How to Write Killer Headlines

The headline is the most important part of any piece of writing - whether it is an article, newsletter, sales copy, blog entry, web page, email or business report. Without a good headline the rest will not be read. By improving your headlines you will find that your writing will no longer be ignored, dismissed or deleted as they will be hungry to find out more.

Busy people keep their lives manageable by deciding almost instantly whether something is worth their time. It's the headline's job to entice them, engage them and capture their attention so that they ignore all other distractions to read to find out more. It's frightening, but this process takes just a second or two and it's brutal. An email appears, a web page loads, a magazine page is flipped open and in a second or two the readers has made an instant judgment - to read or move on.

The headline is your first and sometimes only chance. Their eye will scan the headline and an instant decision will be made. Does it interest them, intrigue them or amuse them or can it be ignored? If the decision goes against you it is final. There is no going back and the rest of your article, brilliant, amusing and informative though it may be will never be read.

If you succeed then you need to back up your killer headline with a brilliant introduction, superb main copy and persuasive summary and a call to action that they can respond to. For now, our focus is on the headline as that must be good for the others to be read at all.

The golden rules of headlines
There are five golden rules of headline writing that every successful headline must follow.

1. It must be clear - The headline is not the place to be confusing or circumspect. It has to be clear what the headline is saying and what the rest of the article is about.

2. It must be relevant - The headline must be relevant to the introduction and the rest of the article otherwise you will lose the reader as soon as they see any discrepancy.

3. It must be targeted - The headline must be targeted at the audience you want to reach. This will also help it be more relevant.

4. It must be lean - A waffle-filled wordy headline will not be read. Keep your headline short and to the point.

5. It must be exciting - Don't bore your reader - excite them, amuse them, make them curious...

Types of headline
The final rule leads onto the next important point - don't limit yourself to just one type of headline. While benefit or information headlines such as "How to..." or "10 ways to" are great why not try one of the others and try an emotional headline, prediction headline or command headline.

Spice up your headlines
You should then try to spice up your headline. Use what I call hot words as well as your keywords. Hot words are those words that are very strong in your particular field or market. For example if writing about a food or drink topic then words like taste, taster, flavour, serve or "on a plate" can be used with effect. Don't try and use them all as too many create a headline that is more likely to make your readers groan then nod with approval.

Finally, test your headline
Look at your headline again and test it. Does it read out loud well? Can any of the words be improved? Does it create an emotional response? Would it make you want to read more? The chances are good that you may have two or three variations of the same headline. Try them out and go with the one that is the best.

Click here For more advice, articles, video tutorials and downloadable reports at Tony Hetherington is a writer and editor with over 25 years experience and can help you improve your writing through his new ebook The Writing Formula. Armed with that you can create headlines in seconds and the rest in minutes. It's easy, simple and will help everyone.