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How to Hook Them With Your Heading

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How to Hook Them With Your Heading

Picture yourself browsing in a bookshop, scrolling through the news online, or remembering the ads that stand out in your memory. Chances are, it was the headline that got you interested in the first place.

For marketers, it’s important to realise that whether you’re writing web copy, a blog post, whitepapers, your book title or a magazine article; it’s the headline that will catch the attention and hook your reader.

The ‘Father of Advertising’, David Ogilvy, famously said that “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.” And so, he delivered one powerful ad after another. Got them hook, line and sinker.

Headlines that pack a punch.

This means that writing clever, strong headlines is crucially important for your content marketing strategy and execution. I often start with writing the headline around the main idea of the piece, create the article based on this main, strong premise, and refine the title after I finished writing.

So, how then can you craft powerful headlines that hook your readers?

1. Give ‘em what they crave.

Share ‘secrets’, ‘tips’ and ‘insider’ or ‘expert tricks’ that tell them ‘how to get’ something. How to ‘plan the perfect wedding’ or ‘find the best adventure holiday destination’. And if you can tell them how to do it ‘fast’ or get a ‘great deal’ you yourself are on to a winner.

2. Create oddly numbered lists.

Our brain loves order and odd numbers, so write a list like, ‘9 surprising things you can do with a squeegee’. “Nine”, I can hear you think. “Really? I can only come up with seven!”

3. Evoke emotions.

Excite me, frighten me, make me curious … Let me know what’s in store for me in the body copy of your written piece. One of my most successful recent articles was How to Avoid Looking Like a Total Drongo on LinkedIn. A bit of tongue-in-cheek fun; but you also wonder whether you are, in fact, a LinkedIn Drongo, and you want to find out how to avoid it.

4. Ask a question.

Remember the intrigue around the, ‘Who is James Boag?’ campaign and its success. Or how about the, ‘Does my bum look big in this?’.

5. Action baby.

Your headline is the warm up act for the main show, so you need to be inviting and create a connection and reaction. Starting your headline with a verb will do that: ‘Buy 2, get 1 free’; ‘Leave now – before it’s too late’; or ‘Join Australia’s most trusted business community’.

6. Address problems and fears.

Take a glimpse at the most popular searches on Google, and you realise, us humans are a bit of an insecure bunch. Headlines like these will get eyeballs on your post, no doubt: ‘29 ways to screw up your relationship’; ‘7 things a great book editor will never do’; or ‘How secure are your savings, really?’.

7. Look into the future.

Dazzle your readers with your knowledge and research abilities by getting out your crystal ball. Try ‘The complex new rules of dating’ or ‘How the US election result is hitting property value’.

8. Drop a big name.

People love to read about celebrities, VIPs and high-profile experts. Don’t be shy to hook into that attraction. I’ve tried ‘It’s time you did a Richard Branson’, and it worked.

9. Breed distrust.

Maybe not the nicest way to hook your reader. But we’re a cynical lot, and it’s certainly an attention grabber. So … ‘Is your doctor telling you the truth about those funny red spots?’ or perhaps you’d like to learn ‘How to unmask a con artist – and protect your savings?’.

10. Promise me …

Wouldn’t you like to know? ‘How to find your dream job in a week’, ‘13 ways to find your perfect match’, ‘The secret to losing 10 kilos in 10 weeks – without joining a gym’.

11. Gimme five ‘W’s (plus an ‘H’).

Have you noticed? Headlines starting with who, what, when, why, where and how make you feel that you will be a smarter person after you read this particular piece: ‘Why kissing is important for your health’; ‘Where to buy the cheapest flights this summer’; or for those authors amongst you, ‘How to use your book as a reputation multiplier’.

12. Teach me.

Lead with or include words such as ‘guide’, ‘101’, ‘ABC’, ‘top’ and ‘complete’ to show your reader that the information you share is well-structured and easy to understand. From ‘The ultimate starter guide to breastfeeding’ to ‘The exhausted parents’ 101 guide to taming grumpy teenagers’.

13. Get personal.

This is a general rule for any emotive writing that connects: use the word ‘you’ to directly address your reader. Feel the difference between: ‘3 new fashion trends that look hot’ and ‘3 new fashion trends that will make you look hot’.

Let’s get writing.

Just Do It!

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