We are the first to admit that we have been guilty of under-appreciated the power of a headline when we’ve written in the past. Many times we have drafted what we believe to be a clear, well-informed piece only to have our lacklustre headline brought to the forefront of our attention. You could have a literary masterpiece on your hands, but it means very little if a mediocre headline makes your reader switch off before delving into the main body of it.
David Ogilvy, often hailed as the ‘father of advertising’, is cited as saying that “On 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”.
That estimation might have been made over 50 years ago, but it still holds relevance today and given the plethora of media consumed by readers every day it could be argued that the role of the humble headline has taken on an even greater leading role.
A 2011 study by Marketing Sherpa found that the headline is one of the top 5 most impactful elements for lead generation. In fact, the headline “often… makes the difference between the visitor reading any content and going for the dreaded “X” button”.
So how can you increase your chances of readers remaining engaged?
The main tip is be creative, but not cocky. Having an alliterative, wordy headline that looks like it has come straight out of a thesaurus may look fancy, but in reality the average reader will switch off before they’ve even reached the end. Simplicity over substance – you’ve got a whole article to expand.
Specificity is key. Having a vague headline with words such as ‘some’ or ‘many’ means very little to a reader – most people want something to quantify to get a real idea of what’s going on. Although we wouldn’t like to say that the headline to this article is amazing, the ‘80%’ statistic is far more appealing to a reader than something like ‘a lot’.
It’s been said before that in writing a good article, you should spend as much of your time on the headline as you should the rest of the piece. We believe that 50/50 is a slight exaggeration, but then again Ogilvy supposedly rewrote a headline for an automobile advertisement 104 times – so who’s to say we shouldn’t all dedicate 50% to the headline?
Regardless, there is no doubt that the headline is an extremely important part of any blog post, article or online publication. By creating a headline that’s manages the balance of being specific but concise, informative but also clear, you increase your chances of readers avoiding the ‘dreaded X’ and reading more than just the first line of your work.
What’s your favourite headline?