Never Write Bad Headlines Again With These 5 Simple Steps

For many writers, writing headlines can be a real headache (pun intended). It’s not uncommon for editors and writers to take more time mulling over the perfect headline than producing the actual content. After all, content is useless until you can convince someone to read it.

Alas, creating the perfect headline can be painstaking work. The perfect words never seem to come, and there seems to always be another option that might do better. Which is why we have created this template to guide you along the way.

Step 1: Distill Your Idea

writing headlines
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The first step is to think about the simplest form or statement your article can be reduced to. If you have more than one main idea, you might want to consider writing a separate piece so you can send a much stronger primary message.

For this article, the main idea is “How to write a good headline”. As you can see, it doesn’t really make for a very compelling headline, but there’s a lot of potential there. The next few steps will address that.

Step 2: What Will The Reader Get Out Of It

writing headlines
Photo by Joe deSousa

Content marketing is about value proposition, and your readers need to get some form of return from the time and effort they put in. The next step is thinking about what your reader is going to get out of reading it. Is it going to get them more sales? Learn secrets to raising the perfect children?

For this article, I went with “Never write bad headlines”.

Step 3: Quantify

writing headlines
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This isn’t an essential step, but studies have shown that including numbers in your headlines encourage more readership. Some will argue that it’s gimmicky. But if the content is strong, numbers in your headline can do wonders for you.

First of all, numbers give readers an estimation on how much time and effort they would have to put in to get something out of the article. In today’s world of short attention spans, this is invaluable.

It doesn’t mean you have to go the listicle route with “10 beaches to go to” or “3 steps to solve world poverty”, you can quantify by listing time as well “Spend 30 seconds and save $300” is one example of doing so.

In this case, I’m going to go with “Never write bad headlines with these 5 steps”.

Step 4: Make a Promise

writing headlines
Photo by Christian Ditaputratama

Readers like reassurance, to know that they will get something out of their time for sure. Whether it’s a new skill, some insight to their industry or simply a good time.

You can do this in several ways, words like “will” or “guarantee” imply assurance. An example of this could be: “This 30-second video of a sneezing dog will make your day”.

For this article, the title “Never write bad headlines with these 5 steps” itself at this stage is already alludes to a promise, so we can leave it as it is.

Step 5: Inject Some Feeling Into It

writing headlines
Photo by StockSnap

A powerful headline is also one that manages to connect with people. Getting someone to empathise and relate to your message will strongly influence a potential reader’s decision to read it.

For my headline, I decided to go with “Never write bad headlines again with these 5 simple steps”. The only words I added are “again” and “simple”. It might seem arbitrary, but there are some consequences to them.

“Again” identifies with writers because it’s their job. Writing headlines isn’t a one-off thing and it’s a very common problem. It also offers additional reassurance. It implies that it’s ok if you’ve made the mistake before – because now you can do something about it.

By saying something is “simple”,  it again offers some reassurance. Writers are busy people, and simple just means lesser effort to implement for great results! Who wouldn’t click on a deal like that?

Start Writing Headlines!

So there you have it! How to create your perfect headline. These are just guidelines, of course. So feel free to make additions or amends once you’ve had more practice.

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