Upworthy has a Facebook following of over 10 million. On its wall, is the headline “Because We’re all Part of the Same Story.” That’s a catchy headline and probably aptly describes its mission.
Perhaps the biggest draw to get readers are the titles/headlines that accompany news stories – stories that are already out there. By attaching the catchy headlines, the staff hopes that the stories they have dug up will go viral. And, for the most part, they do. The staff admits that it spends as much time coming up with headlines as it does re-purposing the content that it finds from all sorts of sources – that’s how important they know headlines to be.
The Lesson of Upworthy
The news stories are educational, entertaining, and inspirational. And they all have good messages to impart. But they would never be read at the level they are without those intriguing headlines.
The same goes for your content. No matter great it may be, most people will not read beyond the headline if that headline does not intrigue them. It’s just the “nature of the online beast” – content overload.
So, how do you get to those catchy, intriguing headlines? It ain’t easy, but it can be done. Here are some tips to help you get headlines that will drive readers to dig in.
1. Look for the Shocking Element
Not every piece of content will lend itself to “shock and awe” but some will. If there is anything that will shock or surprise, be sure you incorporate it in your headline. Here’s an example from Upworthy:
“Who doesn’t like to watch half-naked girls dancing? These guys, after they see what’s happening.”
This was a headline that linked to a video about human trafficking. Note the other tactic used here. The reader is given incomplete information about the topic, and that “gap” in knowledge will drive him to get it.
2. Create Intrigue
If your headline can make a reader intensely curious to get to some insider information that they think they are missing out on, you have a winning headline.
Recently, Southern Living Magazine ran a story titled, “Here’s the Real Reason Why Chick-fil-A is Closed on Sundays.”
The article itself was really not all that exciting; nor did it really give a reason that veered dramatically from the common thought that the reason is that Sunday is a Christian “day of rest.” But the headline “forced” readers to dig in.
3. Focus on a Big Benefit
You know who your audience is and you should also know what they will find most valuable. Put that value in the headline, and your audience will probably read on.
“Here is the One Thing That Will Most Increase the Value of Your Home”
This would be a great headline for a realtor blog post. There may actually be several things that will increase the value of a home that is going on the market, but every potential home seller will want to know the one most important thing to do.
4. Ask Questions
The best question headlines pose one that readers have an answer for themselves, but they want to know if others agree with their answer.
One of the biggest (and silliest) controversies that continues to crop up all the time is the direction that toilet paper is put on the holder. It’s amazing that people still actually read the content on this question, but they do.
Psychology Today copywriter Bill Jayme recently posted a different bathroom question: “Do you Close the Bathroom Door Even When You’re the Only One Home?” Every reader already has an answer but wants to know how others have answered. And, because this is a website related to psychology, many readers will want to know what it means that they close the do...
5. “How To” With a Twist
We all remember being one of professional essay writers during high school and college English comp courses. And the “how to” essay was a common assignment, to force us to use sequential thinking as we wrote those explanatory pieces.
“How To’s” are good posts, if they provide value to a target audience. But headlines for these posts can be pretty mundane and a little non-compelling, unless something more is added to engage the reader. Consider these two examples:
“How to Stain Your Deck”
“How to Stain Your Deck in Half a Day”
Now, you have added another caveat that provides more motivation to read the post.
Don’t just do a generic “how to.” Find some way to add a twist that will add more value.
6. Promise to Solve a Problem
If your headline promises a solution to a common problem among your audience members, you will probably get a “read.”
“Never Have a Bad Hair Day Again”
Who wouldn’t want this problem solved? If the problem is real and widespread, you will have a good readership and, as well, lots of shares of your content. And if your headline promises a quick or simple one-step solution, all the better.
7. Numbers Still Work – Make them as Big as Possible
Larger numbers in a headline tend to compel reading. Why? Because if there are 5-8 things – tips, actions, etc. – the reader will assume that one or more of these will relate directly to their circumstances and will be usable.
“15 Ways to Potty Train Your Toddler”
“10 Ways to Get your Kids to Clean Their Rooms”
“8 Ways to Use Blockchain Technology that Have Nothing to Do with Bitcoin”
Again, if you know your audience, you know the solutions they will want. And the more options you can give, the more they are likely to read.
Use Title Generator Tools
Once you have the topic and keywords for the piece you are writing, you may worry about your ability to insert words and phrases that are creatively catchy. Fortunately, there are a number of title generator tools These may not give you an exact and complete headline, but the functions of this software will provide up to hundreds of potential titles for you. Whttps://www.thedsmgroup.com/blog-title-generator/hile you may not want to use any of the headlines a tool gives you, But such tools will give you start-points – words and/or phrases that are more creatively put together than you could come up with on your own. Take these and use them to add more pizazz to the headlines you have crafted.
The importance of headlines cannot be overstated. They are much like a first date really. If your reader is engaged, surprised, or intrigued, they will want that second date – Actually reading your piece.