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50 Shades of Head(line): Anatomy Of A Great Headline

by | Oct 11, 2012 | Blog, Marketing, Resources | 12 comments

HeadlineA headline can make or break a blog post, article or Kindle book.


Together with the cover image, a headline is the first point where you can potentially gain (or lose) a customer.  The thing is, a great headline can take time and effort to craft.

For a headline to be truly stop-in-your-tracks good, it usually has one or more of these elements:

The  Shock Factor

The headline contains something that shocks or intrigues in some way.  This can be accomplished by citing a little known but surprising statistic.

55% of Americans in the 45-54 age bracket have a social media profile

And here we were thinking that social media is for kids.  In any case, having some kind of statistic or curious fact stops the scanning eyeballs to read the next bit – which is what you want.

The Play On Words

Another way to stop the reader in her tracks is to use a play on words of something that’s currently trending or  a famous movie, book, or song.  I’ve seen so many hilarious takes on Eat, Pray, Love: ‘eat, pay, leave’, or ‘eat, pray, hurl’.

This post itself borrows heavily from a certain Kindle bestseller 🙂

It would help if your play on words is somehow connected to the subject matter of your post, of course!

Customer Self-Selection

This part of the headline needs to speak directly to the customer.  Yes, it implies that you must  know who your customer is, and that you are familiar with how they describe themselves.

What successful <customer profile> know about <something of interest to customer>

Pretty easy if you are targeting a specific group of individuals, say, for example, interior designers.

It gets a bit more difficult if you are targeting a disparate group who all have the same problem, say, bloggers who suffer from writer’s block.

This is downright tough, if not impossible, when  you don’t know exactly who you are targeting, or find that you cannot profile your audience enough to differentiate them from everyone else.

If you can’t identify your customer, you have a bigger problem than writing a headline!

Keywords, Keywords, Keywords

A successful headline includes the target keywords.  This helps the customer confirm they are in the right place, could get you organic search traffic and strengthen your niche branding.

Granted, it’s not simple to include a keyword while at the same having a shocking statistic and/or talking directly to the customer.

This is why the sub-headline was invented: it’s a perfect place for your keyword.

Unchained Balcony: How To Declutter Your Tiny Terrace

While keywords work best the closer they are to the beginning of the title, they still work well when they are in sub-title, even for search engine optimization.

Core Benefit

A truly magnetic headline tells me immediately what’s in it for me.  It gives a good, compelling reason for me to keep reading, to get deeper into the message.

Without that benefit jumping off the page at me, I’m probably going to move on to the next shiny headline clamouring for my attention, so you better tell me why I should stick around.

The ‘How To’ and “100 Tips To”  usually work well, although they are a tad overused.  Try using similar phrases, such as ‘A Little Known Method’,  ‘The Secret To’, ‘Finally, A Way’ or similar to dress up the benefit.

Now You Can Quit Smoking And Still Stay Slim

A great headline is what will get your blog post read, shared, and syndicated all over the place.

A great headline is absolutely essential for your product, for your Kindle book to stand out from the crowd, and entice a bored, browsing prospect in to read the rest of what you have to say, and, hopefully, become a customer.

Happy headlining!