How to Write a Compelling Headline That Converts

Nov 26, 2020

Headlines are easy to come up with – but compelling headlines that make you click are much harder to create.

Coming up with good headlines is a skill that needs to be developed over time. It requires high levels of creativity, a clear understanding of your market and lots of practice.

In this blog post, we’ll be sharing the little tips and techniques we’ve uncovered during the development of The Headlines Kit.

Qualities of a good headline

A good headline will make your audience click on, fulfilling its purpose. But what makes your headline clickable?

1- Shareable

Your headline should introduce something new or insightful that makes your audience think, “Wow! This is groundbreaking news! I have to share this with my family and friends!”

Keeping this in mind, look at your current headline and ask yourself honestly: Is your headline worth sharing?

If it is not, there are a number of ways you can make your headline a viral sensation. The first is to phrase your headline in a new perspective that people haven’t considered before.

For example, in one of our LEAD stories, our student Denise brought forth an eye-catching perspective that most digital designers and digital marketers may have overlooked. This perspective became the story’s selling point and our headline.

Another way to make your headlines shareable is to create strong personal and emotional connection. This connection could be positive such as excitement or affection, and it could invoke a negative reaction such as anger or fear (though not toward your content).

Most often, shareable headlines will either invoke shock, fear or anger. This is because negative words tend to be 30% more attractive.

Either way, a strong emotion will draw your audience in. This is because the readers are held in suspense with these emotions, waiting for an answer in your content that gives them a satisfying relief, like a drama series building up tension until the final climax.

emotional headline, compelling headline that converts

Because of how gripping the headline is, your audience may even be prompted to share your headline without even looking at the content!

Finally, you can create an ultra-specific headline.

You may think that being specific spoils curiosity and loses the audience interest. But in reality, it actually makes your headline even more interesting.

For example, let’s look at this Buzzfeed Headline:

buzzfeed headline, compelling headline that converts

The headline tells the whole story: Cardi B is apologising for cultural appropriation. But despite revealing the main takeaway of the title, Ben Henry’s article is trending within an hour after posting.

Why is that so? Aside from a famous celebrity accidentally offending an entire religion.

The headline makes you question why it was made in the first place. How did Cardi B get into this situation? What did she do that was so offensive? Was the response appropriate?

Having extremely specific headlines makes the audience question the how which generates more curiosity rather than kill it off. To do this, choose a shocking point in your article and write it in detail for your headlines.

Ultra-specific is also one of the 4 ‘U’s for attractive headlines, which we go into more detail in The Headlines Kit.

2- Credible

The internet is a public domain, just like any street or ‘taman’ that you walk through. Both reputable organisations and shady syndicates can use the internet.

So it’s natural for your audience to be wary of click-bait or vague headlines. They are scared of viruses or suspicious websites behind the click.

You need to earn their trust.

Don’t let them know you’re withholding information.

Headlines like “You will never believe what I found out!” or “Find out how I made 25 K in one Month!” are too general with no context clues. It’s telling your audience to trust you without forming a bond while purposely showing you have a secret; it is incredibly suspicious.

To fix this problem, you need to communicate what the key takeaway or message of your content is. If you want to use curiosity, at least mention a specific benefit or a point in your article that you audience would like to get.

For example, a surprising statistic would make your headline more intriguing and believable:

headline findings, compelling headline that converts

3 – Useful

People read your content for a purpose.

This could be to learn something new, get updated with the latest news or to be entertained. Each intention is a goal that goes beyond interest.

Your headline should promise your audience something they will get.

For example, look at our headline. It promised that you will learn how to make compelling headlines, and that’s what led you here.
By presenting an incentive, both sides will benefit from reading your article.

Useful is also one of the four ‘U’s for attractive headlines.

4 – Relevant

A Headline that screams “Pluto is not a planet anymore” is shocking – if everyone didn’t know about it already.

When you make headlines, it should respond to the current need and latest discussions if your audience and/ or niche.

By addressing relevant issues in your headline, your audience will read on to gain that incentive that they can use immediately to address their current problems.

fashion headline, compelling headline that converts

So before constructing a headline, be constantly updated about the latest news of your niche.

Adding the current slang, jargon or technical terms in your headline will also target your ideal audience.

However, be careful when using specialized words. Having too many of them may make your headline difficult to understand. Remember: clarity is more important than being relevant.

The Unspoken Rules of Compelling Headline That Converts

When it comes to headlines, there are a few unspoken rules to it, like capitalise the first letter of each word in your headlines except for connective words like ‘to’, ‘is’, ‘and’ etc.

But some of them need to be explained, even if we have a vague idea of them. Some of them you may not even know!
Here are a few basic rules you should keep in mind when writing headlines.

50/50 Rule of Headlines

The amount of time you spend writing headlines should be half the time you spend working on your content.
This is because, according to the British advertising Tycoon, David Ogilvy:

“On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”

Your headline is the only link that connects your audience to your content. It is a one-shot chance to convince your audience to learn more, so you have to make it count.

Know your Word Limit

Each digital medium has their own set numbers of characters and words that works best for them. It can even be ingrained in their algorithm as a means to identify quality content.

For example, having a title within 70 characters or less works best for Google because they only first the first 70 characters in their search results.

david ogilvy, compelling headline that converts

In the case of Twitter, the app has a character limit of 280 characters, but the most tweets are around 30-40 long.

As you can see, word and character limits don’t necessarily limit headlines, but they do influence them to some degree.

But as a general guideline, your headline should have around 60 – 100 characters or 16 -18 words.

Shorter headlines, which are usually around 6-10 words long, work better than longer headlines because they are concise and go straight to the point. They also stand out among pages of long headlines.

how-to, compelling headline that converts
You can make longer headlines, but you have to make sure each word is worth it.

Front-load Your Headline

Right now, the average attention span of each person is 8.25 seconds, so your audience will most likely skip past your headline without reading the whole thing.

In fact, according to a Kissmetics study, viewers only read the first three and last words of your headline properly.

Sell the best, most attractive points within the first and last few words of your headline. It will capture the attention of your audience and give the impression that your content is full of condensed information.

headline example, compelling headline that converts

Use Clear Language in Writing Your Compelling Headline That Converts

Using compelling adjectives, imaginative idioms and inspiring quotes can make your headline more attractive.

But whatever you choose to use, your headlines always are clear, simple and easy to understand.

This doesn’t mean your headline has to be generic. You just need to use layman’s language and common terms.

For example: “Amazing”, “Hurry” and “Opportunity” are common words, but they can certainly catch your attention.

Use an Active Voice

When people read your headlines, they are imagining that they are speaking to another person.

Always write your headlines in an active voice. It creates an instant connection between you and your audience and calls for attention.

Passive headlines tend to distance themselves from the audience and will most likely be ignored against other search results.

It’s All About Practice to Write a Compelling Headline That Converts

Even with all these tips, Writing good headlines comes with practice. To practice, you will have to test them with trial and error with your real audience to see what works best for your circumstance.

Through practice, you will develop more creative ideas overtime because you are activating your brain’s Reticular Activating System (RAS). RAS helps filter out which information is useful or beneficial to use and it can be trained to write amazing headlines.

To accelerate your skill development, try as many variations of a single headline as much as possible, regardless of poor grammar, headline length or headline conventions. This will force you to use your creativity to come up with more compelling headlines.

This is applied in Tim Hurson’s exercises of the third third.

While a 100 headlines is the ideal amount you want to come up with for this exercise, we will show you how we came up with our headline with 30 draft headlines. At each stage of the exercise, we will bold the best headlines.

Out of all your draft headlines:

The first third of your headlines will be your most obvious and common headlines. Most of them won’t make it to your final five or ten headlines of your choice. This section is mainly a place to dump all of your initial ideas.

1) How to come up with catchy headlines
2) How to develop catchy headlines
3) Headlines should be catchy – here are the skills you need
4) Develop Headlines that capture your attention
5) With the right Skills, you can develop irresistible headlines
6) With Practice, you can create unmissable headlines
7) How to write Irresistible Headlines
8) 9 Tips you will need to create irresistible headlines
9) In just a click away, you’ll create headlines that get people to click.
10) Let me show you the three third technique in creating headlines

In the second third, you start gaining momentum with your creativity. You are applying the principles and rules of headlines and they are becoming more compelling.

However, most of these headlines are based on prior knowledge and experience. So while they are more creative, they can be beaten with a more interesting headline of the same topic.

11) 4 Qualities you must have in your headlines
12) Develop Amazing Headline with these 9 tips + 1 Bonus technique
13) 9 Tips and 1 Bonus Technique to making irresistible headlines
14) You can create amazing headlines with these 10 techniques!
15) Headlines 101: Make your Audience Click
16) What makes your audience click for more?
17) Make Headlines that Click
18) 9 + 1 ways you can make audiences click
19) 9 ways you can create irresistible headlines – read on to find out our bonus technique
20) These 9 tips helped me write better headlines

Your third third will contain your best, most unique headlines. This is because at this stage, you are forcing yourself to come up with more headlines that are not identical or too similar to titles you have written before.
This is where you’ll most likely get your selling headline.

21) Find out this secret method to get clickable headlines
22) In Content Creation, 50% of your time should be spent on Headlines
23) Can’t come up with a good headline? Let me show you 10 ways you can overcome it.
24) Headlines are hard to come up with, so let me show you ten ways to do it
25) Headline creation is hard.
26) These 10 Techniques will give you irresistible headlines.
27) How to Write a Compelling Headline
28) Train yourself to come up with clickable headlines.
29) Practice makes Irresistible headlines
30) Principles You’ll need to Write Irresistible Headlines

Once you’re done, select your best lines and ask for a third party opinion. You can do this by conducting a poll among your colleagues. After picking a headline, improve on it and post it up.

Final Thoughts on Writing a Compelling Headline That Converts

By applying these tips, you will be able to write compelling headlines that will generate clicks and make your readers share your content.

But if you want attractive headlines that guarantee readers, we have constructed this Headlines Kit for you.

By gathering and spotting trends from 300 headlines that we have used before, we compiled a series of video tutorials you can learn from and a small e-book that contains useful headline templates.

compelling headline that converts

Get your Headlines Kit here: https://thelead.io/the-headline-kit

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