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Headlines: How to Convince People to Read Your Content

March 20, 2014
| Articles

The headline is the first part of your content that anyone will read. Like the front sign on a store, it can make a good impression — or drive people away. In the web’s marketplace of ideas, good headlines are essential for getting your articles read.


But a lot of people struggle with headlines. In this post, I’ll cut through the clutter and tell you what you need to do – and why.


Stop and Think

As with all writing, the process of crafting effective headlines requires you to step back and analyze exactly what it is you’re trying to do.


You should think about your intended audience: who do you hope sees your headline? You should follow that up by considering your purpose: what do you want people who see your headline to do?


Considering your audience and purpose may seem like a theoretical exercise, but in reality it is remarkably practical. Once you’ve figured out what action you want people who see you headline to take, the process becomes simple. You can anchor everything you do with your headline to your intended purpose.


Promise Something Awesome

Once you begin thinking about headlines in terms of the relationship between your audience and your intended purpose, the first step becomes easy. Regardless of your ultimate purpose for each individual post, your goal with every headline will be to convince people to read the full article.


This means that the headline isn’t good in and of itself: every aspect of it should be treated as a bridge that you’re building to help visitors reach the meat of the article.


The best way to build that bridge is to convince people that they have something to gain from reading your content. You should always make a promise. This means that each headline that you write should lay out the benefit that readers of the article will get.


At the same time, promising is not the same as delivering. You don’t need to give away your secrets in the headline – a promise hints at things to come, and those things should come in the body of your content.


Be Clear

You should never leave room for misinterpretation about what that benefit is. Your headline should be written to clearly describe what it is that your article is about.


In other words, it should clearly lay out what you’re promising to readers. There is no room for ambiguity because you want to make sure that people click through to read the full article.


You might be tempted to use a clever pun or cool allusion in your headline. There might be rare cases where this is called for, but in most instances those types of things will distract people from the promise that you’re making.


Don’t Shy Away from Simplicity

Many beginning bloggers and content creators worry that their headlines are complicated or impressive enough. Fortunately, their anxieties are largely misplaced.


There is little need for your headline to be flashy or fancy. The web is awash in headlines that scream for attention – but people are getting sick of the fabled “one weird trick” and “ultimate guide to X, Y, and Z.” If your promise is clear and enticing, your work is done.



Headlines confuse many beginner bloggers, but that doesn’t have to be the case. If you stop and think to consider what you’re actually trying to do with a headline, the process becomes remarkably simple.


At its core, a headline is a promise. Your purpose is to convince your audience to read your article, and you can do that convincing with a clear, simple promise of something awesome after the jump.


Image credit: Flickr

By Tom Ewer
Categories: Articles
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