Pen Name Consulting


A Quick Lesson On Writing Headlines

You’re killing your traffic and you don’t even realize it.

You have great content. You know your stuff. And yet, no one is clicking on your articles or the average time on site is about 8 seconds…or about 300 seconds shorter than it should be for your content.

The problem: Your headlines suck.

The problem with writing good copy is that most people overthink the process. The most common headline mistakes are:

  • Trying to make the copy sound cute
  • Inserting puns
  • Writing something that sounds smart

All of these are great ways to look like you know how to write—and make sure no one reads, views, or listens to what you have to say.

Headlines are all about three things:

  1. Selling the benefit
  2. Grabbing attention
  3. Making it obvious

The last part is where so many people fail. You want your reader to know exactly what you’re writing about. If they don’t, kiss those page views goodbye.

In other words, imagine your headline by itself on a blank page with no images.

If it were a naked link, would you click it?

How to Write Headlines In Real Life

Let’s take a recent email from one of my consulting clients. They’ve been working on an email sequence without much luck.

Here was one headline they were working with:

Flexible Dieting Doesn’t Require Food Restriction

Once I looked at the headline, it was clear why the message just wasn’t hitting with the audience.

First of all, let’s go to our checklist:

  1. They weren’t hitting the benefit. Food restriction is not a benefit.
  2. Grabbing attention. This headline puts me too sleep and sounds almost too complex to read for the average person, which was the target population. (Different story if writing to a bunch of researchers.)
  3. Make it Obvious. Do I really know what I’m about to learn or gain? Not really. Especially if I have no idea what flexible dieting is, or what “food restriction” means. (It’s vague and arbitrary, not to mention clunky and jargonish.) 

The adjustments: How to Eat What You Like

See the difference? It tells the reader what they will learn by reading, has my attention (especially if I’m miserable while dieting), and it is very clear what the content is about.

The change turned a flat open rate into one that was bustling at nearly 40 percent.

The lesson: A few words can change everything in the perception of your readers.

Don’t be lazy with your headlines. Take the time to go through the steps and write great copy to match your content. It can make all the difference.