You’ve spent hours pouring your heart and soul into a blog post.
You’re writing about an important topic that you’re sure will help readers, and you want to convey your message as effectively as possible.
So you’ve edited each paragraph until your eyes ached from staring at the computer screen. You’ve crafted a compelling introduction that will entice readers to keep reading, and your conclusion is powerful with a memorable final sentence.
Unfortunately, however, all of this time and effort will go to waste if no one reads your article.
Often, there’s only one way to get people to read: you must craft a headline that is so irresistible it draws people like a magnet to click on your piece.
People’s social media feeds are flooded with a constant stream of articles and online content. If you don’t have an attention-grabbing headline, your post won’t reach the potential readers it could help and inspire.
But don’t worry!
In today’s article, I’m sharing my five-step process that will help you write captivating headlines so your target audience reads your valuable blog posts.
Let’s dive in.
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1. Craft a one-sentence synopsis
When I begin working on a new writing project, the very first thing I do is write up a one-sentence synopsis of what my piece will be about. I do this no matter if I’m about to write a blog post, a personal essay, or even a short story.
The one-sentence synopsis gives me a clear understanding of the main point of my piece and the message I’m trying to express to my readers. It acts as a guide so I don’t end up running off on tangents and going down rabbit trails.
And often it can be tweaked to become a perfect title for the piece too.
For example, for this article my synopsis was: “My five-step process that will help readers craft captivating headlines.”
I tweaked that sentence to get my headline: “How to Write Captivating Headlines: A Powerful 5-Step Process”.
Now, as I said, I don’t only use the one-sentence synopsis for blog posts. I recently wrote a personal essay titled “What a Museum Security Guard Taught Me About Art.” That title came straight from a one-sentence synopsis I’d crafted too.
In my article here, I dive deeper into how to craft a one-sentence synopsis and share five different formulas that can help you write yours.
Let’s now see how to go about tweaking your synopsis in order to turn it into a powerful headline.
2. Identify Your SEO Keyword
My second step when crafting a headline for a blog post is to identify the keyword that I want my blog post to be categorized under in Google searches.
In blogging parlance, this is called “search engine optimization” or SEO. If you have a blog and don’t bother at all about SEO, you probably won’t end up reaching readers who might have found you through Google.
Even if you’re not worried about SEO, choosing a clear keyword will help people better understand what your piece is about and help you avoid titles that sound like click-bait.
For example, compare the difference between titling your piece “This One Habit Changed My Life” (sounds a bit like click-bait) or “How Journaling in the Morning Changed My Life”. “Journaling” would be your keyword for that title.
Here’s how to figure out what keyword to use for your piece:
- Take a look at your one-sentence synopsis. What is your piece about?
- Is there a word you use multiple times in your piece to refer to your topic?
- What terms might someone be searching for in Google to find your piece?
- Search for blog posts similar to yours. What keywords are used in the titles?
3. Tweak Your Headline to Include Specificity, Curiosity, and Power Words
Once I’ve crafted my one-sentence synopsis, written my blog post, and then pinpointed my keyword, I write up a quick first draft of a headline to work with.
Let’s take, for example, the blog post I wrote about my two different journaling methods. A rough draft of a title might have looked like this: “A Peek At My Two Journaling Methods.”
That’s not very compelling, right?
It’s time to tweak that headline to make sure it stands out and entices people to click to read the article.
There are three ingredients that copywriters use to write effective headlines: specificity, curiosity, and power words.
First, specificity makes your headline focused and compelling. In his classic book Scientific Advertising, copywriter Claude C. Hopkins explained why “specificity” is persuasive:
…[A] man who makes a specific claim is either telling the truth or a lie. People do not expect an advertiser to lie … The weight of an argument may often be multiplied by making it specific.
Now, you’re probably not selling a product in your blog post, but you most likely are trying to convince your readers of an idea or to take a certain course of action. Specificity will increase your credibility.
For example, instead of writing, “I Lost Weight on a Low Carb Diet”, you could write “How I Lost Five Pounds in Two Weeks on a Low Carb Diet.”
The word “how” indicates your blog post is going to share a specific process you followed. The numbers make your headline sound truthful.
Of course, you’ll lose your credibility if the body of your post doesn’t deliver what the headline promised. If your headline promises to share a specific process, make sure you do so in the body of your post.
Here are ways to make your headlines specific:
- Start your headline with a number (for example, “5 Steps to Quickly Memorize Any Piano Piece”)
- Start your headline with words like “who, what, why, when, where, or how” (for example, “How to Make A Perfect Pan Seared Steak Every Time”)
- Use specific words like “This” or “These” (for example, “This Powerful Strategy Will Boost Your Productivity”)
- Use specific numbers in the body of your headline (for example, one of my most popular posts on Medium is “How to Make Your Writing Captivating with One Simple Technique”)
Specificity also piques readers’ curiosity, which is the next ingredient for strengthening your headline.
If a headline arouses a person’s curiosity, they’re probably going to keep reading. So make sure you don’t just summarize your piece in the headline.
For example, I’m not piquing someone’s curiosity if I write a title like this: “Keeping a Journal Will Make You More Productive”.
Compare it to this one: “5 Reasons Why Keeping a Journal Will Make You More Productive”.
Finally, take your headline to the next level by using power words.
Power words are words that trigger an emotional response. They might be a strong adjective or adverb or a more descriptive verb.
For example, instead of writing, “increase your productivity”, you could write, “boost your productivity” or even “supercharge your productivity.”
In my headlines, I use words like “compelling” and “captivating.” A food blogger might use words like “refreshing”, “tasty”, or “delicious.”
When you evaluate your headline, ask yourself if you could include a vivid adjective or a more emotional verb.
4. Convey a benefit to the reader
Lastly, your headline should appeal to the reader’s self-interest. It should promise them something in return for the time they spend reading.
David Ogilvy, known as The Father of Advertising, is said to have stated,
The headlines that work best are those that promise the reader a benefit.
A benefit could be anything from entertaining someone to teaching someone to inspiring someone to helping someone solve a problem.
What is the benefit you’re offering to a person for reading your blog post?
Will you help them solve a problem? Earn money? Save money? Increase their productivity? Expand their knowledge? Become smarter? Happier? Avoid danger?
Maybe they will learn a quick and effortless method for accomplishing something? Or discover a secret or a strategy?
Depending on the type of blog post you’re writing, you might want the promise in your headline to be very clear or perhaps more subtle. For example, my personal essay’s title “What a Museum Security Guard Taught Me About Art” was focused on me rather than on the reader. However, it did promise that I was going to share the security guard’s wisdom with them.
But when I wrote the headline for my blog post about my journaling methods, I wanted the benefit to be very clear. I decided to go with “Two Essential Journals That Will Help You Achieve Your Goals” rather than “Two Essential Journals That Help Me Achieve My Goals.” The latter is not as powerful at hooking the reader.
5. Write Multiple Headlines
Even the best copywriters in the world usually don’t write a captivating headline right off the bat. In Tested Advertising Methods, expert copywriter John Caples says he writes between twelve to twenty-five headlines before choosing the best one.
Sometimes I will change the headline of a post after I’ve published it if I notice that it isn’t getting a lot of clicks.
So experiment and tweak your headlines as much as you can. Write out a list of different headlines you can use for your piece.
Headline formulas are a fantastic way to remind yourself to include all of the essential copywriting elements covered in steps 3 and 4. You can find these formulas in copywriting books or in countless articles online. Here are several examples:
- How to Start____When____(For example, “How to Start a Side Hustle When You’re Broke”)
- Why____Makes You____ (“Why Reading Makes You a Better Writer”)
- [Number] Mistakes People Make When____ (“10 Mistakes People Make When Saving for Retirement”)
- The Ultimate Guide To____ (“The Ultimate Guide to Going Low Carb”)
- [Number] Lessons I Learned From____ (“5 Lessons I Learned from Waking up at 5am for 30 Days”)
- [Number] Strategies That Will Help You ____ (“7 Strategies That Will Help You Improve Your Writing Skills”)
Once you’ve written the final version of your headline, evaluate it and ask yourself, “Is this headline clear and easy to understand? And does it make me eager to read the article right this minute?”
You can also run your headlines through the Coschedule Headline Analyzer to see if there are ways to tweak them to make them more powerful.
In his book How to Write a Good Advertisement, copywriter Victor A. Schwab writes,
The headline is like a flag being held up by a flagman alongside a railroad track. He is using it to try to get the immediate attention of the engineer of an approaching train so that he can give him some kind of message…The message on the flag…must be persuasive enough…to compete with all the other distractions of life. It must capture attention. And it must offer a ‘reward for reading’.
If you follow the five-step process in this article, your headline will act just like a bright red flag waving down your readers so you can share your important message with them.
Did you use this process to craft a captivating headline? Share it in the comments below.
And if you enjoyed this post, please share it on social media or with a friend who you think might find it helpful too. Thanks for reading!