If there’s one absolute truth when it comes to copywriting it’s that a well-crafted headline is the most crucial part of an article and should always be given the due attention it deserves. It can even be argued that a headline is equal to, if not more important than, the actual body of content itself. The headline is the first thing a potential reader will see and it’s at that point a decision will be made to commit further or move on and read something else. If the headline is poorly written and fails to catch the reader’s attention the quality of the material becomes irrelevant. It doesn’t matter if the piece is 20000 words or 200 words; it all begins with a headline.
Newspapers and magazines live and die by their headlines and internet marketers have to adopt the same kind of sink or swim mentality. Thought Catalog and Lifehacker are two excellent examples of blogs that consistently deliver in this department. Almost every article begs to be read and can stand on its own even away from the blog. A great headline will look good in a search results page, in a Tweet, in an RSS reader, and just about anywhere else you could imagine.
The best copywriters know how to incentivize the reader to keep reading. Why do “how to” posts almost always seem to attract attention? It’s because the reader instantly assumes that the time spent reading the article is going to be well invested. They believe that they’re going to learn how to do something new and beneficial because the headline spells it out for them loud and clear.
If I’ve written an article on keyword research I might initially want to title it How to Learn Keyword Research, but that title leaves little incentive to actually read the article. It’s too bland and narrow to be taken seriously. A better title may be: 7 Unconventional Ways to Learning Keyword Research or How to Learn Keyword Research in 10 Days or Less. Both of these titles expand upon the original and tell the reader exactly why they should check out the article.
Writing a headline isn’t always easy, so invest the time and don’t settle until it’s near perfect. Remember you’ve only got one first impression to grab a reader’s attention. Make it count.
Further reading: Copyblogger has a series on How to Write Magnetic Headlines that has a lot of useful information.