As we know, most people read and share posts based on titles alone. From blog titles to social media posts and beyond, knowing how to write a compelling headline is an invaluable skill.
If you don’t consider yourself much of a creative writer, don’t worry. Our guide breaks down 8 actionable headline writing tips that will help you get those clicks and shares.
1. Create headlines that promise a payoff
It’s no secret that today’s readers have small attention spans. As we scroll through our feeds, we’re passing by dozens of headlines in just seconds. That’s why it’s so important to answer the question of “So what?” or “Why bother?” with a compelling title that stops readers in their tracks.
Your audience’s time is valuable. You should promise a payoff in exchange for their click. Here are a couple of examples from Sprout Social. We’ve highlighted in bold the promise – the reason why someone should spend their valuable time reading.
- “Write that down – take the best meeting minutes with this template”
- “Reclaim your time with these 12 time management tips”
- “Launch your new product in no time with agile project management”
Ask yourself: how can you frame your post’s title as benefitting the reader?
2. Ask a question
Question-based headlines are the go-to for writers. We’re curious creatures, after all. When we take to Google or social media, we already have questions in our head, and such headlines feed into our curiosity. Questions aren’t just prime for blog post headlines, but also social media captions as well.
Also, when we see a question presented to us, our brains want to be satisfied with an answer by default. Here are some sample formats for question-based headlines to get you brainstorming:
- “How can I…”
- “When does…”
- “Where does…”
- “Why do…”
- “How often should…”
3. Get personal with “You”, “We” and “I”
Address your readers (and yourself directly) to connect. Referring to yourself/your company in the first-person and your reader in the second-person is a subtle yet significant way to make your posts seem more personable. Here’s an example:
“How we grew blog traffic by 650% in two years – organically”
Using “we” instead of your company name is a smart move to make your posts feel like they’re coming from an actual person rather than a faceless business.
Additionally, referring to your readers in the second-person can help your titles feel a bit less market-y or sales-y. For example:
“Retiring soon? Here are 10 things you can work on in your home”
Try not to always prioritise optimisation. Headline writing is about making a connection with your reader, and more personal headlines can make it happen.
4. Incorporate numbers into your headline writing
Numbers are easy for our brains to process at a glance. List-style headlines are so popular because they naturally reel in readers. Why? They’re scan-worthy and straightforward. As a result, these titles signal posts that are simple to digest and scroll through in no time.
Also, many click-worthy headlines make time-sensitive promises (“… in just 30 days”). Many case studies likewise use specific figures (“How we increased our social media engagement by 134%”) to signal that the numbers aren’t just fluff.
5. Speak your audience’s language with industry phrases
Don’t exclusively use jargon in your headlines. Instead, consider how you can craft titles that speak to specific sectors of your audience. Using industry-specific terms isn’t just a way of letting your audience know you’re writing for them. It also potentially targets keywords in both social media and Google searches.
6. Brainstorm at least five headlines for every post
We recommend writing five headlines to help you hash out your ideas and get the creative juices flowing. Here are some sample headline types to help you put together the title for your next post:
- A how-to headline
- A question-based headline
- A headline based around a power word or phrase
- A short-form headline (less than 60 characters)
- A longer-form headline (80-100 characters)
7. Don’t rely on the same type of headline every time
You shouldn’t simply rely on certain headline types exclusively. Having a diverse content calendar with a variety of headlines can help to keep your readers interested and gives them something fresh to look forward to.
Mix it up with a variety of how-tos, deep-dive guides, lists and case studies.
8. Analyse your headline writing to find top performing titles
This can help point you to which types of headlines you should prioritise and likewise which ones you might want to avoid. Although there are other factors involved with traffic and shares (e.g. the post content, timing, and SEO), seeing that a specific headline type tends to get double the engagement is certainly telling.
Keep an eye on your traffic numbers via Google Analytics to assess which headlines score the most traffic. Analyse your most-shared and popular social media posts too.
And there you have it – our guide to headline writing!