How to Write Headlines That Engage Your Audience
In 2021, content writing is an activity that requires some experience and
technical knowledge. Writing skills are important, but they need to be
adapted to digital platforms. While much emphasis is placed on the value of content, other aspects cannot be overlooked. For example, the weight that proper wording for a title, or headline, can carry.
If you think about it, the phrase that gives your text its name is the
first point of contact with the reader. You have the opportunity to
persuade the reader to continue reading in just a few words. Good content
can go unnoticed if there is no initial attraction.
In this post, we'll cover:
Keys to write titles that “hook”
In truth, the trick to an effective headline is a combination of form and substance. You should use resources that will help you capture the attention of the reader and the search engines. It may seem complex, but,
in this article, we will reveal the secrets to achieve the right balance and effectively reach your audience.
Know your target audience
Every marketing activity must begin with the extent of the audience’s knowledge. If you don’t know who you’re addressing, you will have a hard time persuading them. Knowing who you’re talking to means understanding how they behave, what their needs are and how they seek to meet them.
Demographic data such as age, geographic location and socio-cultural group provide clues about language and media access. However, you also need to profile their personality, values and opinions. In short, you must be familiar with the character traits and lifestyle of your target audience.
This gives you the tools to write a title that meets your expectations as well as those of the readers. Build on your knowledge of your audience so
that readers will feel that you are speaking directly to them and sharing their context and background. What’s more, people like to relate to each
other. The common identity weaves relationships and creates complicity.
Analyze what your readers are looking for
Digital content must respond to the users’ search intention. This is what algorithms try to replicate, but human language has many subtleties. Put
yourself in the reader’s shoes and imagine what needs of theirs can be satisfied with information you provide. Think about what they might be interested in and how your content responds to their questions, needs and interests.
If you are clear about the objective of the search, your messages will be very adaptable. Make sure that the reader anticipates the benefit they will get from the reading. Will it help you solve a problem? Will it make your life easier? Will it achieve a better result?
Appeal to emotions
Even essentially rational content can take an emotional approach. It has been proven that emotion prevails over logic in our decisions. We could call it “human bias.” The truth is that, aside from reason, our actions and perceptions are also conditioned by our feelings.
Imagine how readers will react to your content; ensure that your headline conveys that same feeling. Above all, don’t try to summarize all the
content in one sentence. This usually leads to empty and pretentious titles.
What do expert content writers do to reach the audience?
If you’re reading this, it’s because you know that expert content writing is a valued tool for effectively connecting with your target audience. But
how does it achieve this goal? You’re probably familiar with SEO optimization, but you have not implemented this so that it always achieves
your goals. What is not working? As we mentioned at the beginning, it is not enough to apply the technique. Robotic language is not persuasive. It can generate traffic, albeit not permanently, but it is unlikely to achieve conversions.
The following recommendations can also be applied to effectively create the body of the content. However, for our purposes here, they are particularly tailored to writing potent and engaging titles.
Use the human voice
The third postulate of the now mythical Cluetrain Manifesto explains it clearly: “Conversations between human beings sound human.” Avoid talking like a machine; use a language that is approachable and recognizable. The reader must understand what you are saying without difficulty. A pompous headline with complex data and industry jargon will scare off your audience. They are looking for answers, not new problems. If they need to take a course to understand what you want to tell them, they will move on to another site.
The more complicated a topic is, the simpler and more direct your title should be. You must persuade your readers that the following text explains
what they need to know in simple terms. It’s tempting to employ your wits
and make puns when writing headlines. You, at least, have mastered the subject and can make analogies that are very creative.
However, displaying your cleverness is not the function of a good title. Instead of impressing your potential reader, you’ll end up losing their interest and possibly driving them away. Don’t be afraid to be obvious or inventive. Most importantly, be clear and concise.
We all like to be called by our name. It means that we have been recognized and suggests a basis of familiarity and trust. It is also a direct appeal that is hard to ignore. That is precisely what happens when you write a headline aimed at your reader. You manage to capture their attention and make them feel as though you are speaking to them. When you use the third person, you’re creating distance from your audience and blurring their identity. Broad, all-encompassing terms such as “people” or “some people” can mean anyone. “You” is more specific and refers directly to the audience to whom you are addressing the message.
General terms used to designate a particular collective can, however, be effective in certain contexts. For example, “subscribers”, “affiliates” or
“students” appeal to a group within your audience.
A very effective strategy to grab a reader’s attention is to pique their curiosity. Studies on brain function show a close relationship between interest, learning and curiosity. When you create a title that hints at
something, without fully revealing it, the reader will be eager to learn what the title is suggesting.
One of the best-known writing formulas to successively arouse the reader’s curiosity is to use comparisons. You’ve probably heard the expression “king of the asphalt jungle.” It is an analogy that conveys power, status, strength through a transfer of meanings. In using such a phrase, you rely on the qualities or characteristics of something well known to express a complex idea or evoke an emotion.
Manifest the qualities of the content
The use of powerful adjectives in headlines is very effective. Qualifiers can increase the appeal of your content. They awaken interest and encourage the reader to read on. The list is very extensive, but some of the most commonly used are:
Create a sense of urgency
Although the fear of missing out, or FOMO, is said to be a new
phenomenon, it is actually part of human nature. Having the news or seizing an opportunity before others or discovering something interesting feeds our ego. That’s why content that addresses something new or exclusive attracts our attention. We feel that we need to know and be involved with these
There are words that directly appeal to FOMO or the sense of scarcity, urgency or exclusivity. They have been used in advertising claims since
time immemorial. Phrases or words such as “only for a few days,” “exclusive,” “unique” and “last chance” are calls to action. Just as they work to drive traffic to a commercial establishment, they also serve to attract the audience to the content in question. You can use them in your titles, but, to ensure loyalty, be sure to keep your promise.
Incorporate your audience’s questions
Because we say that you always need to provide a solution, it may sound
strange, but you can use your audience’s questions to indicate that the answer is in the text. It’s a good way to clearly indicate the benefit they can gain from your content.
Headlines with interrogative sentences are very common. They employ what journalists know as the 5 W’s and constitute the lead of a news item:
The interrogative adverb “how” (H) is also often included among the 5 W’s.
Answer the reader’s questions
Another way to use the 5 W’s and H is to create a title that directly answers one of these questions. In the following examples, the interrogative sentence is not used, but a solution is offered:
What: specific topic. Clarifies what the reader will find in that
Ultimate guide to weight loss
Why: reasons for choosing that content over other search results
The benefits of yoga for children
When: an appeal to urgency or to indicate a time period:
Who: generates identification in the reader, identify the intended
Cooking recipes for beginners
How: explains a process or how to achieve the result the reader is
Build your own furniture step by step
Include numbers or specific data in titles
Using numbers in titles is a proven tactic for grabbing attention. Including specifics in headlines tells the reader that the content will provide accurate answers. The lure lies in the fact that we tend to
associate numbers with accurate information, logical arguments and orderly processes. This is what our mind needs to structure thought, assimilate complex messages and integrate new knowledge.
Learn from your competition
Reviewing your competitors’ content and analyzing how they title their content can give you interesting and useful insight. This should not be an
attempt to copy them, as this is penalized by search engines. However, they can give you inspiration and reveal new approaches to a topic. Additionally, they act as reliable indicators of your audience’s needs and intentions.
There are software tools that rate the performance of keywords. Use these
reports to analyze what may work and create titles that boost the performance of your content.
Optimize your titles for SEO
SEO does merely work for content. It can be applied to headline writing as
well. In fact, search engines, in addition to crawling tags, metatypes and meta descriptions, also value titles. Pay attention to these
The length of the title is an important factor. If it is too long, it will appear incomplete in search results. Consequently, information will be lost
and its impact diminished. A short sentence can be a bit too eloquent and discourage readers from clicking on your page. The ideal length of a title is about 6 to 12 words and between 50 and 80 characters.
Use your keyword(s) in the title, preferably at the beginning of the phrase, if possible. You can also incorporate alternative versions of the keyword towards the end of the sentence. Check the effectiveness of this with an SEO analysis software tool, such as Alexa. There are free apps that you can also use for this. Then you can compare the results. Remember that the purpose of these resources is to provide guidance. Follow your instinct and don’t blindly trust what an algorithm says. Readability and consistency of writing are your primary aims.
On the other hand, although you should avoid excessive repetition of the keyword in the text, it is also advisable to use it in the subtitles. If you do it naturally, you won’t be penalized by search engines.
Effective headlines: the best cover letter for an expert content writing
It is a fact that headlines can improve search engine rankings. This is the
first step in improving the conversion rate. If you don’t make your audience aware of your content, you won’t be able to persuade them.
Headline writing is often left to the last minute. Some people prefer to write the title first and then generate the content from there. It is not really the order of execution that matters, but the care that is invested
in doing it. All the effort you’ve put into creating valuable content may be wasted if the title isn’t engaging. Don’t underestimate the power of
these 6 or 12 words.
You might think that the hardest part is writing the body text of your post. Rather, creating effective titles is one of the most important jobs of content writing services. This work involves correctly assessing and
effectively targeting your audience’s interests and SEO attributes. There is no infallible formula to it; it is something that is best learned
Optimizing the title is only part of the equation. It should also serve as an invitation to the reader. It is the preamble or the opening scene that
grabs their attention and encourages them to click. You’ll recognize the work of an expert content writing service when you see a headline that
effectively contributes to increasing your audience and rankings.