Headlines are the first thing to catch your eye online. Their size and boldness are eye-grabbing. The design serves one main purpose: to get passersby to buy the newspaper. In copywriting, the headlines get readers to move on to the main copy, resulting in sales and conversions.
Much like the title and cover of a book, the headlines are the first contact your target audience has with your copy. However, being noticeable is one thing. Being effective is another. Only 20% of viewers are caught by headlines, and read the main copy. 80% lose interest and move on. Crafting headlines is, therefore, one of the most important parts of content and marketing.
Headlines Are the First Line of Your Copy
Jeff Goins, an author of the national bestseller The Art of Work, says, “I sometimes deliberate over titles for 30-60 minutes before settling on one that works. And I often go back and change them. This is what it takes to write a good headline.”
A Conductor survey shows how a simple headline change can make such a difference. One headline was written in the 5 most common ways: a question, a plain statement, beginning with “how to,” addressing the reader, and including a number.
Viewers were asked to state which version they most preferred Headlines including a number were the most highly preferred, at 36%; questions were the least preferred, at 11%. Simply changing the headline increased the preference rate by 25 percentage points.
The headline is the first contact viewers have with your copy. If copywriters spend a considerable amount of time studying the Craft of Writing Compelling Copy, they should spend as much time on the Craft of Writing Effective Headlines.
Headlines Hook Viewers into Reading the Copy
Hook #1: Headlines Are Short Enough to Read at a Glance
First, headlines work because they are sympathetic to the average viewer’s attention span. If the headlines are on newspapers, they are big enough to be read and understood at a glance by commuters, drivers, and pedestrians alike. This is due to their length, not just to the word size.
According to an article featured in The Guardian, “titles with eight words had the highest click-through rates with these headers performing 21% better than average.” Neil Patel, founder of Quicksprout and co-founder of KISSmetrics and Crazy Egg, suggests that this is because of the “scan” mentality of most viewers.
Viewers see headlines while scrolling down their Newsfeeds and Twitterfeeds, or on the sides and ends of articles. If the word count is too much to be taken in at a glance, odds are they will scroll right over it. Headlines written the right length have an effect on the viewers’ click-through rate.
Hook #2: Headlines Use Numbers to Convey Importance
When there is a number in the headline, the viewer subconsciously and automatically assigns the headline more weight than the others. These headlines have a higher chance of drawing the viewers’ attention, generating traffic, and leading to more sales and conversions.
Hook #3: Headlines Use Negatives to Sound Impartial
Negative headlines are as effective as numbers. According to anOutbrain survey, negative titles (with the words “never” or “worst”) gained 59% more readers than positive (“always” or “best”) ones. In copywriting, positivity may make readers suspicious of the article’s motives. Negativity, on the other hand, sounds more disinterested or impartial.
Hook #4: Headlines Promise the Viewers a Specific Benefit
Third, headlines promise viewers a specific benefit if they read through the copy. Good copywriting answers the question, what’s in it for me? The headline should do that from the outset. Take this headline, for example:
Learn how TechCrunch increased their traffic by 30% in 60 days.
Besides the magic numbers, the headline presents a benefit for the viewers: the increase of traffic to his or her site. The numbers add clarity to the headline.
In the Conductor survey, headlines that included numbers were 15% more preferred than reader-addressing headlines, 19% more than how-to headlines, 21% more than statement headlines, and 25% more than question-form headlines. Viewers preferred them in this order based on their clarity.
The headlines are the hook that directs viewers’ attention to the copy. They can make or break an article based on whether or not viewers find the headlines sufficient reason to read on. In other words, they are non-negotiable for writing good copy.
Headlines Set the Copy Up for Conversions
At the end of a page or so of copy, there is usually a Call to Action. The headlines and copy need to ensure the reader makes it there. If the headlines promise much but deliver terrible copy, chances are the reader will not get past the first paragraph. On the other hand, if the copy is brilliant but the headlines boring, chances are the reader will not get to the first paragraph.
The headlines set the viewer into a mindset that easily closes with conversion. This headline looks important (or conveys a sense of urgency). It looks like it has something to offer me. Let’s see what the article says. Applying the best practices in headline-writing lends strength to well-written copy, which can result in up to 30% more conversions.
Good Headlines are Key to Great Copy
To recap: the headlines are the first line of the copy. They are the hook which pulls viewers into reading the copy. Well-crafted headlines set the viewer up to read and respond to the copy eagerly, leading to higher conversion rates.
A good headline is crafted by keeping it short enough for viewers to scan. Numbers and subtitles improve the importance and clarity of the headline in viewers’ eyes. At the same time, negative or neutral terms appear more disinterested or impartial to the viewers, so they do not become suspicious of the copy.
I am a freelancer, Wordpress wizard, social media guru, and a Memphis Grizzlies fan. I am a proud Memphian that loves Memphis history, culture, sports, and food. I am passionate about writing, digital marketing, SEO best practices, networking, and web design.
About me and this blog
I am a full service freelancer that delivers compelling digital marketing solutions. This blog is to help spread awareness on current trends within the industry.