Before I started writing professionally I was unaware of things like headline types. As a reader I didn’t think about the psychology behind the title of an article and which ones grabbed my attention and the titles I scrolled right by. I’ve learned a lot about writing over the past few years; one of the most valuable lessons has been the importance of writing a good headline or title.
Why Page Titles are Important:
In a nutshell the title of your web page, blog post, video, article, or any other type of content is the most important element of the page for two key reasons:
1. The Reader:
Let’s talk about the first and most important reason first – the reader. The headline or title is key; it’s function is to get attention, select the audience, tell the reader what your they can expect from your content, and compel them to read the article. According to The Copywriter’s Handbook by Robert Bly there’s a formula for effective headlines – he refers to them as the 4 U’s.
The 4 U’s Formula for Effective Headlines
- Urgent – gives a reason to act now
- Unique – Say something in a new or different way
- Ultra-specific – teasers to draw the reader in (Best Time to ______, 3 Foods That Will_______)
- Useful – appeal to the reader’s needs
2. The Search Engines:
If you’re reading this article it’s most likely because you’re interested in discovering ways to improve the chances of having a link to your content show up in natural search results. The title of an article also “tells” the search engines what topic is covered in the main body of the content. The more relevant the title is to the searcher’s intent the better the chances are that the search engine will display a link to your page.
The page title is the most important element on a page; it’s what displays as the link on the search engine results page. Key words from the searcher’s query are highlighted in bold. Google’s been working hard to better understand the “intent” behind the search and has recently also started highlighting synonyms as well as keywords.
In this example, I searched for “why is my google authorship gone.” As you can see, the top results include the words “disappeared” and “missing” in addition to “gone” and the synonyms for “gone” are highlighted in bold text. Google “knows” that disappeared, gone, and missing are synonymous in this particular context and so the search results are highly relevant even though they don’t include the specific keyword I used in my search query. Pretty cool!!
Ten Basic Headline Types
Now that we’ve talked about why page titles are important let’s dive into the various types of headlines and the how they can be used to capture the attention of your target audience. The key thing to keep in mind when writing a headline as well as your article is to think about who you are writing for. Learn, think about and know their feelings, beliefs, and desires. Most importantly determine what pain point is your content going to help them solve.
Without further ado, following is a list of ten types of headlines followed by an example of each one.
- Direct: Tell your prospect exactly what’s coming
- Indirect: Use curiosity to raise a question in the reader’s mind. Use this with some caution as you don’t want to attract and then disappoint visitors. Example from Copyblogger : An article might have the headline Fresh Bait Works Best and yet have nothing to do with fishing, because it’s actually about writing timely content that acts as link bait.
- News: If your product or service is newsworthy offer it in your headline
- How to: With over 7,000 book titles starting with ‘How To’ you can’t go wrong with this one. If you ever get stuck, try adding ‘how to’ in front of your headline
- Question: Ask an industry or market specific question but be careful when using this one. You must know your market backwards otherwise you can blow your whole advertising campaign. The best types of questions to ask are questions which get your prospect involved.
- Command: this tells your customers what to do – encourage action by also offering a benefit
- Reason Why: give your prospect reasons why they should read your article
- Testimonial: use excerpts from testimonials to write winning headlines
- Benefit: Benefits sell, features don’t. Know your market well so the benefits you are writing about resonate.
- Guarantee: State a desirable benefit and guarantee results or other benefits – be sure you can back up your promises
Examples of Headline Types:
- Direct: Learn How to Write Content Search Engines Can Find
- Indirect – Fresh Bait Works Best (Example from Copyblogger)
- News – Announcing a cure for…
- How To – How to Increase Conversions
- Question – Has Your Website Traffic Dropped?
- Command – Stop Wasting Marketing Dollars
- Reason Why – 25 Reasons to Eat Turkey
- Testimonial – Great Looking Proposals in Minutes
- Benefits – Drive Qualified Traffic at a Lower Cost
- Guarantee – Generate 100 Leads in 60 days or it’s FREE
You can check out more copy-writing tips here.
I’d love to hear about what works for you in the comments below.