Science of a Good Headline

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Creating the title is the hardest and most agonizing part of the writing process. Whether you are writing a novel, a news article, an advertisement, a blog, or an e-book.

How do you cram the whole content of the book or article into a few words? How do you keep viewers interested enough to look a second time?

Coming up with a good headline is a task many writers take for granted. But good writers know that the title is just important as the whole book itself.

Benefits of a Great, Catchy Headline

Think of yourself as a fisherman, your audience as the fish, and your headline as your ‘fish bait’. In order to get the fish’s attention, you must bait them with something juicy enough to reel them in towards your call for action.

Often the headline is more important than even article! Even in email newsletters – everything is in the subject line – if it’s not compelling – people will not notice and send it directly to their trash. Since the market is already over saturated with so many ads and messages, it’s important to STAND OUT. People nowadays have such short attention spans, and a headline that isn’t catchy will lead to your own demise.

Techniques to Create a Good Headline

1. Avoid Cliché Terms

People stopped responding to cliché terms such as ‘high quality’, ‘number one’, and ‘top of the line’ a long time ago. It takes more than that to convince viewers that what they’ll get is different from the rest.

2. Going straight to the point vs. creative headlines

A direct, brief headline works in some cases, as do creative headlines. It depends on the situation really–direct headlines make use of the product characteristics and features; while the indirect headline is used to grab attention.

A direct headline gets straight to the point, with no intention to use creative tools or flowery words. Some examples of direct titles are: ‘Top Free iPod Apps’ and ‘West Jet Seat Sale at 50%’. Customers who are in a hurry, who want to get a benefit rather than entertainment, will prefer direct headlines–titles that get it right to the point.

The indirect headline otherwise ‘sells indirectly’. They are more subtle, using curiosity to intrigue the reader into knowing more.

3. How To Headline

This is a popular form of headline–because it piques the interest of readers in a snap. It’s everywhere, online and offline. And it’s so easy to make a how to headline, and it’s almost impossible to write a bad title that begins with ‘how to’. ‘How to Impress in a First Date’, ‘How to Potty Train your Child in 7 Days’ or ‘How to be a Rockstar Freelancer’ all work great.

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4. Intrigue your Readers with a Question

Pique your reader’s interest by asking them a question, a question that they can relate to, or a question they want answered. ‘Should you Trust your Child Alone with a Nanny?’, ‘Where’s the Best Place to Find Suppliers for my Business?’ and ‘Should you Invest in a Security Camera at Home?’

5. Command your Readers to Action

On the other hand, you can catch your readers’ attention through the command headline. You can create a strong, forceful title by using a command headline. This type of headline tells the readers to take action fast. Examples of the command headline include ‘Invest in your Children’s Future Now’ or ‘Be a Hero—Recycle!’

836c0 wordpress write now command headline Science of a Good Headline

6. Provide Interesting and ‘New’ News in your Headline

A headline that provides news, and informs readers is called a ‘News Headline’. A compelling headline can relate to current events, a product announcement, the latest scoop etc. Examples include ‘iPad 3 Coming 2012′, ‘International Stock Market on Slow but Steady Recovery’, ‘Microsoft to Launch Secret Gadget to Rival Apple’s iPhone’.

7. Give them a Reason Why.

This article is often a list of reasons about why you should opt for the product or service your book is promoting. It’s a great headline because it’s interesting and precise. Examples are ’10 Reasons you Should Subscribe to Netflix’, ‘Reasons Why an Online Business is Better than the Brick and Mortar’ and ’5 Ways to Lose 5 Inches Off your Waist’.

8. Use humor.

Use humor, but be careful. Make sure that you use your jokes within the right context, and without offending anyone. And don’t be corny. When you are in doubt, just don’t try to be funny.

836c0 wordpress offensive titles Science of a Good Headline 

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Whether or not some headlines are meant to be funny, do your research and try your best not to offend anyone.

9. Finally, and most importantly: give your readers what they want to hear.

First know who your readers are. If you are writing an exercise book, your readers are probably body conscious people who want to get fit. Work on the emotions of your readers. Feed them what they want to hear.

Of course, body conscious people want to get instant results. Tim Ferriss’ headline ‘The 4 Hour Body’ and ‘The 4 Hour Work Week’ definitely hit the spot. From the title itself, it says that you only work 4 hours a week, it promises you multiple benefits: rapid fat loss, amazing sex, and becoming superman. Emotion is a strong human occurrence and make it work on your side!

836c0 wordpress 4 hour body tim ferris Science of a Good Headline

Same goes for the other Ferriss book, The 4-Hour Workweek, that promises escaping the boring 9-5 grind and joining the new rich. To the bored corporate drones who want to escape the corporate world and live financially independent, they will certainly pick up this book from the headline alone.

836c0 wordpress 4 hour work week tim ferriss headline title1 Science of a Good Headline

Great Examples of Headlines and Slogans for Inspiration

624f8 wordpress red cross indifference headline slogan Science of a Good Headline

The slogan by Red Cross is frank and gripping. It makes you sad and feel a little guilty. Then it compels you to action, encouraging you think and to care for the world.

624f8 wordpress headline good 10 things i hate about you Science of a Good Headline

Using a number can be very effective for a headline. Just like the hit 90′s teen flick ’10 Things I Hate About You’, a title like this intrigues readers because it seems to indicate urgency. Plus readers know it’s concise and not too long. Titles like ’10 Things your waiter doesn’t tell you’, ’8 Ways to Get a Promotion’ and ’3 Steps to Getting over your Ex’ work like a charm.

624f8 wordpress how to headline toby young humor Science of a Good Headline

Use of humor, coupled with great typography and a fitting pop art design makes up a winning book cover.

624f8 wordpress slogan headline science Science of a Good Headline

Minimalist, clean and straight to the point. This slogan is so memorable, that you don’t need the check mark logo to know that it’s Nike.

624f8 wordpress slogans nike yesterday tomorrow Science of a Good Headline

Another great and minimalist slogan from Nike. Everything just works.

624f8 wordpress headline compelling Science of a Good Headline

This headline compels you to action (to get the book) and gives you a good reason why you should do so (to get what you want).

80638 wordpress accidental billionaires title  Science of a Good Headline

The story of Facebook is wryly entitled ‘The Accidental Billionaires’. The headline is funny enough, giving the idea that the founders became billionaires without intending to, and all they wanted to do in the first place was to ‘meet some girls’. The book cover is enough to get you intrigued and buy it off the shelf instantly.

80638 wordpress war of art Science of a Good Headline

Play with words–such as Steven Pressfield’s ‘The War of Art’. The headline was obviously based on Sun Tzu’s ‘The Art of War’, but this time mixed up to create a fitting title on battling with artist’s block and other inner creative battles.

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