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When you write a headline for an article, blog post, podcast, or even an email, you should feel as nervous as you would meeting someone for a first date. That is because the headline you choose is a potential customer’s first impression of your company. Choose a boring one and he or she will be underwhelmed. Choose a headline for an article that doesn’t follow through with its promise and you will earn the label of click baiter. So how do you get it just right? The answer is to consider some of the formulas described below.

What Are You Trying to Convey?

To give you an idea of how many headline formulas exist, check out this article at SumoMe. Before you get too overwhelmed reading through the list, consider the message of the media you are about to publish. Are you trying to describe how to do something? To let someone in on a secret? Rally people to take action? Knowing your company’s motivation is essential to choosing a headline that works. Whether you outsource your content creation or write it in-house, saving the headline until last is a good idea. That enables you to write the headline to match the content rather than the other way around.

Here are some examples of how you would use the formulas at SumoMe with the top five types of headlines listed in its article:

  • How To: This one is the most popular type of headline for a reason. People are constantly searching online to learn how to complete a task or solve a problem. The formula to use here is How to Achieve a Desired Outcome. Of course, you want to make it as interesting as possible. How to Titillate the Tastebuds by Adding Exotic Spices is better than How to Cook Better.
  • The Ultimate List: An article that promises results by following a certain number of steps is attractive to busy readers. Start with as large and random of a number as possible to grab a reader’s attention when writing this type of headline. For example, 23 Ways to Make Sure You’re Next in Line for a Promotion follows the formula of Large Number of Ways to Achieve an Outcome.
  • The Ultimate Guide: This differs from the ultimate list because the content is in regular written form rather than a numbered list or bullet points. Using the word ultimate here lets readers know this may be the last article they ever have to read on the subject. The Ultimate Guide to Enjoying a Filet Mignon Appetite on a Ramen Noodle Budge is an example of a headline following the formula The Ultimate Guide to Achieve a Desired Outcome.
  • Fearmonger: This headline draws people in because it promises an answer to something that scares them. While you should always be conservative with the use of exclamation points, it’s perfectly acceptable in this case. In fact, the formula for a fearmonger headline goes like this: Warning! Are You Something Undesirable? Of course, you want to replace the something undesirable with the topic of your article, such as Warning! Are You the Talk of the Office and Don’t Even Know It?
  • Rally Cry: This headline formula is perfect for people who want to get others to care about a cause and to take further action to support it. With a headline formula of Call to Arms, you have complete freedom in your word choice. Like the fearmonger headline, you should use an exclamation point to ensure your point comes across loud and clear. A good example here is Stop the Autism Epidemic Now!

Testing Your Headlines

Once you have published your content, it’s important to understand which headlines draw the most traffic. Plan to run a test by publishing the same article under two or three different headlines and then analyzing the results. Collecting user demographics from the clicks helps you to target your headline writing even better in the future. An edgy headline may work for college students but turn off those near retirement age. Assuming you cater to both, there is no reason why the headlines you choose can’t reflect that. If your traffic from a certain headline formula start dropping, don’t be afraid to try something new until you see the numbers and conversions you want.