How to Write Headlines That Will Capture Attention
Writing attention-grabbing headlines is an essential skill for content creators within any niche. They are your best opportunity to engage your target audience and compel them to read on.
Unfortunately, though, it is an area where even the best writers seem to fall short. Statistics suggest that while 8/10 people will scan a headline, only 2/10 go on to read the article in full.
This is depressing news for anyone who has ever crafted a beautifully-written, informative article, only to have a weak headline let it down. However, it is also easy to rectify by following just a few basic steps.
So, without further ado, here’s how to write captivating headlines that will have your audience reading to the end.
How to Write Headlines That Capture Attention
Writing a great headline is a crucial element of content creation that many authors overlook. However, a compelling headline is almost as important as the copy itself. After all, there’s little point in spending hours writing a piece that nobody is ever going to see.
The fact is that most people lead hectic lives and are only going to spend time reading something truly valuable. Therefore, they must understand precisely how your article is going to benefit them before they begin.
Before you even start writing a headline, put yourself in the reader’s shoes. What do they want to know, and how does your article fulfill their needs? What is the reward for giving your content a portion of their precious time?
Once you have determined your audience’s needs, think about how to lure them in. Ask yourself how you can elicit an emotional response or a sense of overwhelming intrigue. Remember, if a headline prompts you to feel a certain way, it will likely have similar effects on your readers.
If all of this sounds rather vague, there are some tried and trusted headline writing techniques that many writers employ. The first is something known as The Four U’s.
The Four U’s of Headline Writing
The Four U’s is a simple technique for writing strong headlines effortlessly. In summary, the four U’s include:
- Usefulness: How does your copy benefit the reader?
- Urgency: Why should they read your article now rather than later (or never)?
- Uniqueness: What sets your article apart from others in the niche?
- Ultra-Specific: What precise details can your readers expect to find in your piece?
Realistically, not all headlines will be able to incorporate all of these U’s. Therefore, as a writer, it is up to you to determine the purpose of your article and prioritize accordingly. Many see the above order as running from most to least necessary and use that as a general guide.
Types of Headline
In addition to The Four U’s, there are different types of headlines, each of which serves a slightly different purpose:
Direct headlines tell the reader exactly what they can expect to find within your article. It could be anything from a guide to a review, or even a special offer. A direct headline could be something as simple as 30% Off All Power Tools Today.
It isn’t the most imaginative type of headline, but it does fulfill two of the most valuable U’s – usefulness and urgency. The reader knows why they need to read your content and why they need to do it now.
Indirect headlines are more obscure. They might use clever wordplay or double entendre to pique the reader’s curiosity and encourage them to read on. For example, an article about celebrity scuba diving might have an indirect headline, such as Are These Stars in Too Deep?
This type of headline is an excellent opportunity to use your imagination and create something truly unique. However, it is also more challenging to get right. Miss the mark and you could leave your audience feeling confused and disinterested.
News headlines are one of the most popular types of headlines, and it’s easy to see why. They can apply to current events or be useful for promoting special offers, new products, and other announcements.
These headlines are very self-explanatory. They offer both usefulness and, in many cases, urgency. Writers can also be ultra-specific here, letting readers know what they will be reading about before beginning. New Gaming Console Released Today or Twins Separated at Birth, Reunited, are both examples of news headlines.
This is one of the most reliable headline types that writers come back to again and again. They offer readers a high level of usefulness, are great for SEO, and apply to almost any topic.
To write an effective ‘how to’ title, try to be unique and ultra-specific, making your headline stand out from the crowd. For example, rather than How to Bake Pie Crust, you could try How to Bake the Perfect Pie Crust in Under an Hour.
These headlines are another dependable choice and are perfect for articles that contain lists of tips or features. They should spark curiosity as well as offering a high degree of usefulness.
‘Reason why’ headlines can also generate a sense of urgency in the reader, such as 5 Reasons Why You Need to Visit Barcelona This Summer.
Unsurprisingly, this is a headline in question format. The key is finding a question that your target audience wants the answer to! As well as incorporating usefulness, some ultra-specificity will also go a long way here.
Question headlines are highly versatile and could cover anything. From Do You Have What It Takes to Become Famous? To What Are the Symptoms of IBS? The possibilities are endless.
Command headlines prompt the reader to act in a particular way, often with a sense of urgency. The first word of the headline is usually an authoritative command, for example: Subscribe Today and Receive a Free Ebook or Make Money Fast Without Lifting a Finger.
Testimonial headlines offer tangible proof about the value of a product or service. Moreover, using celebrity testimonials is a great way to grab your audience’s attention and make your headline unique.
Examples include Top TV Chef Endorses New Brazilian Restaurant or Oscar-Winning Actor’s Hair Care Secrets, Revealed.
Common Mistakes When Writing Headlines
There are also some common pitfalls that you’ll want to avoid when it comes to writing headlines.
The first, and perhaps most obvious, is creating a headline that doesn’t spark interest. A boring headline will have your readers scrolling past your article without a second thought. Fortunately, avoiding this mistake is relatively straightforward, providing you consider The Fours U’s.
At the other end of the spectrum, a headline that’s too obscure is equally easy to overlook. After all, how many people are going to take time to read an article if they have no idea what it’s about?
Finally, try to avoid headlines asking questions that the article does not answer. There is nothing more frustrating than copy that’s about something completely different than the headline suggested. Sure, you might have achieved your goal of getting someone to read to the end of your article. But inaccurate headlines will only damage your site’s credibility in the long run, so avoid them at all costs.
How to Write Headlines That Will Capture Attention: Final Thoughts
A headline can make or break an article, so it’s crucial to get it right. So much so that some suggest spending as much as 50% of your overall writing time on the headline alone!
There are many tips for writing the perfect headline, including The Four U’s and various headline types. However, perhaps the most critical element is looking at your article and its title from the reader’s point of view. Once you’ve determined what your audience wants to know, convey it in a clear, concise, and catchy manner. This should ensure that your headline performs well and gets your article the attention it deserves.