’ fears or concerns can grab attention by tapping into their emotions. Highlighting potential risks, warning of common mistakes, or offering solutions to pressing problems can elicit a sense of urgency and prompt readers to seek answers.
- Desire for Improvement: People are constantly seeking ways to improve their lives, whether it’s achieving success, personal growth, or better relationships. Headlines that promise solutions, tips, or strategies for self-improvement appeal to the desire for progress and can attract readers who are actively seeking ways to enhance their lives.
- Emotional Appeal: Emotional triggers such as joy, awe, inspiration, or empathy can be highly effective in engaging readers. Headlines that evoke strong emotions by sharing heartwarming stories, inspirational achievements, or relatable experiences have a greater chance of capturing attention and resonating with readers on an emotional level.
- Exclusivity and FOMO (Fear of Missing Out): People have a natural inclination to be a part of exclusive or limited opportunities. Headlines that convey a sense of exclusivity, scarcity, or urgency can generate interest and create a fear of missing out. This trigger prompts readers to take action to avoid feeling left out.
- Surprise or Shock: Headlines that promise unexpected or shocking information have the potential to capture attention. By defying expectations or challenging common beliefs, these headlines pique curiosity and compel readers to explore further.
- Social Validation: Humans are social beings who seek validation and affirmation from others. Headlines that leverage social proof, testimonials, or expert endorsements can attract attention by tapping into readers’ desire for validation and credibility.
It’s important to use emotional triggers ethically and responsibly, ensuring that the content aligns with the promise made in the headline. Balancing emotional appeal with authenticity and value is key to creating compelling headlines that resonate with readers.
Crafting attention-grabbing headlines
So how do you start crafting these attention-grabbing headlines?
Well, we have already listed 7 emotional triggers. Now you need to find some words to help you create a strong hook to grab atttention.
The words you need to have on your list for inspiration are called “Power Words”. You tap the emotional evoking powers that they elicit to get that initial attention.
What are “Power Words”?
In writing, the term “Power words” refers to words and phrases that carry strong emotional, persuasive, or attention-grabbing impact. These are words that evoke specific emotions, create vivid imagery, or convey a sense of urgency or importance.
Power words are carefully chosen to elicit a desired response from the reader and make the writing more compelling and engaging.
Here are 10 Power words to get you inspired:
The importance of SEO in headline writing
We all love an instant hit of pleasure, and when headlines go viral that drives a ton of traffic in a short time.
But that is a short game.
If you can write an irresistible headline that is also optimized for search engines you can get traffic for years.
That’s the patience of a long game.
So…if you were wanting to follow just the logical and data-driven science of search engine optimization so that Google can find a keyword – then your headline could be very boring and lacking emotional triggers.
What is also needed is some spice to add to the science. That’s emotion.
What is the role of search engine optimization (SEO) in headline visibility?
To kick this off the answer is simple. You include the keyword in the headline and then wrap it in emotional triggers that tap human emotional drives, wants, and fears.
Let’s say we want to use the key search engine phrase “email marketing software” in a headline that still ticks the SEO technical requirements.
Here are some headlines that you could use that use emotion and the key phrase.
- Unlock Success with Powerful Email Marketing Software Solutions
- The Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing Software
- The 10 Best Email Marketing Software Solutions to Boost Your Lead Generation
When conducting a search on Google the #1 ranked piece of content that came up in the first position was “The 6 Best Email Marketing Software of 2023”
Something to keep in mind is that as well as being emotional Google does like “recency” and including an up-to-date piece of content is also a good SEO tactic that caters to Google’s algorithms.
How do you perform keyword research for headline optimization?
There are a few ways and it could be as simple as using ChatGPT to give you a good start and if you want to get more technical then platforms like SEMRush and AhRefs are two great tools that you could use.
What are some successful headline formulas that professionals use?
Headlines are one of the easiest marketing tactics to test. Over the decades they have been used in direct marketing, email marketing, viral headlines, YouTube videos, and on social media.
10 top headline formulas for your toolbox
- How-to Headline:
- “How to [Achieve Desired Outcome] in [Specific Timeframe/Steps]”
- Listicle Headline:
- “X [Benefit/Tip/Idea] to [Achieve Desired Outcome]”
- Question Headline:
- “Are You [Desirable Outcome]? Here’s What You Need to Know”
- Problem-Solution Headline:
- “Struggling with [Problem]? Discover the [Solution/Method] that Works”
- Secret/Revelation Headline:
- “The Secret to [Desirable Outcome]: [Reveal/Discover] the [Method/Strategy]”
- Comparison Headline:
- “[Option A] vs. [Option B]: Which is the Best for [Specific Outcome]?”
- Testimonial Headline:
- “[Person/Brand] Shares How [Product/Service/Method] Transformed Their [Outcome]”
- Controversial Headline:
- “The Shocking Truth About [Topic/Issue] Revealed”
- Curiosity Headline:
- “Discover the [Number] Secrets to [Achieve Desired Outcome]”
- Command Headline:
- “[Action Verb] Your Way to [Desirable Outcome]”
Examples of successful headlines and their underlying formulas
Formula: It is a How-to Headline + Achievement + Specific Timeframe/Steps
Nothing like a headline combines the curiosity factor of a significant financial accomplishment (“$100,000”) with the promise of a detailed guide.
It appeals to readers looking for a specific outcome (“making money”) and provides a clear structure by offering a step-by-step approach.
Case Study: “20 Secrets to Living a Happier Life“
Formula: Listicle Headline + Benefit/Idea + Desired Outcome
The power of a numbered list (“20 Secrets”) is always a link clicker.
It promises a positive emotional outcome (“happier life”) and taps into the desire for self-improvement. The headline format offers a clear structure and signals easy-to-digest content.
Formula: Controversial Headline + Topic/Issue + Revealing/Debunking
Grabbing attention by challenging common beliefs (“The Truth About Weight Loss”) is a headline that should be used often.
It appeals to readers interested in weight loss and offers a promise of debunking myths. By creating controversy around a popular topic, this headline generates curiosity and prompts readers to engage.
Formula: Case Study/Testimonial Headline + Achievement + Product/Method
Leveraging the power of social proof and success by showcasing a specific achievement is a headline winner that taps emotional triggers.
It incorporates a real-life example to inspire readers and positions the featured product/method as the solution to achieving similar results.
Case Study: “The Surprising Link Between Sleep And Mental Health“
Formula: Curiosity Headline + Surprising Link/Connection + Benefit/Outcome
This headline piques curiosity by highlighting a surprising connection between two seemingly unrelated topics (“Sleep and Productivity”). It suggests a valuable insight that can potentially improve readers’ lives and offers a compelling reason to explore further.
These case studies demonstrate how different headline formulas can be applied effectively to grab attention, generate curiosity, and provide value to the target audience.
Remember to adapt these formulas to your specific content and audience, and always ensure the headline accurately represents the underlying content.
Headlines for different media and content types
In the world before online video (pre-YouTube) and images (pre-Instagram) all we had to worry about was writing headlines for articles. Now we need to create headlines for different media.
This includes books, blog posts, and social media.
Here are five examples of potential great headlines for different types of content:
- Book Headline: “Unleashing the Power Within: A Journey of Self-Discovery and Personal Transformation”. This headline evokes curiosity and promises a transformative experience, enticing readers to explore the book’s contents.
- Blog Post Headline: “10 Proven Strategies to Boost Your Productivity and Conquer Your To-Do List”. This headline offers a clear benefit to the reader by promising practical strategies to enhance productivity, making it highly clickable.
- Social Media Content Headline: “Discover the Secrets of Mindful Living: Embrace Balance and Find Inner Peace” This headline appeals to the desire for personal growth and introduces the concept of mindfulness, generating interest and engagement on social media platforms.
- YouTube Video Headline: “Epic Travel Adventure: Exploring the Hidden Gems of [Destination]” This headline sparks excitement and curiosity, promising viewers an extraordinary travel experience while highlighting the specific destination.
- Another YouTube Video Headline: “Master the Art of Photography: Essential Tips for Capturing Breathtaking Moments” This headline offers valuable expertise and promises to enhance viewers’ photography skills, making it appealing to photography enthusiasts.
Remember, great headlines are tailored to the target audience, highlight a benefit or promise, and evoke emotions or curiosity.
ChatGPT uses Artificial intelligence and it is a good tool for writing headlines but it tends to be a bit too formulaic and predictable. It can be used but use it mainly for inspiration rather than as your “go-to” tool.
So…when I started writing headlines I kept a range of headline tools and resources at my fingertips to inspire me and sharpen my skills. It might seem overwhelming at first, but as you practice and learn they will start to become part of your writing fabric and skillset.
7 tools and resources for your headline toolbox
CoSchedule Headline Analyzer: This tool analyzes your headline and provides feedback on its quality, word balance, length, and emotional appeal. It offers suggestions for improvement.
Portent’s Content Idea Generator: Generate some catchy and creative headline ideas based on a keyword or topic. It helps spark inspiration and offers unique headline suggestions.
BuzzSumo: BuzzSumo allows you to research popular headlines in your niche or industry. By analyzing the most shared content, you can gain insights into headline trends and find inspiration for your own headlines.
Headline Smasher: Headline Smasher generates variations of your original headline, providing different phrasings and word choices to enhance its impact and effectiveness.
Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer: This tool evaluates your headline’s emotional appeal and rates it based on the Emotional Marketing Value (EMV) score. It helps gauge how likely your headline is to resonate with readers on an emotional level.
HubSpot Blog Topic Generator: While primarily focused on generating blog post ideas, this tool can also provide headline suggestions. Just input a few relevant keywords, and it will generate topic ideas and headline prompts.
Copyblogger’s Magnetic Headlines: This resource provides a comprehensive guide to headline writing. It covers various headline formulas, techniques, and examples to help you craft compelling headlines.
Remember to use these tools and resources as aids in your headline creation process, but also rely on your own creativity and understanding of your target audience to develop unique and engaging headlines.
Headlines are your biggest source of attention whether you are posting on social media, creating Youtube videos, launching a book, or trying to get some leads and build your email list.
Use the headline formulas, take some of the examples, and have some fun experimenting and testing headlines.
So, keep creating, publishing, and sharing your headlines. But most importantly, have some fun!
The Ultimate Guide to Content Marketing for Business