As a copywriter, I like to find great ideas I can use right away in my daily copywriting work. I discovered these tips in the article "What can we learn from the 'real world'?" written by Steve Crescenzo in the November/December 2011 issue of Communication World, the magazine published by the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC).
When it comes to writing great headlines, Steve says you have to look no further than Cosmopolitan. Yes, that's right, the woman's magazine Cosmo, famous for its provocative headlines. The magazine uses several simple tactics that draw readers in.and get them to buy magazines.
1. "The list". People like lists that offer an opportunity to learn a number of points about a specific topic. For Cosmo, these include: "10 Things You Should Never Say to a Guy" or "13 Things that Make Him Act Totally Bitchy". If you're writing for a business audience you can use "7 Simple SEO Tips to Increase Your Web Traffic". Another benefit of using lists is they provide an outline or frame for your article, breaking the content into easy to read sections.
2. The "direct address" or "it's all about YOU". Talking directly to your readers gets their attention. Which headline would make you want to read more: "How to Tell if a Man is Keeping Secrets" or "10 Secrets Your Man is Keeping From You"? Exactly.
3. The "dot, dot, dot". To really get a reader to take notice, ask them a question followed by an ellipsis (...). "Are You Obsessed..." or "Have You Discovered Your...". What is this obsession or life-changing discovery they don't know about, the reader will ask --and read on to find out.
Thank you to Steve Crescenzo for the inspired headline writing lesson. Since I've read these tips I've been using them whenever possible, in my own writing and in the articles I edit for a client's newsletter.
Here are two more tips to optimize your headlines for online writing.
Use keywords. Remember to use the top keyword in your headline. Be sure to repeat this keyword in the first paragraph, in the first line if possible.
Don't forget Twitter. It is always satisfying for a writer to have their work appreciated, and the "retweet" is the "thumbs up" for the digital age. Think about how easy it is for others to publish your headline on Twitter. In the tweet put your URL right after your headline and finish up with a call to action.