Please help me with my new course on writing headlines.

Young boy in bow tie writing.

 

Way back in July I was trying to figure out the topic for my next short course.

So far I’ve published two short-form courses this year – on content optimization and on selling with stories.

I wasn’t sure what to tackle next.

So I asked everyone who reads my newsletter to take part in a short survey.

I made two suggestions for my next course:

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Why writing great headlines is like creating a soap opera.

writing great headlinesOne of the things you’ll notice about soap operas is how hard the writers work to let you know that the best part is yet to come.

For example, just before each commercial break the drama is built to a point of peak suspense…so you just have to sit through the commercials to find out what happens next.

The same devices are used at the end of each episode to make sure you tune in again next time. Will she run off with the pool cleaner? Did he survive the plunge off the cliff? Will she be found guilty and sent to jail? And so on.

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Don’t write too many McHeadlines.

burger McHeadlineThere are plenty of content writers out there who know how to write a good headline.

These are the folks who know that certain types of headlines are more likely to hook a reader’s attention.

They write headlines that jump out and grab you, and make you curious enough to click through and start reading. These headlines not only work well on the page of content itself, but also drive high clickthroughs when they appear on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

Of all the headline-writing techniques used by these canny writers, perhaps the most common is the use of numerals at the beginning of the line.

For example, “5 Ways to Improve Your Child’s Exam Results” is the kind of headline that grabs attention. The digit catches the eye, and the promise of 5 ways to do something that is important to the reader holds attention.

There are variations on this approach, including:

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Live or die by the first 5 words of your headlines.

writing headlinesI have written before about the importance of writing strong headlines for your web pages and posts, here and here.

Content headlines have always been important, but with the rise of social media, they are now more important than ever before.

Why? Because when people tweet or retweet your content, or share it through Facebook and Google+, it’s your headline that will either hook them or not.

When people come to your site or blog, you already have their attention or interest. Those readers are yours to lose. And your headline can work in conjunction with images and the rest of the text alone.

But when those headlines are simply one of many within a fast-moving flow of tweets, or on a social bookmarking site like Reddit, they stand alone. Headlines are important, not just on your sales pages, but on all your content pages.

But why am I putting so much emphasis on the first 5 words?

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7 Headline approaches that will hook your readers and keep them reading.

Writing powerful headlines for web content is a forgotten craft.

I don’t mean the craft itself is forgotten. I mean we simply forget to use it.

Somewhere in our minds we know the headline is important. We know it’s what hooks the reader, or not. And we know it has a big impact on whether or not our content is shared through social media.

So how come we keep grinding out boring and unenticing headlines for our content pages?

I don’t know what your excuse it, but for myself I sometimes publish content with boring headlines simply because I have forgotten to rework the placeholder headline I started out with.

This is a side-effect of the way I write any page or post. I throw down a placeholder headline as an anchor to get myself started. It’s often simply a short description of what I plan to write about.

The trouble is…

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4 Examples of Effective Headline Design.

headline design for web contentHeadline design? What does that mean?

It means writing and formatting your headline in a way that makes it jump out from the page, or email, or a smartphone.

It used to be that headlines had to do a single job, on the web page where the balance of the content followed. Read the headline, and then keep reading the body text immediately below.

Today, headlines still have to work well, immediately above the body content, but they also have to grab attention and hook readers when they stand alone.

Here are a few situations where your headline has to stand alone, or almost alone: When used as a tweet on Twitter. In an RRS feed. On a smartphone. In Reddit or Digg.

In these circumstances, your headline has to jump out from dozens of others, and get the reader to click through to the full page or post.

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