Okay, bear with me and hopefully you’ll understand the [ridiculous] title to this post afterwards.
First, check out this webcomic from the great xkcd.
You’ve almost certainly seen similar headlines while browsing the web, and if you haven’t noticed, you’ll probably notice them everywhere now. Headlines like these are common headlines for content, sometimes referred to as Link bait.
Obviously the headlines in the comic are filled with sarcasm but they illustrate a lot of concepts used in writing interesting headlines. Headlines need to grab people’s attention and get them to choose to read one article over the millions of other similar articles out there.
So, how do you get someone to read the article you’ve spent days pounding out on your keyboard? Start with a good headline.
Associate with someone of power
“How a shocking new theory, discovered by a Dad, proves scientists are wrong about everything” is a decent example of this, although it could be taken even further. The idea of scientists theories being uprooted by a Dad is supposed to be surprising, which is interesting enough for someone to want to know more.
Also, claiming ‘Nobel laureates’ create outstanding article titles is an example of trying to use a perceived authority figure to grab a readers attention. I did a quick search and couldn’t find any references from Nobel Prize (in Literature) winners regarding writing interesting titles. When I do find one I’ll post it here. I would recommend not using this unless you really have a reference. 🙂
Shh, it’s a secret
Simple things often aren’t revealed in the headline in order to compel people to click and read the article. It’s like you’re keeping a secret from your audience until the last possible moment. These are the ‘one weird trick’ articles.
Imagine trying to get someone to read an article about cutting their hair every other week. Yeah, right, who would read that?
“Get a hair cut from a qualified hair stylist biweekly to maintain your desired hair length.”
That sounds like the most ridiculous article and reading it would most definitely cause a mass departure of brain cells. I would not bother to click on an article like this, and I’d probably put whatever site served that article on my block list. However, how about something like this:
“This one crazy productivity hack eliminates unnecessary hair length!”
Alright, so I wouldn’t read this article either. It sounds terrible, and come on, it’s an article about hair. It sounds a little more interesting though, right?
61047 ways to write winning headlines
People love lists.
I’ve read many theories on why list posts are effective. People are busy and like to know how much they are going to have to read. List posts make an article easier to scan. People like lists in general.
If you hadn’t already noticed the massive amount of informational ‘list posts’, now you will see them everywhere.
Although list posts are pretty effective, use them sparingly. They can be effective but with so many articles based on lists these days they can also be perceived as a joke. Not everything is a list, and in general you should stick to covering one topic in an article. Don’t use the list post format for something that clearly doesn’t need to be structured as a list.
Steal some clicks by asking a question. I ask you a question, and you feel compelled to answer. I read a question, at least an interesting one, and I want to know the answer. I’m curious, everyone is curious. What’s the answer?
Asking your potential readers a question is a great technique to interest them in reading further. Make it an interesting question and make sure you have an interesting answer.
Don’t lead anyone on though. Give a terrible or generic answer and you alienate your readers.
These are just a few standard techniques to write interesting headlines. Whatever you do, make sure your content lives up to the hype of your headline. Find the right balance for the type of reader you want into what kind of direction you take your headlines.
The goal is not to ‘trick’ someone into reading your content, but to write interesting headlines so your target audience will find and appreciate it.