Content creation isn’t just about the meat of what you’re writing. Consider the first thing the potential reader sees: the headline.
Think of it this way: if you open your Inbox and see an e-mail with a subject line that sounds cheesy and spammy, are you going to open it? Probably not. Similarly, when creating your content, don’t forget that your headline is one of the most important aspects of it. It is your very first opportunity to make a positive impression on your reader.
As an English major during my undergraduate studies, I took a Journalism class as a required course. I’ll never forget how much they emphasized the importance of the headline, as it set the stage for the impending story.
When you read the newspaper, you’re more likely to read the articles that catch your eye via the headline, and the same goes for any type of content — including (but not limited to) blog posts, e-mail blasts, pay-per-click ads, and every single page of your website.
Trial & Error: Track Your Headlines
When producing effective headlines, it takes a great deal of brainstorming — and often times, trial and error. For example, one way you can test out your headlines is to try different e-mail subject lines. By tracking how many opened your message and even clicked on what was inside, you can get a better idea of which headlines resonated with your audience and which didn’t.
Ultimately, using some sort of tracking method and even competitive analysis for your campaigns can help you to gauge the success of your headlines and content. You can also determine which headlines are the most successful by tracking how many readers you have on your blog, the number of clicks on your ads and visits to your website.
Keep Headlines Interesting & Relevant To Your Audience
You won’t be able to know what type of headline(s) to use until you truly know who your audience is and what they are looking for. By determining who your following is, you’ll be able to appropriately customize your headlines to your niche.
If your audience seems more interested in free shipping, place that in your headline. Discounts? Go for it. How-to guides… and the list goes on. Once you have a true understanding of the depths of your consumer and what they want out of your content, your headlines will be that much more likely to lead to success.
Ask Yourself: What Headline Would You Want To Read?
Then, listen to the answer you come up with. This is one of the very best things you can possibly do when creating a headline. By putting yourself in your customer’s shoes, you’ll be able to decide what type of headline would catch your eye — and, hopefully, theirs.
Think about the e-mails you get in your inbox, the titles of the blogs that you read, the ads that you might be inclined to click on when doing a Google search. By really investigating your own preference, you can apply what you would deem intriguing to your own content marketing. So, continually ask yourself questions about what type of headline would captivate you and apply that to your own writing.
Be Creative, Insightful, & Conversational
Google searches are becoming more about conversations and intent, and this is absolutely the case for your headlines, as well. The more creative and fascinating you are with your headline copy, the more likely your potential customers are going to want to read what you have to say or look into what you have to sell.
With Hummingbird in the mix, Google is now able to handle more complex, more conversational search queries. Applying this knowledge when creating your headlines will give you even more chance of success.
The other thing you should want to do is check out which relevant Google searches are the most popular. This will help you to decide on the copy that will most likely be picked up by Google, and ultimately, be of interest to your readers. In this case, with the snow season looming, “How to Use a Snowblower” provides quite a few valuable search headlines.
A Few Of The Many Headline Types
The type of headline you use is dependent upon what you are trying to achieve in the first place. Below are some examples of some different, situational headlines.
The News Story
This headline is ideal if you are sending out a newsletter or just providing some sort of an update to your followers. Maybe you launched a brand new product or are simply letting your consumers know what is going on at the company.
The Value Proposition
These headlines are meant to provide something of value to your readers right off the bat.
“Free shipping on all orders over $50!” “25% off all Christmas items!”
If you’re running some sort of a promotion and are looking to get an immediate response from your following, this headline should be considered and can be applied to many different content types.
By asking a question in your headline, you will most likely invoke a reaction. I know that if I’m asked a question, I instantly begin to think. Using this type of headline is just like a call-to-action of sorts in that you are asking something of your reader and eliciting a response. Examples could be:
“Do you want 25% off your next order?”” “Why does content marketing work?” “What toy are you looking for this Christmas?”
The “how to” headline is eye-catching and versatile, as it is applicable to almost any niche. When you build content with the goal of educating your target audience — by teaching them a new skill or showing them how to use a product — you can make use of the “how to” headline to capture attention and spark interest. Here are some examples, both of which have product-oriented solutions:
“How to Clear Snow From A Gravel Driveway” “How to Get Smoother Skin, in 12 Easy Steps”
Show & Tell Via Headlines
Using an initial headline that both shows and tells your audience how to do something can help you in actually getting the product moving.
The examples of different headlines above are just a few of the many examples out there. The headline that is best for you is contingent on your business, its size, and of course, your customer base. While we all want things to work right away, it’s not a bad thing to use trial and error and tracking to see what works the best.
Remember: Your headline is your first impression. Thus, crafting an effective headline — one that is clear, concise and enticing — is crucial in capturing your audience.
(Stock image via Shutterstock.com. Used under license.)
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.