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Do you ever wonder how certain writers and marketers are able to consistently produce content that gets shared and clicked? Well, it has very little to do with their writing abilities and everything to do with the presentation of their content. Specifically, it has a lot to do with their headlines.

How to Write Headlines That Get Shared
You spend an hour brainstorming a topic. Then you send the topic over to your writer and it takes her a couple of hours to gather sources and turn it into a rough draft. She sends it back over, you review it, pass it along to the copyeditor, and you’re just about ready to publish. Oh yeah, we need a headline, you realize. So, you take all of 30 seconds and paste a headline into the article.

We’ve all been through this – spending hours on a piece of content only to rush through the headline writing process in a matter of seconds. Unfortunately, this is a major mistake. In today’s world of 140-character limits, headlines are the key to increasing clicks and shares on social media.

Here are some tips to improve your headline-writing skills:

Incorporate Elements of Shock and Curiosity

Predictable headlines don’t get clicked. Who wants to click on an article that reads, How to Walk Your Dog? Not very many people will be enticed to read on.

The key to successful headlines is to incorporate elements of shock and curiosity. Consider the following headline: What to Get Your Boyfriend For His Birthday? (20 Ideas) You Have to see #17 and #19.  While the headline is long, it gets the reader’s attention. What do #17 and #19 say?

Keep it Short and Sweet

Finally, there’s no need to go overboard. Headlines should be short and sweet. HubSpot finds that titles between 8-12 words receive more shares on Twitter than longer titles with 13-plus words. The same is true on Facebook, where headlines of 12-14 words are most successful.

Use Numbers

Numbers are extremely catchy. This is another reason the previous headline example is so effective. If you’re able to incorporate numbers and statistics into headlines, take advantage of these opportunities. Here’s a good example of a listicle headline: 10 Reasons to Quit Your Job Already. Pretty compelling, right?

Ask Questions

Another way to spark curiosity is by asking questions. Headlines with questions are powerful because they leave readers hanging. They must click to find out the answer. Here’s a great example from CNN: What Really Happened in Benghazi? It’s not a complicated headline or shocking title, but it intrigues the reader.

Use Strong Words

Strong words are much more enticing than safe words. This isn’t to be confused with vulgar or offensive language, but rather refers to language that’s bold, descriptive, and in-your-face. These types of headlines seem to stand out amid the myriad of other boring headlines that may essentially contain the same content.

Make Time for Headlines

In the end, you need to spend more time writing headlines. Renowned advertiser David Ogilvy was famous for his 50/50 rule, which stated that you should spend half the entire time it takes to write a piece of content on the headline. In other words, if it takes two hours to write an article, you should spend one hour working on the headline.

The 50/50 rule may be a bit of an exaggeration for every blog post, but it goes to show the importance of the headline. If you’re only spending a few seconds on them, you’re missing out on an opportunity to garner more clicks and shares.

Something has to change.

About the Author: Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.


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