6 winning headline styles that attract readers6 winning headline styles that attract readers6 winning headline styles that attract readers6 winning headline styles that attract readers
Smarter Marketing

6 winning headline styles that attract readers

16 July 2013
6 winning headline styles that attract readers

by James

Head of Natural Search

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In the animal kingdom, the male peacock splays and shakes his incredibly detailed “eyespot” tail in a hypnotic dance. The male lion is crowned with a golden mane: the length and fullness dictates his virility and the Lekking fish displays elaborate colours in its scales, all in the name of attraction.

Online, we employ the awesome power of headlines to attract readers. So, here are eight proven headline styles that will hook a reader, increase social shares and make your writing more appealing.

Write better headlines

#1 Numbered lists

News site Buzzfeed.com is a chief proponent of the numbered list. It’s a simple format that lets the reader know exactly what they’re getting.

Example of a list headline

The list format appeals to the modern multi-screen reader: a certain breed of person that typically wants to get information whenever and wherever, but only wants to spend a small amount of time reading. So, a headline like this …

Huffington Post Headline style

… is going to appeal to a modern, time-conscious browser, both in terms of the small amount of effort it will take to read the article and how quickly they can improve their productivity – so they’re able to take in even more information at ever quicker speeds.

It’s also a proposition to the reader: read this and your productivity will improve. Will it? Read it and find out.

I’ve even used the numbered list for this post: “6 winning headline styles”. There should be eight tips, you can count them if you like.

#2 The promise of multimedia

As an SEO consultant, I know that webpages containing multimedia are far more engaging than plain text. The majority of your readers will have grown up with the television being a primary source to gather information, so appeal to readers on their level – include a video.

Also, if you’ve let readers know in the title that they’ll be greeted with a video, they’ll be more inclined to click-through to the actual web page itself.

The written form still has its place, but studies have shown that a web page with diverse media increases on-page engagement.

#3 Warnings

A brief and naive study of the human psyche tells you that as human beings, we instinctively always want to hear the bad news first.

The media bombards us with dramatic, often horrific, news stories which far outweigh good news.

According to some neurologists and psychologists, the reason why media reporting is so pessimistic is because it reflects our evolution as hunter gatherers. Our latent survival instinct means that we want to be aware of the bad news so we can prepare to defend ourselves against potential threats.

But we no longer run around in animal skins warding off sabre-toothed cats; however the survival instinct remains. Albeit in a much more diluted, superficial sense.

For instance, we now want to preserve our comfort, position, possessions – everything that we’ve worked hard for – so we like to be aware of anything that can potentially damage us.

I don’t like to use this tactic very often, the scaremongering headline; I mean, I’m not a journalist at the Daily Mail. But nonetheless it is a good tactic, as it plays on the fear principle.

I’m both curious and unsettled that four everyday things can be damaging my appearance. I’m scared that something I routinely use is damaging my flawless complexion. See it’s working, it’s played upon my fear (albeit vanity).

#4 The new

The first of firsts.

Breaking news to your followers or readership will reward you with instant exposure. Google’s recency factor applies to breaking news, so if your article is shared, or re-tweeted a lot, your site could compete with the likes of BBC News and Sky for the top spots.

Again, to delve into the human psyche, we have a natural desire to learn new things, so your article can amplify this to draw attention.

In my line of work, tools, processes and technology are constantly being upgraded, so if your articles can keep up with the pace, you’re going to be recognised as a thought leader, and your online reputation will soar.

Search Engine Land is a great example of a website that manages to break search industry news first.

search engine land news feed

Their headlines encapsulate new development in a concise and informative manner, making them a very trustworthy source.

#5 “How to…”

If you think about how searchers use a search engine, their query almost always asks a question. Content that promises a solution has shown to be really valuable in comparison to headlines that do not.

Headlines that not only promise a solution, but also imply that you can save money and improve business performance have added value – and no doubt reflect a large monthly search volume.

This is a great headline style to use for a very niche industry, as no matter how marginalised you think your products or services may be, there is someone out there that will require a solution to something that your services or products can fix. Take this headline for example:

Something for a rainy day, perhaps?

Once you’ve created your content, analyse it in terms of usefulness. Can you apply this headline style to your content? Do a quick search using Google keywords tool, or Wordtracker,  and see what the search volume is.

#6 Secrets Revealed

A post on the internet is never a secret, but we’re still attracted to a secretive headline because we feel as if we’re part of the chosen few to receive such sought after information.

This relavatory language tool makes us lose all sense of rationale, and if we add in the credibility from an expert it’s a surefire winner!

The copywriting experts at Copyblogger regularly employ this format to captivate their readers. Take a look at this article for instance:

The Google Authorship photo helps to extablish the writer as an expert. (See my post about “how to implement rich snippets” to make yourself look like a pro, too).

This style also works well as an an email marketing subject line because it arrives in an individual’s inbox, further creating this sense of personal privilege for being let in on a much coveted secret from an industry expert.

If you enjoyed reading this post, check out my recent article on “how to write better headlines”.

If you need help with your content marketing or copywriting efforts, Receptional has a team of experienced writers who can set your strategy apart from the rest. Contact us today.

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    About the author

    6 winning headline styles that attract readers

    Part of the senior management team, James has developed our SEO and link building offering over the last six years. He is results driven, ROI focused, and specialises in SEO for law firms and international businesses. Outside of work, James enjoys archery, war-gaming and growing vegetables with his wife and four children.

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