Want to write great headlines? Sure you do! And we’ll try to help with that in a future post. But before we give you our tried-and-true secrets for writing great headlines, let’s spend a little time talking about how to recognize a great headline in the first place. After all, how can you write a great headline if you’re not totally sure what makes one great? Consider these six qualities…
1. A great headline has stopping power.
There are an infinite number of ways to communicate a message. But a great headline does it in a way that cuts through the clutter and gets noticed. It has a certain power to it, an irresistible hook that begs to be read. The hook could be funny or intriguing or dramatic. It could be short and pithy or long and thoughtful. Doesn’t matter. Whatever form it takes, it captures a reader’s heart and mind—and eyeballs.
2. A great headline is clear.
Any description of a great headline has to include clarity. A great headline can’t be confusing or misleading or awkward. The purpose of a headline—any headline—is to communicate. And so if a headline is confusing, overly complex, or awkward, it’s missing the whole point. That’s not to say it can’t be mysterious, pose a question, or tease the reader. But it has to do it in a way that’s clear and logical and easy to understand and connect to. Which bring us to…
3. A great headline makes a connection.
Simple, clear communication is essential, but really, it’s just the price of entry. Clarity in itself won’t make a headline great. A great headline goes beyond mere communication and connects with its audience. What does that mean? Basically, it affects people on a deeper level. It elicits an emotional response beyond a simple exchange of information. Maybe it entertains, intrigues, teaches. Maybe it makes us laugh, think, get mad, or see the world in a fresh way. Above all, it touches a nerve and captures our hearts as well as our heads. And why is this so important? Because it makes us want to keep reading. It makes us like the company who wrote it. It stands out from the dull, ordinary messages out there. And because of all that, it increases the likelihood we’ll pay attention to it, remember it, and take action because of it.
4. A great headline builds your brand.
Ordinary headlines are pretty vanilla. But a great headline? It’s vanilla swirl with peanut butter chunks and chocolate chips. Just like our favorite people, great headline has personality! It’s smart and witty and has a strong point of view. It’s cool, interesting, likeable, funny. Headlines like those entertain and connect and get read. They’re more effective. But they also have the intangible benefit of building your brand, word by word. A great headline goes beyond the words themselves. It makes a statement that your brand is smart, savvy, understanding, fun, surprising, likeable, or all of the above.
5. A great headline respects its audience.
Since your headline is a reflection of your brand, it has to be authentic and honest. It has to have integrity. It needs to respect the reader and deliver what it promises. Since a great headline builds trust, the last thing you want to do is come across as disingenuous, sneaky, or dishonest. Misleading or tricking the reader will ultimately backfire.
6. A great headline keeps people reading.
We all know our marketing is competing with a million other things when it comes to people’s attention. Which is why a great headline needs to have stopping power. But what separates a good headline from a truly great one is that it not only stops the reader, it keeps him or her reading. It strikes a chord, introduces an idea, poses a question, or makes a connection that draws the reader in and makes them want to learn more—and ultimately, to take action.
Not so simple is it? That’s why great headlines are all-too rare. But hopefully keeping these rules in mind will help you identify what makes a headline great—and recognize what’s working in your own headlines. Next time, we’ll give you some rules for HOW to do it. Until then, if you agree, or disagree with the above, or even have some tips of your own, please leave a comment. We’d love to know what you think!