Writing catchy headlines is a skill that every blogger, vlogger, PR specialist, and marketer needs to master.

It’s one thing to write and distribute great content, but it’s another to get people to read it.

The headline for your email campaigns, blog posts, webinars and all of your marketing pieces is often just as important as the written content itself. In fact, the headline or title is usually the reader’s first interaction with your brand online, so it’s one of the most critical components of your content marketing strategy.

It’s the first, and maybe only chance to grab your target audience’s attention.

Think for a minute about the headlines you read perusing news or entertainment online, or on social media.

What drives you to click on an article and read it?

It’s usually the catchy headline.

Which is why it’s so important to spend time writing effective ones that will drive traffic.

Interesting stories are important, but if your headline doesn’t communicate value to the reader, they will move on to other mail in their inbox, or articles online.

Learning how to write effective headlines will enable you to grow your business and increase traffic, followers, webinar attendees, and so much more.

But there’s more to writing something catchy—in fact, there is a science behind writing headlines and that’s what I’m going to focus on today.

Here are 9 tips for writing catchy, powerful headlines your clients can’t resist…

1. Include numbers

EXAMPLE: For instance, instead of saying “WordPress Design Tips to Drive Traffic,” get more specific. Nail down a number like, “7 WordPress Design Tips to Drive Traffic.”

Odd numbers seem to work best.

2. Add an adjective in the headline

EXAMPLE: Instead of “Formulas to Build a Website,” change it to something like “3 Simple Formulas to Build a Website.”

3. Use call-to-action words

Engage your prospects with a task.

EXAMPLE: “The Trick to Building Email Campaigns,” might be enhanced by adding, “Try This Simple Trick to Build Your Next Email Campaign.”

4. Keep it accurate

Make sure your headline accurately reflects the content you are writing about. This is probably one of the most important rules to remember: respect the readers experience. With so many clickbait headlines online, it’s very important for readers to trust that your content will deliver what the headline promises. Accurate headlines build trust.

5. Add brackets

Consider adding bracketed clarification to your headlines like the example below.

EXAMPLE: Facebook Ad Spend Surpasses Other Internet Ads [Full Report]

Hubspot performed a study of over 3.3 million paid link headlines, and actually found that headlines with this clarification – [Infographic], [Interview], [Podcast], etc.—performed 38% better than headlines without clarification. It all comes down to setting expectations, so readers know exactly what they are getting in to when they click on your link, article, post or email.

6. Make it creative

Writing headlines is not always numbers, adjectives and calls-to-action. Be creative and find ways to make your headline pop. Play with alliteration (i.e. “Foolproof Formula”) and use strong language to grab attention. If there are photos or illustrations within your content, let the readers know this in the headline. Research proves that headlines featuring the word “photo(s)” perform almost 40% better than headlines without it.

7. Keep it short

Keep your headlines short and concise. There is no magic size, however keeping it shorter than 70 characters will prevent it from getting cut off in search engines. You might even run a few different tests to see which headline performs the best. Write a shorter and longer version and see which generates the most engagement for you.

8. Optimise it for search and social

Make sure you use keywords in your headline that your audience is already searching for. Once you know which keywords to incorporate, place them as close to the beginning of the headline as possible in order to catch your reader’s attention.

9. Avoid superlatives and words that create a sense of urgency

Including positive superlatives like “best” or “always” in headlines decreases click-through rates. Using words that convey urgency like “quick” or “now,” also do the same.

What kind of headlines lose attention?

Now that you know the strategies for creating the best headlines, here are a few things NOT to do. Here are the kind of headlines that turn readers away, or that readers are NOT clicking on…

  • Headlines that give instructions are not what readers want. Stay away from the word “how.” Headlines containing the phrase “how to” perform almost 50% worse than headlines without this phrase.
  • Headlines with the word “easy” are often viewed as spam. Stay away from phrases like “easy ways” or “easy steps.”
  • Headlines that refer to “you” or “your” can sound too personal. The attempt to speak to readers directly does not always appeal to everyone.

Now you have a solid starting place for optimising your content marketing headlines. Whether you’re looking for increased engagement, followers, clicks or conversations, just remember that all of your marketing campaigns start with great headlines.

Creating content which commands attention is a valuable way to gain the trust of your readership. Find out more about gaining trust online with my free checklist on easy steps to gaining trust on your website.

Vicky Etherington has been running her own online marketing agency since 2003, and in 2014 transitioned to working with coaches and therapists to teach them how to create their own client-attracting websites. The programs are about so much more than website creation – they’re about rising above the noise, thriving at entrepreneurship, mastering technology with confidence and staying on track.