Since about the middle of the twentieth century our society became obsessed with headlines. They are everywhere: on the magazine covers, newspapers, most of the news stations start their program with headlines. If you want a story to get noticed it has to be announced pompously in all its glory.
In blogiverse writing arresting eye-catching headlines is beyond obsession, it’s a matter of life or death of your article. If you’re not yet convinced about it, then 7 Compelling Reasons Why Your Headlines Need To LEAP Off The Page will surely make you think more than twice before you hit that Publish button again.
So what’s the secret formula to writing captivating headlines? You’d think that after reading all those how-to guides from gurus like Copyblogger and Modern Life we should be all PROs by now. But we’re still getting glued to another article on how to write headlines and search Google for answers and feverishly click on articles like How to write headlines even a corpse would read.
Then there’s also that nagging question on everybody’s mind: Do you write your headlines first and the article follows or should you come up with the title later or at the end? Check out the discussions on David Airey’s blog on Do you start or end with a headline. As you can see you shouldn’t just follow Brian Clark’s advice to Always Write Your Headline First, but apply it to your particular case. If you’re dawned with a perfect headline before writing the actual article, then of course, go ahead and use it. But never miss the chance of going back and re-evaluating your initial title before finalizing it.
In the media headlines are normally written after the article. That’s not to say that the journalist won’t write with a headline in mind and put a headline to their work, but as soon as it gets to the editor the headline will be reviewed and probably rewritten by someone else.
Very often I start my articles with a title, save it in my drafts and get back to it later, completing into a full article. On a few rare occasions do I stick with the original title, usually it evolves based on the actual content and the direction my article ended up taking afterwards. Take this post for example – here’s the evolution of my headline:
- Untitled (how do you come up with titles, after you finish the post, before you start, or in-between? How would you title this post?)
- How To Come Up With Eye-Catching Titles
- Writing Headlines That Catch Your Eyes
- Secret Formula To Writing Headlines That Catch Your Eyes
How would you title this post?
Just like in programming there are two completely opposite approaches in writing the code: top-down and bottom-up, each one comes with its own advantages and drawbacks, and depending on the task you chose one or another or come up with a mixed solution.
The Secret Formula
So what’s the secret formula of success in writing mesmerizing headlines that stand out among millions of other headlines. Well, the secret is in the title of this post: Writing Headlines That Catch YOUR Eyes. Your own eyes, not search engines, not your readers, not diggers, but your OWN eyes. Why? Because YOU are using search engines to find certain answers, YOU too are reading hundreds of blogs in your RSS, YOU too click on only catchy headlines on Digg or other blogs. How do YOU make your choice on which article is worth reading, which headline has caught your attention? What do you base your decisions on? Who’s brainwashed and trained better than YOU are on how the eye-catching headlines look like? Who knows your blog’s audience better than you?
So go ahead, read what others teach you about writing magnetic headlines, learn from pros, magazine covers, newspapers, but in the end YOU will be the one making the final decision on what would be the best headline for your article. And to help you with that, here’s a handy list of things to keep in mind:
- Try coming up with several variations for your headline
- Search Google for some keywords in your headline and compare the resulting titles with your own. Which one of your variations would stand out in those search results?
- Go to Digg and scan the popular articles. Would YOU notice your headline there?
- Launch your RSS reader and compare your headline with hundreds of other blog headlines. Would your headline invite YOU to click on it?
- Enroll some help from your family or friends: ask them to look at your headline variations and pick the one that catches their attention without knowing what the article is about.
- Get away from your article and headlines for awhile and come back later, look at your title variations once again as a stranger and pick the one that catches YOUR eyes.
- If YOU don’t find any of your headline variations attractive enough, trust your gut feeling and re-write the title until YOU are happy with it
- Practice does wonders, so don’t despair if you didn’t get the perfect title for your article this time, next time will be much easier and better.
What’s your secret formula to writing eye-catching headlines?