It’s useful to spend a few minutes thinking how to write better headlines. Readers tend to skim through digital content, looking for the parts they actually want to read. They will only read further if the headline catches their attention so a good headline needs to “sell” the article or post. In short, the headline needs to offer a benefit to the reader. A good headline persuades you to pick up a newspaper. Likewise a good digital headline draws the reader in to read further.
Digital headlines must work for search engines
If you are writing copy for the web, the headlines need to look good when they appear on the desktop or the mobile. A good length is probably from six to twelve words, and this should include the key word or words for SEO. It’s always been conventional to leave the articles out of press headlines and the web does the same. The articles are the short words such as “a”, “an” and “the” which don’t add much to the sense of the headline.
It is good if the whole headline can be search-friendly as well, and match the questions or search strings people are typing into their browsers. When you start a new search, Google shows a short list of other popular searches for similar keywords, and these might suggest a good heading. The length of the headline should fit into Google’s results too. Google displays up to 60 characters in search results, so that would be an ideal maximum length.
Do click-bait headlines still grab readers?
We know that numbers work well in digital headlines, and large numbers can work especially well. Big numbers add a sense of value to the headline.
There is plenty of analysis of the kinds of headlines that perform best in digital marketing, and plenty of tools to help us. For example, you could use one of the well-known paid tools such as Buzzsumo to see the top performing content for a particular topic. We know that “how-to” articles and lists work well online and these popular approaches have been used countless times.
My personal view is that the simple, formulaic headlines are not quite right for a professional B2B audience. This is because many readers will recognise a heading like “21 ways to make money online” as an indicator of “click-bait” which usually leads to fairly shallow content.
Write better headlines that pass the “So what?” test
This brings us to the heart and purpose of the full article. A business audience is far more likely to value information that relates directly to their work or career, so if you want to write better headlines for this audience, the words should address a subject the readers care deeply about. Marketing managers and copywriters know that a good B2B article or blog post is written with a specific audience in mind. The text has to provide thoughts of real value and chime directly with the readers’ needs and interests.
What will draw a busy executive to read beyond a headline? They will read further if the text passes the “so what” test. The reader will be thinking “What’s in this for me? Is this something I need to read?” Therefore, a successful article will offer help, answers to current questions and valuable insight. The headline will then reflect the full content of the piece with a promise – either in so many words or inferred. It offers a benefit and gives the reader a reason to read further. Miss this article and you miss out. FOMO. This means that a good headline should convey the value the article promises in a few well-chosen words.
How to write better headlines for B2B copy – more tips
- Shorten the headline as far as possible but keep the meaning precise.
- Short words always work best.
- Clarity is essential, especially on the web, so a headline shouldn’t have a double meaning.
- Some business and agencies conduct A/B testing where they test alternative headlines to find out which one performs best.
- A good headline conveys urgency. It makes you want to read it now!
The best advice of all is probably to write the headline last, or at least after the body of the text is mapped out. When the whole of the content has been decided and the purpose of the article is clear, the best headline usually falls into place quite easily.
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