It happens to most marketers. You spend days developing the best article you could, your pour resources into advertising, but there’s only so much you can do. With a to-do list the size of Mount Everest, you cut a corner on something that doesn’t seem important: headlines.

You don’t care about making an impression or showing off. You just want people to read the content you’ve created with their challenges in mind.

But here’s the thing: The decision whether or not to read your article isn’t based on much data.

If you have a large audience that already knows and trusts you, some of them will click just because it’s your article. But even then, your article will be in competition with dozens or hundreds of other articles that cross their path today.

Their decision whether or not to read your article is based mostly on one element of it: Its headline.

That’s the only thing they see on social media, in an ad, or as they scroll through your blog’s category page. Since it’s the first text they see from the article, it’s the only information they have on whether or not this article could be worth their time.

This works for landing pages, too. In fact, simply changing the headline increased Neil Patel’s conversions on KISSmetrics by 40%.

How could your business look like with a 40% increase in conversions?

This could be your future, too.

To help you out, we turned to research and discovered 5 headline strategies that readers can’t ignore.

1. Make a Quantifiable Promise to Readers with List Headlines

headlines work 01

Source: HubSpot

Back in 2006, Brian Clark, founder and CEO of Rainmaker Digital, claimed that list posts will always work, because they make a specific, quantifiable promise to the reader about the time they’ll spend and the value they’ll gain.

If you’ve been around the Internet since 2006, you know list posts have saturated the blogosphere, so you would think we would grow tired of them. But a 2013 Conductor study found that headlines with numbers are still the type of headlines that get clicked on most.

Turns out that, even though the online world loves reinventing itself over and over, some good ole strategies – “as old as the advertising hills,” as Clark wrote in 2006 – still work.

That said, since the Internet has been saturated with list posts, readers have grown suspicious of them. It’s no longer enough to simply scramble a few words on a page.

The longer your list, the more value it’s perceived to provide, especially in today’s online world, which values long form content. But sometimes a headline that promises a short list is the one that will stand out, with a promise to simplify content consumption.

No matter how big or small the number in your headline is, remember that your headline is your promise to the audience, and you have to deliver. If you write high quality list posts, your audience will keep on clicking through to read them.

2. Bring Your Readers into Your Headline

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Source: LeadPages

You’ve heard it a million times – your content is not about you, it’s about your customers, their journey, their struggles, their success. No shops for groceries because someone likes to grow or manufacture groceries. People buy groceries because, among other reasons, if they don’t nourish their bodies, they’ll be hungry.

You have to keep that in mind when developing content. Don’t think about what matters to you – think about what matters to them.

That’s what your audience expects, and that’s probably why a study of almost 1 million headlines by CoSchedule found readers like to see themselves in headlines they read. After numbers, “you” (or “your”) was the second most popular word in the posts that got most shares, according to the study.

When you think about it, it makes sense. After all, 83% of consumers see value in personalization across contact points, according to a survey by MyBuys. That means they want companies to recognize them, their history with the company, their preferences and their needs when they browse through the company website, and when they’re served with emails, display ads and social media ads from the company. They want content that’s tailored to their needs.

The very least we could do while writing headlines is talk to our audience directly (by using “you” or “your”), to create the feeling of speaking directly to them. In doing so, we let them know that we care about their needs and that we’re putting them first.

3. Keep Them Curious with Benefit-Driven Headlines

headlines work 03

Source: Time

Of course, while you want readers to feel your content is centered all around them, you don’t want to make their lives so easy, they get all the information from the headline and never click through.

According to Unbounce, leaving information out of headlines creates a disequilibrium in readers’ brains, which makes them feel incomplete. Therefore, if you keep information out of your headlines, readers will click.

In fact, in an article called “Time Sensitive: How to Reach 100,000,000 Unique Visitors in Just 6 Months”, Glen Allsopp, founder of ViperChill, talked about websites that made 6 figures a month thanks to using curiosity-inducing headlines.

To be specific, websites like Viral Nova, which, according to estimates, earned $400,000/month 6 months after launching, uses a very specific type of curiosity headline. It’s called clickbait – kinda like, “I Forgot My Phone Inside, so I Went Back and Saw This” (an example from Allsopp’s article).

The problem with that?

Readers increasingly distrust this type of headline.

As Unbounce points out, clickbait articles stir curiosity, but don’t tell readers what they’ll really get from the article. What did the writer see when they walked back inside? Was it funny, sad, inspiring? Did it transform how they treat others, or was it simply gross?

Unbounce quotes a Facebook study, which discovered people don’t have time for this. “80% of the time people preferred headlines that helped them decide if they wanted to read the full article before they had to click through,” reports Facebook’s newsroom.

Unbounce’s solution?

Use your headline to tell readers why they should read your article.

Take Allsopp’s headline. He clearly explains the benefit you’ll get by clicking through – you’ll learn how to reach 100,000,000 unique visitors in just 6 months. Who doesn’t want to know how to do that?

However, he doesn’t reveal which strategy he’ll cover, so while you’re clear on the benefit, you’re still curious, and have to click through to find out.

Of course, if you pay attention, you’ll notice that Allsopp uses one more impactful strategy in his headline: urgency.

4. Create Urgency to Encourage Them to Take Action Today

headlines work 04

Source: ViperChill

When Marcus Taylor, founder of Venture Harbour, launched a Groupon-like site for musicians, he put a lot of his savings on the line, so the launch had to be a success. Therefore, he optimized every piece of the campaign he could, and managed to increase conversions by 332% using urgency and scarcity.

In the case study he shared on ConversionXL, he explained that, specifically, increasing urgency raised his conversion rates from approximately 3.5% to approximately 10%.

Thanks to that, Taylor kept improving his conversion rate optimization (CRO) skills and managed to increase PPC ad conversion rates by adding words like “now” and “today” to regular headlines, like “19 Simple Tips to Reduce Your Website’s Bounce Rate”.

In the example he gives, the “regular” headline – “19 Simple Tips to Reduce Your Website’s Bounce Rate” – received a 0.77% CTR (click through rate), and a similar, not that urgent headline received no CTR at all: “19 Simple Tips to Reduce Your Website’s Bounce Rate This Month”.

But when “This Month” was exchanged with “Today”, the CTR went up to 3.94%!

Taylor points out that different types of urgency strategies work well in different situations, so there are no clear rules here. In one test, “now” worked better than “today”, and in another – “today” brought in more clicks than “now”.

The point is to imply believable urgency, or at the very least to leverage it to create curiosity.

That’s what Allsopp’s headline does. We’ve all seen a million posts covering outrageous online success stories. Case studies are ultra-efficient, because they let your readers go through the journey of a peer – from the challenges they experience now themselves to the success they want to experience – and see what to do and not to do based on a real life story.

Therefore, writing case study focused headlines is your bonus tip today.

But why does Allsopp’s case study headline stand out more than others?

Because he added urgency that created curiosity. Why in the world would online success be time sensitive? As an online business owner, you certainly don’t want to miss out on a possible opportunity, so you click through to find out what’s so urgent.

5. Build Emotional Value into Your Headlines, So They Can’t Resist to Click Through and Read

headlines work 05

As Taylor points out in the ConversionXL case study, what matters most about creating urgency is how relevant your offer or headline is to your readers.

But what matters to your audience? What motivates them to take action?

According to fMRI neuro-imagery research, emotions move humans to take actions. We make decisions based on feelings first, and then rationalize them to ourselves to justify our choices.

In other words, when people tell Facebook they rather see headlines that help them “decide if they wanted to read the full article before they had to click through,” they’re not only talking about rational ROI for their time. They’re mostly talking about emotional impact.

That’s why it’s not surprising that CoSchedule’s research discovered that headlines with a high volume of emotional words pretty much guarantee a click.

In fact, in CoSchedule’s research, articles that received a significantly high amount of shares often had headlines with a 30-40% rate of emotional words.

According to Advanced Marketing Institute’s Emotional Marketing Value (EMV) Headline Analyzer, if you want to write headlines like a professional copywriter, that’s the minimum to inspire to. “The most gifted copywriters will have 50-75% EMV words in headlines,” explains Advanced Marketing Institute.

How Could Increased Click Through Rates Help Your Business?

Leave a comment and let us know which headline strategies you’ve already tried, and which ones you you can’t wait to try.