It took me 25 minutes to write this headline.
No, that’s not a typo. In fact, headlines sometimes take me longer to write than the actual body copy of an email or website.
Sounds kinda backwards, right? Well, allow me to personally welcome you to the wonderful world of copywriting—where high school grammar rules no longer apply, em-dashes are thrown around like candy at a parade on the Fourth of July, and headlines actually mean something, gosh darnit.
So, why’d it take me so long?
As a quick refresher, headlines fall into the category of copywriting. And as you may recall from my copywriting blog post a while back, you’ll remember that copywriting is the language we use to communicate, and our main objective is to persuade the audience. Headlines (and subject lines, for that matter!) are no exception to this rule.
Before we jump into the short-form goodness your heart desires, I’m going to guess you’re reading this because of the following:
- You want more sales
- You want people to trust you
- You want paying customers
- You want to build an audience
- You want results ASAP
- You want to make a difference
Good news! Writing great headlines can make all these things happen and more. Conversely, by ignoring headlines and subject lines, you’re actually committing the most dangerous copywriting mistake of all. Why? Because headlines help the potential customer decide if the rest of your content is even worth reading in the first place!
Let me lay some numbers on you:
- In March 2019, over 4.4 million blog posts were published every day (source).
- The median average time spent reading an article in 2016 was 37 seconds (source).
Translation? There are millions of blog posts, emails, and social captions published each day—you need to stand out with a good headline, fast. Otherwise, you risk losing the sale, the comment, the paying customer.
What’s the point in creating copy if no one’s interested in reading it?
Even great copywriters don’t write great headlines on the first try. Fun fact: I used to pride myself on whipping up copy on the fly. That was dumb. I’m not anyone’s hero for trying to pump out as much copy as possible within a short amount of time. Can I do it if I have to? Sure. Should you let me do that? No way. Why? Because I’m actually costing you more money by not putting intention behind my words. Those few words could seriously make or break your business—spending an extra 25 minutes won’t break the bank.
Put It Into Action
As my right hand is typing, my left hand is crossing its fingers praying I’ve convinced you. If I have, I want you to start spending 15-20 minutes writing 20-30 headlines and subject lines before you even think about publishing (be it a blog post, homepage, or email).
Don’t hate me! I promise it’s not so bad. And with a little practice, you’ll be a pro-headline-writer in no time.
Before we dive in, I created this handy checklist for you to use every time you write a headline (print it out, bookmark this page, write it down).
In a nutshell, your headline should:
- Grab the reader’s attention
- Use relevant keywords
- Elicit emotion, interest, curiosity
- Fall within 60-100 characters
Don’t panic. I’ve been writing blog posts for a while and I still struggle to include all of these in one single headline. So, let’s look at each item a little more closely to make things seem less…daunting!
Grab the reader’s attention
If you recall from my blog post about blogging (so meta), I gave you this nifty tool to help you get started (think: fill-in-the-blank headline options that are super eye-catching). You might want to use this as a template if you’re feeling uncomfortable at first, but don’t let this list of headlines limit you—you’re better at this than you think! And if you’re constantly copying what other bloggers are doing, you’ll miss out on something fun you came up with all on your own. I believe in you.
Use relevant keywords
Think about yourself as a consumer for a second. Now, think of a time you had to search for something on Google. Let’s say you needed to find a shoe store in the area. So, you probably typed in something along the lines of “shoe store near me” or “shoe store + (your location).” These are what’s known as “keywords,” and as a business, you’ll want to think about what your own keywords might be. Try to add one or two of these in your headline, but only if it feels natural! Doing this will increase your chances of being found via Google search.
Elicit interest, emotion, curiosity
Don’t worry, you never have to create interest, emotion and curiosity all in one headline. In fact, feel free to mix things up as you see fit!
For example, one of your headlines could elicit urgency (“This Is Not a Drill! Our NEW Candles Are Here”), while the next could be more elusive (“Um, Did You See This Puppy Yet?!”). Maybe your third or fourth could be inquisitive (“Which Skincare Product Matches Your Personality?”) or even a bold claim (“Couples with This Communication Rule Are Guaranteed Long-time Happiness Together”).
Bonus: that last example was both elusive and a claim.
Fall within 60-100 characters
This one is pretty self-explanatory (read: “There are millions of blog posts, emails, and social captions published each day—you need to stand out with a good headline, fast. Otherwise, you risk losing the sale, the comment, the paying customer.”)
It might feel a bit, um, ambitious trying to squeeze all of these checklist items in 60-100 characters. So, when all else fails, remember this: more than anything else, your headline should coincide with your content’s main idea. Add a catchy adjective or two, and you’ll be just fine!
Need some inspiration? The Atlantic does a fantastic job with headlines. In fact, don’t be afraid to browse a bunch of reputable sources online during those 20-minute brainstorm sessions (I still do this!).
I have complete faith you’ll do an amazing job writing headlines from here on out. But if you have any questions—or just need someone to write them for you—leave a comment below, DM me on Instagram for privacy, or send us an inquiry! In the meantime, I’m looking forward to seeing your amazing headlines in the near future.