Every day, 306.4 billion emails are sent, 500 million Tweets are made and a mind-boggling 1.145 trillion MB of data is created per day. Whether you like it or not, a killer headline is what makes or breaks your article or press release in this age of information overload.
Communications professionals and public relations scholars in Nigeria need to master the art of crafting great headlines to grab the readers’ attention and also impress the clients.
Here are 7 golden rules of writing compelling headlines to get the audience clicking:
Headline Rule #1. Connect with your readers’ pain point
Want your blog post to get opened?
Then, have a mouth-watering topic and your headline must promise readers the very answer to whatever is tormenting them.
What keeps your readers up at night? Answer that question in your headline. Keep the benefit specific and narrow, and readers will feel compelled to click and get the solution to what’s bugging them.
How do you find out what’s bugging your readers? Do some research and think. Of course, Nigerians have so many things agitating them. But try and narrow it down. The better you know your readers the better you serve them.
Let’s say your client wants to create a message around self-improvement. You can write a headline like this below:
How to Create an Amazing Life
This headline is too broad and is unlikely to grab the reader.
So you are better off narrowing in on something specific that’s bugging your readers, such as:
How to Boldly Pursue Your Dreams Even if You’re Scared and Insecure
Narrowing in on something specific makes readers feel like you have the answers they’re looking for.
Headline Rule #2. Kiss (Keep it Stupid Simple)
If you look at some of the best headlines out there, you will notice that they are often simple but strong. Being complex and too clever doesn’t work.
What you want is for your headline to be so simple that prospects can take one look at it and immediately “get it.”
How long should your headline be? it’s a common SEO practice to keep your headlines to 60 characters or less, or around 7 words.
FUGAZ Bank to hold educational seminar series on the adoption and benefits of e-Naira digital currency
Improved and simplified version:
FUGAZ Bank launches e-Naira educational seminar series
FUGAZ Bank to educate Nigerians on e-Naira
Headline Rule #3. Engage and play on their emotions
Vague headlines leave readers feeling empty. Tangible headlines leave them feeling understood.
How do you create tangible headlines for your readers? How do they feel? What do they see, taste, or smell? What do they hear?
Engage all of your senses by using sensory words.
Let’s say you write about health and wellness and you wrote a headline titled:
5 Steps to Take When a Migraine Hits
This headline follows the formula,, and knows something that’s bugging readers. All in all, it’s not too bad.
But you can step it up a notch and be even more concrete. Perhaps that would lead you to the following:
5 Ways to Soothe Pounding and Blinding Migraines
If you suffer from migraines, there’s no way you could resist clicking such a headline.
Decisions are based on emotions. Capitalize on that power using the headline to elicit a feeling or to describe one.
Headline Rule #4. Tease, don’t satisfy
A common mistake people make is giving away too much in their headlines.
Your headlines should lure readers in like a literary temptress. They should catch readers’ attention and invoke their curiosity, not give all the solutions.
Give a solution in your headline and readers may feel no need to go any further.
“How to Save for Retirement by Creating a Monthly Budget”
Sadly, readers will see this and think they’ve got all the advice they need — if they want to save for retirement, they must create a monthly budget. No need to read more.
On the other hand, a possible revision could be:
How to save for retirement even with delayed or unpaid salaries
Nothing is given away here. It speaks to an audience with a very specific problem, and it promises a solution they would love to hear.
Headline Rule #5. Honor the headline commandment
When it comes to headlines, there is one commandment you should never break: “Thou shalt not deceive.”
The content of your post must fully deliver on exactly what the headline promises. If the post only delivers part of the solution, readers will feel misled and lose their trust in you.
Let’s say you write a post called:
How to Live a Happy and Peaceful Life
But then the post only talks about following your dreams, which is really only one aspect of living a happy and peaceful life. Even though you didn’t intentionally deceive them, readers will feel shortchanged.
Headline Rule #6. Trim the fat and use power words
Weak and flabby words that add no real value. overwhelm or turn off the readers.
You want your headlines to be as ruthlessly concise and powerful as possible. So use power words and chop out weak words.
Let’s say you draft the following headline:
How to Find It In Your Heart to Forgive Someone Even if They’ve Hurt You Really Badly
There are just so many words! We can cut them down as follows:
How to Forgive Someone Who Hurt You Badly
We can then add some power to it:
How to Forgive a Soul-Crushing Betrayal
How your brand can stand out in the cluttered and highly competitive Nigerian market
My head is already spinning. This can be cut down to:
Stand out or get lost in the market
We could even make it more tangible and powerful:
Stand out or get lost!
Nice and trim, but packs a punch
Headline Rule #7. What’s in it for me?
Ask yourself, if you saw this headline would you click on it? Will it answer the reader’s question: What’s in it for me?
When writing a headline, try writing 5–10 different versions of the same headline. The more you play with the words, the better you will get at crafting clear, concise, and curiosity-invoking headlines that other editors will envy and readers cannot resist.