You only get one chance to make a first impression and, in the world of publishing and content marketing, that is the headline. Today, reporters are often compensated by the numbers of page views and clicks on their published stories which has led to a rash of click bait, sensationalized headlines everywhere from Buzzfeed to Facebook, designed to illicit an immediate click, such as: 15 Amazing Celebrity Diet Secrets: Your Jaw Will Drop at #7 or Someone Left This Dog Outside During a Rainstorm…Then This Happened.
In PR and social content, headlines matter enormously too – whether it’s the subject line of an email pitch, the headline of a contributed article, or the title of an infographic or video. The reality is we also need to think like reporters and editors when developing content so that our pitches are read and our content widely viewed and shared.
Just recently, I read a great report produced by Outbrain and HubSpot on the analysis of writing good headlines. It examined the three main goals of content marketers: traffic, engagement and conversion, and how headlines affect each metric.
For example, if your goal is to grow traffic, then clickthrough rate (CTR) is your most important metric. According to the report, these are the most important things you need to consider when writing headlines to drive CTR (plus a few to avoid):
- Use the words “photo” and “who” in the headline
- Use headlines of a moderate length (81-100 characters)
- Use bracketed clarifications included in headlines, such as: A Look Inside Mashable’s Evolution [Interview]
- Use the words: “easy,” “how to,” “cure,” “magic,” “simple,” “trick,” and “free”
- Reference the reader by using the words “you,” “your,” or “you’re”
- Include positive superlatives such as “best” and “always”
- Use words that convey a sense of urgency like “need,” and “now”
So now you know: a headline like “The Best Simple Tricks You Always Need to Know Now” just isn’t going to cut it. You can download the entire report here.