What are some of the characteristics of people who crank out blog titles that work really well most of the time? Is it something anyone can learn?
Yes, and except in very rare cases, writing great post titles and other headlines can likely only be learned. Rather than relying on natural talent, people who consistently produce winning headlines have learned to do three basic things:
1. They understand that all compelling headlines make an intriguing promise that makes it almost irresistible to its target audience. Understanding the intended audience is key — a really great headline generally won’t appeal to everyone, and watering it down for mass appeal will only hurt you.
2. They study headlines that have been proven to work, and that usually means direct response advertising headlines. In that context, “proven to work” means people responded to that particular headline by pulling out their wallets and making a purchase. You can also learn by studying some of the top magazine headline writers, who work for Cosmopolitan and similar glossies, and even the tabloids you see at the supermarket checkout lane.
3. Most importantly, rather than simply mimicking great headlines, they understand why the headline works, and therefore can make an educated decision as to which type of headline structure is most appropriate, and how to tweak it within a certain context.
So what about the title of the blog post you’re reading right now?
1. Starting off your post title with “why” at the beginning of a declarative statement (instead of a question) is one easy way to focus in on the benefit of reading your article. That’s one of the reasons why the title of this post works, but the words that follow the “why” are what’s most important.
You can do the same by starting with “here’s why,” “what,” “when,” or “how,” or you can simply make a strong statement that clearly demonstrates that the elaborated answer will be provided in the body content. And of course a carefully worded question can magnetically draw in your intended readers as well.
2. The title is modeled after this famous advertising headline:
Why Some People Almost Always Make Money in the Stock Market
Within the context of what I wanted to convey with this post, the basic structure of this classic headline works perfectly.
3. Credibility. The use of the word “some,” and having “almost” modify “always,” make the headline much more plausible. Not even the highest paid copywriters in the world always nail a headline that works, and some people never write great post titles, because they don’t take the time to learn how.
Many people feel that a great headline is bombastic and full of hyperbole, but that’s usually not the case. If people don’t believe you can deliver on your promise, they won’t bother reading further, and your over-the-top headline fails.
As the people marketing their content via Twitter, Facebook, and other social networking sites up the ante with headlines that strain credibility, their results will diminish, while you’ll gain an advantage by becoming a true student of great headline writing. Understanding what type of headline is appropriate to a specific context is the real key to writing magnetic post titles that get your content embraced and shared.
This is the sixth installment in a series of posts called Magnetic Headlines.
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