• Hooking the Headline: Six Easy Ways to Catch a Reader

    hook the reader

    We live in a world that offers a tremendous amount of information. The online world is even more intense, as readers often have the attention span of a gnat. The first, and sometimes only, chance that you have to catch a reader on your first screen is through your headline. A headline’s job is to literally make a reader stop…and then read more.

    1. Pleasing or Painful Headlines

    A headline should include a benefit that will appeal to your readers, whether that benefit is a positive or a negative. Positive headlines might be geared around:

    • Saving
    • Profiting
    • Gaining
    • Winning
    • Rewarding

    Positive headlines focus in on the “goodies” that your readership will have if they only continue to read your copy. Examples:

    • Win your Boyfriend Back
    • Reward Yourself with a 20% Savings
    • Gain an Edge  Against the Competition

    Negative headlines are written to avoid:

    • Loss
    • Embarrassment
    • Mistakes
    • Uneasiness
    • Pain

    Negative headlines are written to help readers from making any unnecessary “boo-boos” that will make their lives miserable. Examples:

    • Have You Even Been Embarrassed at an Expensive Restaurant?
    • Avoid the Pain of Foreclosure
    • Do You Ache at the End of the Day?

    2. Appealing Headlines

    Everyone loves to be part of the “in” crowd.  Headlines that can hook with the “in” crowd in mind include words such as “secret” or “little known ways.” Some examples are:

    • The Secrets of Beauty Supply Management
    • Little Known Ways to Improve Your Bottom Line

    On the flip side of the coin, no one wants to be left out. “What Everyone Should Know About Growing Azaleas” screams at the reader that he or she may not have the complete story and really needs to check the content out to make sure that the reader “knows it all.”

    3. Easy and Time Saving Headlines

    Most people hate wasting time, particularly on solving problems.  Many men and women would sincerely like to ignore their problems or hope that the problems just go away.  Consequently, headlines that emphasize speed in solving a problem can be real winners. Examples include:

    • Five Quick Ways to Fix a Drain
    • A Quick Way to Train Your Dog

    No one likes to do “hard” things.  Therefore, “easy” is another great hook word. Examples of headlines:

    • Five Easy Ways to Study More Effectively
    • One Easy Way to Pick Up Incremental Sales

    “Easy” can also be combined with “quick” for a “double whammy” headline.

    • Five Quick and Easy Steps to Program Your CD

    If your target markets includes people who are challenged by issues such as technology or home repairs, “easy” is a nice word to have in your arsenal.

    A variation of “Easy” is the “Lazy” approach:

    • A Lazy Mom’s Way of Doing Laundry

    Lazy implies that the content will give information about how to do laundry quickly and easily.

    4. Curiosity Headlines

    Curiosity killed the cat, but not an internet reader. In fact, curiosity is a strong motivation to lean more. A headline that appeal to curiosity would be:

    • Ways to Entice Your Wife or Girlfriend
    • Interested in Getting the Goods?
    • The Alluring World of Insects

    5. “Just the Facts” Headlines

    3M Results

    Sometimes simply stating the facts is a good way to go.

    • Learn How John Doe Made Millions Selling Securities
    • Ten Time Management Techniques
    • Buy a $100 Vacuum Cleaner with a Money Back Guarantee

    6. Writing Headlines

    Many people look at headlines as an afterthought.

    This is a mistake.

    When you consider that a headline’s job is to literally stop a reader from moving on to the next website, this makes sense.  Experts suggest that you write up to fifty headlines or more before you choose the best one for your content.

    stop CRO frustrations

    Headline Writing Tips

    • Treat your headlines like the rest of your writing. You would not turn in copy without letting it brew for a period of time. Let your headlines sit a day before you chose the perfect one.
    • Questions are traditional hooks in writing. Turn your headline into a question.
    • “How to….” is another eye-catching format.
    • Use the imperative or “command” voice when writing headlines. Imperative headlines start with an active verb and an implied “you” as the subject.
      • Enjoy the High Life Now
      • Stop Hiding Today
      • Create Your Own Position
    • “Put Your Headline in Quotation Marks.” Quotes are often used in writing because the person who spoke or wrote the quote originally was an expert, famous, or otherwise important. This will lead your readers to think that your headline is important, too.

    What headlines have worked for you?

    What are the best headlines that you have seen?

Ayat Shukairy

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7 thoughts on “Hooking the Headline: Six Easy Ways to Catch a Reader”

  1. Great tips Laura. I’m always looking for advice on writing better headlines and page titles.

    One thing I do to understand how to better write headlines is to read the covers of the magazines at the super market while waiting in line.

    None are magazines I’d buy, but there’s a lot of learning in those headlines. Oprah’s magazine does it very well.

  2. Laura says:

    Steve:

    Don’t tell me that you check out the..GULP…National Enquirer as well…I have always thought that it would be a blast to write for that magazine!

  3. Ayat Ayat says:

    Some magazines do put a lot of thought into their headlines. They have to because when you’re standing in that check out line at the grocery store they’ve gotta “hook” you. But the challenge online is quite different. You have 3 seconds to convince the reader to stay on your site, so time is crucial and limited.

  4. Thanks for a great reminder. Headlines are huge – they help people to stick around your site and also bring a lot of traffic through social media. I think everyone should take more time to create the best headlines. Thanks again!

  5. joseph perros says:

    Very good tips, I need to work on using some of these techniques. It seems that many of my blog posts in the past have had lackluster headlines. Now after reading this – magazine be ware! heh

  6. khalid khalid says:

    nice list Laura. In all honesty, we used to spend very little time on selecting a headline for a post. Nowadays, I can spend close to 30 minutes looking for a good headline!

  7. Laura says:

    Vera: You still have to catch a reader’s attention after a search engine plops him or her on your screen. Just because a visitor “arrives” doesn’t mean that the visitor is going to stay for any period of time.

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