You might have heard of the 80/20 rule of headlining, i.e., how 8 out of 10 people read the headline, but only 2 out of 10 read the rest of the article. If that doesn’t impress upon you the importance of writing a good headline, perhaps this will. This satirical article with an alarming headline and unrelated placeholder body copy was shared a whopping 46,000 times on social media. Which means that most of the people who shared the story never read past the headline.
There are three main requirements to writing a title your audience will want to click on: keywords, entertainment value, and interest generation. Let’s work backwards to understand what that really means.
We know what you’re thinking. “Come on, everyone knows a headline has to be interesting.” You’d be surprised at the boredom-per-capita we’ve seen in headlines, even from respected publications. Interest generation is reliant on how information is presented, rather than what is presented. You’re not always going to have content so interesting that it speaks for itself, unlike this edition of the Daily Telegram:
In such a case, your responsibility is to write a catchy-enough title to pull an audience to your content anyway, for which you must look beyond the basic rules about being concise (ideally, no more than 4-5 words) and informative (so your audience knows what they’re getting into).
The writers of Brooklyn Nine-Nine understand that an obsessive scroller like Gina (aren’t all of us Gina, though?) would get instant FOMO from the headline ‘Balloon Boy Grew Up Hot’. This headline capitalises on a recognisable trend/meme that resonates with the reader while adding a dimension to it that is previously unheard of. We’re not suggesting that all of your headlines should be as clickbaity as this, only that there is a lesson behind the viral nature of clickbait itself.
A headline that makes you LOL is a good headline. Two of the easiest ways to make your reader LOL are wordplay and memes. Consider this excellent mix of pop culture and wordplay by The Indian Express:
This story is about the Australian Olympic high-jump gold medalist, Brandon Starc, whose brother Mitchell is also an Olympian. Readers, however, instantly made the connection between this Bran Starc and the Bran Stark of House Stark from Game of Thrones--a tongue-in-cheek use of wordplay that set the reference receptors in their brains tingling. Here’s a trade secret: people love it when they get references. It elicits an emotional response in them that makes them far likelier to share the content with their friends. Look it up.
Therefore, the more resonance you can generate in a headline, the more its entertainment value, and the more its virality.
Keywords, keywords, keywords!
We really cannot stress this enough. Nothing will help your content rank better than a great set of keywords. Keywords are the key (sorry, not sorry) with which your audience unlocks the door to your content. Users search for content by typing in these keywords into search engines. If your headline contains the words the user is searching for, it will come up on the first page of the Google Search results. And as we know, that’s where Googling ends for most people. That is why:
Disclaimer: In no way, shape, or form does Yellow Seed recommend hiding dead bodies.
So now you know how much your headline matters when it comes to getting your point across to a reader. So, get thinking and get started!