November 23, 2017
Whether you are writing a blog post like this one, a magazine article, an online ad, or a full website, there are a variety of components that must all work together to make it a success. And while different “experts” may have different opinions about which elements are most important, there’s no denying that the success of any piece of writing begins with the headline or title, and if that isn’t working, then the rest may not even matter.
Why Is the Headline So Important?
The headline of any piece of content writing has the greatest impact because it is the first thing the reader sees, and it is responsible for getting their attention and drawing them into the piece. We all know how busy people are these days (or how busy they believe they are), and since the attention span stats are telling us people can’t focus for more than a few seconds, grabbing attention fast is crucial.
In a poetic sense, the headline is designed to merge with the trance the reader is in and draw them into the body of the post / page / ad. Then, longer pieces will use engaging content and subheads to help guide the reader all the way through.
Now you know the why, here are some tips on the how.
I read somewhere that a copywriter named Michael Masterson devised the 4 U’s concept, but I can’t verify that. Basically, the 4U’s are an old-school copywriting test or guideline of sorts that you can put your content writing through that will help the engagement factor. You can also use them for headlines.
The first “U” is useful, and it is an important one if you want your headline to appeal to your target audience. So many headlines seem self-serving, which can immediately turn off the people you are trying to attract. If the headline includes info that is useful to your target audience, then they are more likely to start reading. Here is an example of a useful headline: “Become an Expert Content Writer in 7 Days”.
The next “U”, and this is in no particular order, is for “ultra-specificity.” This can mean a lot of different things, but in the case of a headline, it means to make it more specific to appeal to a more defined audience. How about: “Attention Homemakers: Become an Expert Content Writer in 7 Days” or “Just Laid Off? Become an Expert Content Writer in 7 Days”.
You can also add specificity in other areas: “Become an Expert Plumbing Content Writer in 7 Days” or “Become an Expert Content Writer by Christmas” There are a lot of possibilities, and taking advantage of them will help you zero in and take charge.
Urgency is a “U” that works wonderfully in all sorts of ads and landing pages, but you can also take advantage of it in your headlines. Adding “For a Limited Time” to just about anything can spur some action. You can also use “Before It’s Too Late” and similar wording to convey a sense of urgency and get people engaged.
And if you think these urgency tactics are misleading or just “click bait” as they say, just make sure the body of the content delivers on the title, and you can sleep easy at night.
Discover Your Uniqueness
Unique is the 4th “U” and there are unlimited ways to make a headline unique. You could say that incorporating the other 3 U’s in your headline would make it unique when compared to the standard, boring headline. Focusing on a certain metric / point / angle / subtopic might just make your title or headline stand out and get people excited about what you have to say.
Naturally, there are numerous ways to create a headline that earns that ever-important first click, but following these tips is a great formula for quality results. If you’d like to discuss headlines, subheads, or any other element of content creation, book a free consultation, and we’ll be happy to help you out.
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