A great headline.
Without one you’re screwed.
That’s not just a statement.
In 2011, students at Colorado University did a survey to figure out how students used their smartphones.
The study found that when it came to news, students had a relatively short attention span.
For text articles, 72% of students stopped reading after a few paragraphs.
9% only read the headline. 47% only read a few paragraphs and another 16% only read about 25% of the article.
This isn’t saying that people won’t read entire articles. In fact, people will read entire articles especially if they’re interested in the topic. The issue is that people read all kinds of articles. There is so much information today that we don’t have time to read 100% of everything.
And don’t think this is only college students that have short attention spans. Everyone has short attention spans today especially smartphone users. With all the information there is no way we can consume it all. We have to create filters and one method we use is to look at the headline and first few paragraphs of the article to determine if it’s worth our time.
So how do you write great headlines?
I’m glad you asked.
How To Write Great Headlines
We’ve actually covered this before. If you’re looking for a great list of headline formulas you can check out our post on headlines formulas.
Over the years, we’ve found at Ghost Blog Writers that people respond to certain things. When they’re looking for information they often only see the headline and may a sentence or two of text.
Think about the searches you do on Google or the articles you see on social media. It’s all about headlines.
What captures your attention?
If you’re like most other people there are a few things that will make you click and read an entire article.
The Power Of “How”
Posts that show you “How” to do something are huge in the online world. If someone is curious about how to do something they’ll usually clickthrough the link and read more than just the headline and first few sentences.
We do very well on GBW and for our clients by writing how-to posts.
These posts are helpful to readers and if you target them correctly you’ll get the right kind of reader that has the potential to turn into a customer.
The next type of headline that does well is shock. Think of the headlines you’ve seen on Twitter that go something like this:
- Unknown Creature Found On Coast Of Norway
- Incredible Story Of A Dog That Traveled 1,000 Miles To See Find Family
- Man Jumps 4 Flights To Save Daughter
These are crazy headlines and people click on them all the time because they’re kind of shocking. They’re right on the edge of being crazy, but believable.
If we find something shocking when doing articles for our clients we try to use a shocking headline because it gets people interested in reading more than just the headline.
This one falls into a few of the headline formulas here, but on its own curiosity is powerful. If you know your customers well you should know how to pique their curiosity. I think of a car salesman. When they have really good customers they know that they can call at anytime simply to ask the person, “Have you seen the new model coming out next year? It’s only a rumor, but I have the early specs…”
The customer won’t be able to contain themselves. They’ll have to know.
Fear Of Being Different
Fear marketing kind of gets a bad rap and I don’t suggest going out and turning your readers and customers into fearful people. Helping them is a much better way to go about your business.
But with headlines you will get the attention of more people if you tap into their fears a little bit. The fear of being different is something many people suffer from.
A headline like, “What your haircut really says about you…” or “10 things your co-workers won’t tell you to your face” are huge click getters in the online world.
People are always wondering how they’re being perceived.
It’s easy to write a post with great tips about how to have great hair, but if you word the headline right you’ll get way more readers including those that read the entire post.
Fear Of Being Wrong
The fear of being wrong is another big one for people. We’re all wrong a lot of the time and it doesn’t really matter that much. Those that are okay with being wrong are usually the ones that keep on trying until they get a few things right.
But we all seem to get stuck on the idea of being wrong sometimes and it causes us to worry a little bit.
That’s why headlines like “Are these mistakes costing you an extra $10,000 a year in salary…” or “Do you make these 10 mistakes when cooking dinner?” are hugely successful.
The headline to this article is an example of one of those headlines.
People have short attention spans today because there is so much more access to information. With smartphones, we need to read only headlines and a paragraph or two in order to figure out if it’s worth our time to read the entire article.
Without a great headline you’re not going to win people over.
That’s why it’s important to follow the guidelines above when creating blogs and articles.
If you nail the headline you’ll be part of the 28% that get people to read the majority of your articles.
Image: Robert Scoble