Marketing Bootcamp

4 Must-Haves for Headlines That Hook Readers

4 Must-Haves for Headlines That Hook Readers
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This story appears in the February 2016 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

A headline isn’t a final flourish, just something to tack on after the writing or video production is done. It’s your critical first impression: 80 percent of visitors will read your headline, but only 20 percent will go on to read the piece itself, according to Copyblogger. Draw readers in this way:

1. Trust

BuzzFeed may score with hyperbolism like “36 Of The Absolute Worst Things That Could Ever Happen to You,” but your goal is to inform, help and inspire your audience. If you overplay the headline, your audience will feel misled and skeptical of your next headline. Be useful, and never waste your reader’s time.

2. Context 

Tell your readers what’s in it for them. For example, “Things to Consider Before a Business Launch” is vague and uninspiring, but “9 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Launched My Last Business” captivates. Another tip: place the reader into a headline. “14 Kinds of Pumpkins to Grow” offers little, but “7 Kinds of Pumpkins You Can Grow on a City Balcony” speaks to a target audience. 

3. Curiosity 

There’s a sweet spot in headlines: It’s called the “curiosity gap,” when you’ve made the a reader curious enough to click and read. (Consider the pumpkins on a city balcony. Don’t you want to know what they are?) But don’t toy with readers. A headline that says “This One Simple Trick Saved My Business” might as well say “I’m Desperate For You To Click.”

4. Clarity

Be direct, simple and tight. Your headline should have fewer than 70 characters -- half a tweet. Longer headlines may get truncated in search results and social shares. A good way to see what works: watch how your headlines do on social media and study what the best-read ones have in common.

Edition: December 2016

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