If you are a content creator of any kind and you make blog posts, create YouTube videos, write kindle ebooks, or an online instructor, you need great headlines. But coming up with ones that are going to seize your audience’s attention can be a little challenging. In this post, we are going to talk about three formulas that are proven and tested on writing a great headline.
Why These Formulas Work
The most basic reason why these formulas work is because they are based on a deep understanding of how a human brain works. Based on evolution, the human brain has developed into a solution-seeking device. From the dawn of humanity, people have to solve problems – may that be on how to hunt, how to build a fire, or how to defend themselves from predators to survive. Over the years, all of these things have made the brain solution-oriented, and this hasn’t changed until today. Although we have different problems today, we are still constantly trying to find solutions for them. This is the first factor that you should keep in mind when writing a great headline.
The second factor is the most common word used every day. It’s not “love”, it’s not “money”. It’s the word “I”. Most often, when we’re not preoccupied with major problems, we think of and about ourselves. What will I eat? Where should I go for vacation? What should I wear? The list goes one. This does not make people good or bad, but thinking in this perspective can help you write good headlines. By keeping the reader’s needs, problems, and desires in mind, they will definitely want to hear you out because you are basically saying, “Hey, I know and understand how you feel. Let’s talk about your problems, I’m here to help”. Just a word of caution though, be careful when using those “how to get rich doing nothing” slogans. You can get in trouble if you are promising something that’s subjected to a lot of different factors, and it can sound very scam-y.
To sum things up, keep these two factors in mind:
- The human brain is seeking solutions
- Always think about the reader’s benefits
You’ll be on a fast track to writing mind-blowing headlines and making people want what you are offering.
Formula #1: The “How-to”
In writing a good headline, one of the easiest ways is by using the good old phrase “How-To”. This might be overused but it works. It works because it sparks up the reader’s attention and the solution-seeking function of our brains.
Example 1: Traveling to Thailand
Assume that we are writing a blog post about traveling to Thailand. Instead of writing “Traveling to Thailand”, use the how-to formula and it will give you “How to Travel to Thailand”. With the latter, we are getting more specific. We’re targeting people who want to travel to Thailand, but we can do even better than that. We can be more specific. Keep in mind that catering to our reader’s needs and problems are our priority. The headlines we make should be able to address those needs and problems and show how to fix them.
In this case, we can get specific by writing “How to Get to Thailand on a Bike”. Now, we are addressing people who are world-wide traveling bike riders, or we could write “How to Get to Thailand Without Spending a Dime”. Here we are addressing people who have no money to get to Thailand. This last example takes us to something called Objection Killing.
Objection Killing is a useful technique when writing a good headline that grabs attention. By killing people’s objections, we are making them extremely interested in the solution that we are offering. In the example above, the objection killing for the bike riders could look like this: How to Get to Thailand on a Bike in Less Than a Week or How to Get to Thailand on a Bike Without Having a Flat Tire. We are addressing the most common problems and objections bike riders can have if they want to Travel to Thailand.
Assuming that you know your target audience and have already done your research, you already know what their most common objections are.
Example 2: Making Your Kids Eat Vegetable
Let’s assume that we are passionate cooks who promote healthy eating and have come up with a sure-fire way of encouraging children to eat veggies. A headline like “How to Make Kids Eat Vegetables” is the most obvious one. But if you want to add some objection killing in it, make it “How to Make Your Kids Eat Vegetable With a Smile” or “How to Make Your Kids Ask You to Cook Vegetable for Them”. We are addressing the parent’s objections who are most probably tired of trying to make their kids eat vegetables, so there you go.
That is how you use the How-To formulas to write great headlines. Remember to keep the audience’s benefits in mind, make it as specific as you can, and kill some objections along the way. With this, your headline will surely grab the reader’s attention.
Formula #2: The Power of the List
We are living in a time when sharing content is a must for businesses to get noticed. So if you want your content to get shares on Facebook and/or Twitter, a list type of headline is a good fit for you.
Lists have been popular today and it’s pretty obvious why. We have less and less time to do more and more things. Lists give out easy-to-digest bite-sized chunks of information and it gives the readers an exact idea of what to expect.
- 10 Ways to Travel to Thailand Without Spending a Dime
- 7 Easy Steps to Make Dieting Easy (No. 5 is particularly effective)
You can see the power of the list right away. One glance allows you to understand what you can expect inside, and if you add some objection killing, you get yourself a click and a Facebook share.
Does the size of the list matter?
There may be one more question you are asking now. Does the size of the list matter? How many steps or ways or tricks does a list need?
The most common amount of things on the list you can see on your Facebook wall if you like profiles like Psychology Today and Business Insider is seven. Many consider this to be a lucky number, but it’s also not too long a list, or too short. It’s comprehensive and easy to digest. Of course, it’s not mandatory to make all your lists in sevens, but studies show that lists that are odd numbers not greater than nine are easier for readers to remember. If the list exceeds nine steps, try to end it with a five or a zero. So it should be 10, 15, or 25, instead of 11, 17, or 26.
You can also use a top list, e.g. Top 3 or Top 10 ways of something. But remember that a list of top 9 or 6 won’t look too plausible, it will look like you just made it up and made it a top list.
The list is the second headline formula and it’s useful when you’re after those Facebook likes and shares.
- 7 Easy Ways of Making your Kids Ask you to Cook Spinach for Them
- 5 Tricks to Learn a New Skill When You are Stuck in Traffic
- 5 Ways to Sleep Healthy, Longer and Wake Up Refreshed
Just remember to make it an odd number if it’s not greater than 9, and seven is the best. Round the list to zero or five if it has more than ten items, and you can always use the top list if you need some variety.
Formula #3: Question Headlines
The question headline is an answer to people’s need to find a solution and a promise to reveal it after they click.
Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Picture yourself starting up Google and looking for an answer to a question your customer might have. What kind of information would they be looking for? How would they ask it? What keywords would they use? With a question headline, you can use one of these two tactics.
Tactic #1: Ask a Yes or No question and give an answer straight away or phrase the question so the reader must click to get the answer.
- Are you paying too much for tennis lessons? This free report will tell you.
- Can you hit home runs like this 7-year old?
The reader, most probably a baseball enthusiast, would have to take a look inside to actually find out if there is a seven-year-old who can hit home runs better than he can.
Tactic #2: Ask a question that implies the answer or the benefits. It’s as easy as using words like “this”, “these” or even “which”.
- Are you make these mistakes planting a garden?
- What makes a perfect gentleman?
- Which latest gadget is the most affordable?
Question headlines can be really powerful if you are asking the right questions. Just remember to get into your audience’s mind and think about what questions they might ask. Also, think about what keywords they might use to find the answer. And don’t forget to phrase the question in a way that would make a promise of solving a problem if the reader clicks on the headline.
How to Evaluate Your Headlines
If you are just starting out, most probably you’re not sure whether your headline is good. So, how can we check the potential effectiveness of our headlines?
Two online sources can help in evaluating your headlines. The first one is the Emotional and Marketing Value Headline Analyzer. It’s a free tool you can find on the Advanced Marketing Institute website. This tool counts the total number of EMV words in your headline in relation to the total number of words it contains. Copy your headline and paste it on the analyzer window and click the Submit for Analysis button to get your results. The higher the number the better, but if you can score something around 30%, that is already good enough.
The second headline analyzing tool is more of an in-depth study of your headline. It’s called the blog post headline analyzer that you are gonna find on the CoSchedule.com site. All you need to do is to paste in your headline and let the analysis begin. It will give you a detailed evaluation of your headline in terms of word count and balance. It will give you lots of useful data that you can use to spruce up your headline. And if you can see the green color, that already means your headline is good to go.
These are the two easiest ways of evaluating your headlines. Remember to practice all the formulas you learned in this post and check which version gives you the best results.
Now that you have learned the three formulas for writing a good headline, it’s time you put what you’ve learned into action. You can try to mix these formulas together to see if you can get even better results. Keep on practicing because this is the only what that will make you into a real headline superstar.