By Stuart Roberts on March 10, 2014

How to write the most effective and shareable web headlines EVER

  • Decide your keywords and include them
  • Don’t be afraid of long headlines
  • What will people be searching for? Use that as your headline
  • Create curiosity
  • Tailor your lead-ins for each social media platform
  • Make sure your content matches your headlines - If you’re promising something amazing, make sure you deliver

Read all about it! Read all about it! In the past, a small shouting boy at a news stand in a scruffy hat was the best way to draw attention to the news.

But, currently, there is no digital version of this lad; you have to do the shouting yourself.

And with all the noise and the chatter, you need to be shouting the right things. The best way? A great headline.

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An eye-catching headline is imperative, something newspapers have excelled at for years.

Who can forget the ‘Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster’ headline from the Sun? Or the devastatingly simple ‘War On America’ following the 9/11 attacks.

But whilst newspaper headlines can offer guidance, the rules have shifted somewhat online; you still have to be eye catching, interesting and creative but keeping it short doesn't necessarily come in to it.

If you look at the headlines below - one from the Daily Mail print edition and the other from the Mail Online - you can see the difference in focus from one medium to the other.

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The famous stat is that 8 out of 10 people will read your headline while only 2 out of 10 will click through. So how do you create a headline which captures people’s attention?

Well, we’ll tell you.

You may like: How to turn your business into a content marketing machine

Headlines Which Work For The Audience

You’ll most likely have heard the term ‘clickbait’ by now; article titles which dangle just enough information to entice the reader in to clicking and finding out more.

These can be found everywhere from social sites, through to corporate blogs and beyond.

In fact, you've more than likely ended up clicking on one of these ridiculous articles despite yourself.

Here are a couple of examples.

 Viralious

BuzzFeed

BuzzFeed have really made the list-based article their own and the popularity of such articles has exploded across the web in spectacular fashion - 13 million unique visitors a month will generally make marketers sit up and listen.

The list article creates a headline where the potential reader knows exactly what they’re getting when they click; in this case 10 scientific reasons to eat more pizza.

Ignoring the fact that the ‘story’ effectively taps into its target readership, the headline is enticing because of the information it promises.

The Viralious link also promises a list-based story but the headline adds an element of mystery to the mix, another classic clickbait move.

As a corporate blogger, you can adopt these click-tricks quite easily. Off the top of our head: ‘7 Software Testing Tips For The Non-Technical,’ or ‘12 Things You To Know As A Business Consultant.’

Or if you’d like a real world example, see below.

Heff

As more companies adopt these, they start sounding more clichéd BUT they do work.

In a recent interview with Upworthy founder, Koechley US-based entrepreneur says: “We write what some people would call clickbait headlines and we try to live up to that. We task our editorial team with finding superlative things.”

In fact, our post, ‘6 B2B Campaigns to inspire you’ got more hits than any other last month, proving they can encourage more eyes on your blog.

The difference is, Upworthy makes its money from advertising and the click is king. Whilst you certainly wouldn't turn your nose up at Upworthy's 8 million unique visitors a month, you want the right people.

Headlines Which Work For Google

Getting the world to look at your article is one thing, but it’s another to get Google to look at it properly.

SEO rules may have changed substantially but it is still a huge part of creating an online presence.

For this reason, the use of keywords is well, key. And you may have the best headline in the world but if it isn’t easily searchable then it’s getting lost.

Let’s look at another example.

Hashtagology

The headline ‘#Hashtagology’ is great but it doesn’t tell us enough about the subject.

If you’re reading a magazine, that title would probably make you want to read on; to a Google search, it’s meaningless.

Thankfully the second part of this particular headline or title tells us more - if you want to know how to use hashtags on Twitter properly, this is the article for you.

Let’s remember the whole point of content marketing - giving your customer’s relevant, interesting information on a subject they will benefit from to raise your online profile.

The keywords here are Twitter, Social Media and Hashtags. Decide the keywords for your article and cram them all in there. Remember, length is not an issue.

If you do have a great, punchy headline, make sure you follow it up with a succinct explanation of what the article is about.

Social Media Lead-ins

Posting your article on Twitter or Facebook is the best way of getting a click, however good your headline is.

Whilst there are no hard and fast rules as to what works and what doesn't, you can still maximise the impact of your post with an effective lead-in.

In journalistic terms a lead-in is the first sentence, in social media terms it's more of a hook, a sentence or two to capture the potential reader's attention.

And it's worth experimenting with different introductory sentences.

We usually recommend tweeting each piece 3 times (over the space of a few days,) and each tweet should have a different line.

Keep track of which intros get you the most traffic and leads using analytics and you can start to refine your lead-ins to maximise their impact. The examples from Buzzfeed below.

Buzzfeed Tweets

It's not all about Twitter either, you should also be posting to Google+ and LinkedIn. Google+ lead-ins tend to be more effective at around 100 words, much longer than other forms of social media. This is possibly because it makes your post stand out that much more on Google+ or perhaps it's the nature of the audience. Whatever the reason, it works.

LinkedIn has become more social but never lose sight of the point of the platform, making professional connections. Bear that in mind when posting and writing lead-ins.

You also have limited characters for the headline. Before you post, click on the title and you can edit the headline within LinkedIn.

And finally Facebook. Well, Facebook is a more social than professional tool. Scott Levy, founder of online marketing agency Fuel Online said in a recent article: ‘Almost any business can benefit from having a Facebook page. But Facebook isn't about selling. Your goal in using Facebook for business is to let customers get to know the people behind the logo.’

As such, your posts are going to be less focussed on your work and more focussed on your company. On the occasions you do post your blogs, you can really try out different lead-ins, but don’t be afraid of using a bit of personality.

It would be interesting to hear your thoughts too. What have been your most effective headlines? Do you use clickbait to gain customers? What are your tips?

photo credit: Hamed Saber via photopin cc

Published by Stuart Roberts March 10, 2014