If you’re like most content creators, you make up your headline seconds before hitting “Publish.”
You also might think headline testing is something only copywriters or marketers should worry about …
But, here’s the thing:
Your headlines are the MOST important part of your content strategy.
Content marketing – like most things in life – follows the Pareto Principle, which says, “Roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.”
In the content strategy world, it could be written:
Roughly 80% of your conversions come from 20% of your content.
Or 80% of each article’s effectiveness comes from 20% of that article.
According to Copyblogger.com:
“On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest.”
Plus, David Ogilvy – “The Father of Advertising” – said:
“On the average, five times as many people read the headlines as read the body copy.”
Of course, when you factor in social media, your headline is probably even more effective because it often determines if people click through to your article.
This all means one thing –
Your Headlines Will Make or Break Your Content Strategy
Upworthy – a site about “awesome, fun, interesting videos and graphics about stuff that matters” – has cracked the code on creating effective headlines!
According to BusinessInsider.com, Upworthy CEO and co-founder Eli Pariser “makes his authors create 25 headlines before hitting publish. The curator selects his or her four favorites, and Upworthy’s managing editor makes the final headline decision.”
“Yah, it’s a huge time suck,” Pariser went on to say, “But when we were starting out, we had a very analytics and testing-oriented approach. We were trying to think, ‘What are the things you can do to produce 6-10X the number of people who come look at something? A good headline can be the difference between 1,000 people and 1,000,000 people reading something.” Read the entire article here.
And, the results?
In just 11 months they built a huge audience – 8.7 million unique visitors per month (as of November 2012). Plus, they currently have 6,158,284 likes on Facebook.
Their growth is impressive and they give the credit to their headlines:
“It’s the easiest way to dramatically increase the virality of what you do and I guarantee you’re not spending enough time on it,” Peter Koechley, cofounder of Upworthy, said. (Get Koechley’s headline tips here.)
Here’s an example:
Keep in mind Upworthy mainly curates and rewrites news. They have very little original content. Take for example, the above screenshot. This content was already on the web – published under the headline, “The Cost of Kale: How Foodie Trends Can Hurt Low-Income Families.”
Upworthy came along with a new headline and the article went on to get over 4,718 likes on Facebook, 2,622 shares, and 3,909 comments. The original article had just 34 comments.
That’s the power of an effective headline!
How to Write 25 Headlines Fast
Hopefully – at this point – we all agree that headlines are important, but maybe you’re struggling with the idea of cranking out 25 headlines for every piece of content you write …
If so, here’s how you can do it (while also ensuring at least 4-5 of the headlines are winners) –
Let’s start with an example:
The above headline is from a product in the survival/preparedness niche. Let’s explore how to make it better.
The 4 U’s
To get a lot of headline ideas fast, use “The 4 U’s” (which I learned from AWAI). The 4 U’s are:
- Urgency – Does the headline give them a reason to STOP and read your content NOW?
- Useful – Does the headline portray they’ll learn something of value from reading the content?
- Unique – Does the headline depict the content as unique or something new?
- Ultra-specific – Is the headline something that only makes sense on this particular piece of content?
So, looking at the example above, is it urgent?
Using power words like “attention” and “urgent” help portray urgency but … there is no true urgency. Adding a deadline would help, like this:
- Attention: Tomorrow Is Too Late to Read This Urgent Message To All Families
- To Protect Your Family Plant and Grow These 5 Things Before Summer
- New Parents: Read This Now to Protect Your Family Immediately
Keep in mind, these are just examples. The actual urgency is probably within the product and could have been plucked out with a little research and time.
Does the headline above seem useful? I don’t think so. We could make it more useful by promising to teach them something in the content, like this:
- Attention: Urgent Message Reveals How To Protect Your Family
- The Trick You Should Start Using Now to Keep Your Family Safe
- Revealed – 4 Ways to Protect Your Family From Any Disaster
Once again – these are just examples. You’ll want to test different headlines to see what works best for your readers and customers.
To make the headline more unique, we could add a few stats, tell a specific story, or drill down to one point. Here are a few examples:
- Attention: This Urgent Message To All Families Will Save Your Life
- How One Family Saved $1,954 Preparing for Disaster
- Dr. Neil B. Write Dishes Out Advice That Will Save Your Family From Disaster
Up next, we have ultra-specific … while the example headline does target families, it could be more specific:
- Attention: Urgent Message To All Families in Texas
- Urgent: Download This 3-Page Report For Families Living in Dallas, Texas
- Urgent 2-Minute Message For Texas Families Vacationing in Hawaii This Summer
See how that’s done?
We can quickly make the headline more compelling just by changing a few words.
Using the 4 U’s in Blog Post and Article Headlines
To demonstrate how to use the 4 U’s in your blog posts and articles, let’s take a look at an example headline from Copyblogger:
If you don’t know Lee Odden, this headline might not grab your attention. Let’s apply the 4 U’s and see what happens …
- Revealed – How Lee Odden Combats Writer’s Block and Writes Millions of Words (urgent)
- Get The Scoop on Lee Odden’s Writing Process (useful)
- Prolific Writer and Author, Lee Odden Confesses, “I Still Don’t Feel Like I’m A Very Good Writer” (unique)
- Lee Odden Shares His Writing Advice, Routine, Muse, and More (ultra-specific)
Remember, I’m not saying these headlines are better.
I’m saying it’s worth testing because, like Pariser said:
“A good headline can be the difference between 1,000 people and 1,000,000 people reading something.”
Remember, 80% of your content’s effectiveness likely comes from the 20% that makes up the headline.
Spend more time and energy coming up with better headlines and – like Upworthy – you could soon have over 6 million likes on Facebook!
Now it’s your turn!
How would you rewrite this headline using the 4 U’s?
Chime in below …