I don’t think headline writing is a dark art in the sense that some people can do it and some people can’t. Everyone can do it, as long as you pay your dues and learn how to do it.
A headline is about getting attention.
You stop the reader in their tracks. Your reader has a sandwich in one hand, is five minutes to the end of her lunch break, she has one eye on the fax machine hoping it wont send back the dodgy order she just put through to purchasing and all this while she is continuing a conversation with her cube buddy about the benefits of elastic.
This is what you are competing with. It’s not like people rush to their computers to see what you wrote today, panting breathlessly over your words of wisdom. They have busy lives, we all have busy lives, we all suffer uber distraction.
We fight tooth and claw for every pair of eyeballs to come to our blogs. When they arrive, something needs to be there to appeal to the readers interest.
John Caples said, “The best headlines appeal to peoples self-interest.”
It’s the “What’s in it for me?” Factor.
When I write linkbait for people I spend a serious chunk of time on the headline.
Why? Because the headline is read by five times as many people who read the body copy, according to David Ogilvy. The headline is what stops people in their tracks and seduces them to continue reading.
Here are some examples I created around a fictional website selling chocolate. The headlines are pretty raw as I have hardly edited them. I could easily come up with a hundred more and would if writing for a client, but as I’m not getting paid for this one I will stop now to get some time at the beach.
28 Reasons why chocolate is the new super food
Ten tips to using chocolate in your diet
Ways to impress your guests with after dinner chocolate
Fellas, did you know that woman are more open to suggestion after eating chocolate
How chocolate can send you to heaven and back
How to lose weight without reducing your chocolate habit
Amazing benefits of chocolate revealed
Pound for pound chocolate is healthier than a carrot
Chocolate! Why it’s a potent drug. And still legal!
Gain crucial antioxidants, simply by eating chocolate
How eating chocolate can increase your muscle mass
What chocoholics know about the secret of sexual temptation
Why some women eat tons of chocolate and yet stay thin
Thoughts behind the headlines
These are the facts which in essence say the same thing, except they do not have that “thing” a headline must have.
Consumers are mostly women.
Chocolate has proven health aspects
Chocolate is bought a gift
Chocolate has sexual connotations
Eating too much chocolate makes you fat
Chocolate contains a drug which induces a chemical similar to the one you have when you are in love.
Writing excellent headlines takes time and sweat. If you don’t mind your headlines being less than excellent, then what’s the point?
Linkbait must be amazing and amazing takes sweat, blood and tears.