Last month, I focused on the bigger picture. This month, I’m zooming into the nitty-gritty with headlines. Headlines are one of the hardest and most important things to write. They’re the deciding factor as to whether someone will read the rest of your content. They’ll either make people want to click, or ignore.
Headlines are the foundation of any piece of content. You know this is what someone will see when they read anything, whether it’s print or online. If you don’t craft a strong headline, the rest of your content won’t be read. But surely it’s simple, right?
Actually, nope. Creating a great headline takes time, effort, patience and the right tools. But if you know how to do it, the benefits for you as a freelancer will be huge.
Why Are Headlines so Important?
If you’re anything like me, you want your work to make an impact and you want to make clients happy. There are so many different ways you can achieve this. Making sure you under-promise and over-deliver. Having brilliant systems in place. And crafting the best headline you possibly can makes a real difference.
A website called Copyblogger did some research and found that 80% of people will read your headline. But only 20% will read the rest of your content.
That’s a crazy stat right there.
The better your headline, the more chance you have of getting what you’ve written seen by a larger group of people. So let’s look at what you can do to make your headlines work even harder.
What Makes the Perfect Headline?
There are four main types of headlines that get the best results. We’re going to go through these right now.
List headlines provide ambiguity about the piece of content itself, whilst arousing your audience’s curiosity. It lets them know what the article is going to be about, but leaves them wanting to know a lot more. You see these types of headlines everywhere because they work. An article with a list headline is the type of content that is shared the most after infographics.
So what would some examples of list headlines be? You could have, “11 of the Best Productivity Tools to Turn Your Life Around”, or, “5 of the Biggest Things I Learnt in My First Year as a Freelancer”. Both of these would work really well as list headlines.
Want more proof? The list headline below that I used for an article on my blog has racked up over 500 shares and counting since last August. List headlines work.
When someone is searching for information, it’s usually because they want to know how to do something better. I once read something from a social media writer who said that How To articles are the most sought after, linked to and bookmarked content for a reason – because it’s content that helps your audience do something for the better.
So what would examples of How To headlines be? You could do it about anything: “How to Create Amazing Images for Instagram” or “How to Make the Perfect Cup of Tea”. The second most popular post on my blog, “How to Create a Great Twitter Bio with These Key Ingredients” is a How To headline, and still gets views almost a year on.
These focus on an audience’s needs and basically imply an answer if they click through to read your content. They’re super helpful and relate to how people naturally search for answers. Nowadays, people turn to search engines like Google to ask questions. So if you can figure out what your audience wants to know and how they’re going to ask for it then you’ll get big results.
You can create question headlines for almost any piece of content too. “How Can I Build a Profitable Business Whilst Working Full Time?” “What Do You Do if You Make a Mistake with a Client?” They’re simple and easy.
This last headline type is a trick one, really. It’s usually a sign that you can improve. If your headline is generic then you might be able to change it to a list, a how-to or a question. It’s an opportunity for you to change the structure of your headline to improve it.
Examples of general headlines would be: “The Tools I Use to Succeed as a Freelancer”, or, “The Biggest Goal I Want to Complete This Year.” You can turn both of these into another type of headline.
What Are the Most Important Parts of a Headline?
When we’re reading, we skim information, which makes certain parts of a headline more important than others. The first three words and the last three words are crucial. They’re the bits that people pay attention to. This means you want to be getting the keyword of your article within the first 20 characters of your headline.
Take this article, for instance. What’s the most important word? Headline. It appears just after 10 characters, so people won’t miss it. The words that readers will pick out in this headline are “How To Use Headlines…” and “Freelance Work Stand Out.”
How Long Should the Perfect Headline Be?
In journalism, I was taught that headlines should be around ten or eleven words long. But that’s not actually the length that gets the best results.
Practically speaking, you should try and aim for your headline to be around six or seven words long. It’s not a big deal if it isn’t. The headline of this article is eleven words. But it still gets a score of 70/100.
Wait, what? A score?
The Number One Tool You Need to Create Great Headlines
To make sure you’re really crafting the best headline possible, why not test it? The headline analyser by CoSchedule is a top tool to add to your freelance box. You can input your headline and the tool will analyse it for you, giving you a score out of 100.
It’ll then dig even deeper and give you further insights about your headline, including:
- What types of words are used (common, uncommon, emotional, power)
- Its type
- How many characters/words it is
- How it’ll appear in Google
- How it’ll appear in an email
- What the keywords are
- Its sentiment
This tool gives you a whole range of different information to help you craft the perfect headline. If you don’t get a good result the first time around, edit it and analyse it again. Then the ones you don’t keep, you can note down somewhere safe and use them for social media updates. Great idea, right?
The bottom line…
Headlines matter. Putting as much thought and effort into crafting this as you do with the rest of your content will make your freelance work not only make an impact, but stand out too.