Content Audit: How to write the perfect headline

A perfect headline is the first step to a successful text. This is how you succeed!

I'm glad you keep reading! Because the headline is the sentence of the decision: If you don't convince here, you (the reader) have practically lost. And we often see this during a content audit. To prevent this from happening, read our copywriting tips for a seductive headline in this part of the "Best of Content Audit" series.

Grafik zur Contenterstellung
Source: Namics

What does the film 10 things I hate about you have to do with our topic? A lot. Because currently, variants of the film title from the 90s (yes, that's how old the film is!) are flooding the news portals and blogs. This has to do with the underlying text form of the "Listicles": It conveys to readers that they can consume interesting content quickly and in foreseeable quantities. The success shows: man and search engine alike crave such formats.

Online texts want to be read quickly and easily. That begins with the headline. The reader must already recognize himself in the headline and his interest must be stimulated. The headline should summarize the article without giving too much away.

"The purpose of the headline is to get people to read the subheadline. And the purpose of the subheadline is to get them to read the first sentence of the first paragraph... and so on until the ad is complete.

Joseph Sugarman (born 1938), one of the most famous copywriters and ad writers of the 20th century

1. Why you should write the headline first

The headline is so important that you should think about it right at the beginning. Be clear about what the main message of your article is and what added value the reader should get from it. To do this, you need to be an expert in the subject area and know your customers or readers well.

"On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar."

David Ogilvy (1911-1999), is considered the father of modern advertising

2. How to get inspiration

  • Sift through headlines: When researching articles, look for the headlines of other texts on the subject. Flip through magazines and go through the world with your eyes open.
  • Brainstorm: Think "out of the box" and write down every idea that comes to your mind, no matter how crazy it sounds at first. Also: Get up from your desk - most good headlines are not written at your desk.
  • Research keywords: If you know the basic message of your text, do a detailed keyword research. On the one hand, this will provide you with additional inspiration and on the other hand, you will know which words should definitely appear in your headline.
  • Get "help": Tell friends or colleagues about your article. In doing so, the main message of your text will crystallize even better for you and you will discover interesting trains of thought.

3. Your headline should be this long

The rule "the shorter, the better" also applies to headlines. According to the analytics specialists at Kissmetrics, the perfect headline is six words long. Interesting: The first word and the last three words are read most often.

4. How to write attention-grabbing headlines

"The headline contains an important consumer benefit, or news, or arouses curiosity, or promises a reward for reading the copy."

Robert W. Bly (born 1957), famous lyricist and copywriter

  • Addressing needs: Readers must be able to see a clear added value and benefit in your article. Only when they realize that the text will help them, will they read it. To do this, you need to know the target groups of your article and their needs.
  • Create curiosity: You generate attention through exciting (sic!) adjectives or surprising phrases. Avoid sensational words or overly obvious clickbaiting.
  • Be concrete: Do not formulate the headline too vaguely. If the statement is too general, the reader will be bored and will not click further. Formulate headlines that create a concrete picture in the reader's mind.
  • Represent topicality and urgency: If you can get the headline to make the reader want to read your article immediately, then you have done it.
  • Arouse emotions: Address your readers directly. This creates emotional proximity and the user is more likely to click on the article. Use emotional adjectives that appeal to the heart. With the Headline Analyer of the Advanced Marketing Institute you can test your headline.
  • Entertain and play with words: Be creative! But especially when playing with words, make sure that they are understood by everyone and really fit.

5. These headings humans and (search-)machines like to read

  • Lists: As mentioned above, this is currently the most popular form of heading. For reasons of readability and brevity, write the number as a digit (i.e. "3" instead of "three"). By the way: According to psychological studies, odd numbers in particular appeal to our brain.
  • Tutorials: "How do I do..." or "How to" headings generate enormous attention from humans and (search) machines. I, too, have chosen this type of headline.
  • Tips: Known as "hacks", these tricks that make life easier are experiencing a renaissance in video form, especially with Instagram. Also in the textual form they tempt the reader to click on the article.

6. Keywords, Keywords, Keywords

Text for Google or for the reader? Like 7 years ago, it can be answered with a clear yes and no! But joking aside: You absolutely need good keywords to get your article listed in Google search results. But what you make out of the keyword framework is still your business. In the end, it's the reader who decides. If the reader doesn't feel addressed by your headline, the best keywords won't help.

You can also read my colleague's article on "Call to Action" from our "Best of Content Audit" series.