The Cheat-sheet for How to Write Successful Headlines

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Why do you always have such great titles?

[Me] Because that’s what I do.

Why can’t I create titles like that?

[Me] You can

I can?!?!?!

[Me] Yup!

While the rules for search engine optimization (SEO) and social media marketing optimization (SMO) are always changing, there are some tried and true psychological strategies that you can use when you create headlines (or titles) for your articles, blog posts, and YouTube videos to name a few.

Remember, no matter what you do online and what the current SEO or SMO rules are, ultimately you are engaging with actual people. This means that there are certain ways of wording things that will pique the curiosity or trigger certain emotions that entice engaging with your content.

Good Ol’ “How to…”

“How to…” instantly tells someone that you have the solution to the problem they are currently facing. You have already figured it out and are going to tell them how to do it so they don’t have to spend days, weeks, months, or even years learning what you already know.

Some variations of this include:

  • How to…
  • How to Be…
  • How to…Without…
  • How to…in 5 minutes

Get to the Point with Lists

The reality is we don’t like to read—even avid readers don’t like to read. We skim and lists make it really easy for us to get the information that we’re seeking without having to actually concentrate to learn it. Remember to try to use an odd number when creating these lists. Odd numbers are more memorable.

Some variations of this include:

  • 7 Steps to…
  • 5 Ways to…
  • Top 10…
  • 7 Tips for…
  • 9 [Adjective] Facts [Audience] Should/Doesn’t Know
  • 5…that Will Change Your Business Forever
  • 7 Things to Remember When/About

While lists may generate click-through rates, they often are either too informative or not informative enough. There is a fine line between the two and that line isn’t always clear. So a technique that I like to use is keeping your list concise and link to other content that dives deeper into that particular step/way/tip. This also encourages users to stay engaging with your content.

These Just Work

While these headlines don’t have a specific category that they fall under, they each trigger a specific emotional response which is why they work. The caution is in using them too much. If you use them too much you can sound like an extremist in one direction or another. It can also be harder for your audience to take you seriously if EVERYTHING you talk about is so emotionally triggering and an emergency.

Some examples include:

  • WARNING:…
  • Why [Action] Is/May Be [Opinion]
  • [Challenge] – Here’s How to Solve/Fix it
  • The Ultimate Guide to…

Oh, and another tip…these concepts work in starting conversations on social media as well. Just remember to keep it conversational.