Headlines. You just read one. Did it hook you? I started my career as a writer in college and was schooled on headlines by every editor I worked for. I worked for some small newspapers: The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star, The Daily Breeze (Santa Monica), Night Moves, LA Weekly, The Argonaut, and the Los Angeles Times. (A few of these still exist.) Whether I was writing a story about a high school football game in Spotsylvania or a new restaurant review for The Argonaut, I learned very quickly that headlines were very important. I also learned that headlines were difficult to write…for other people.
I don’t mean to brag, but I’ve always been able to write an interesting and attention-grabbing headline. This is probably the number one reason I made the transition from journalism to advertising 30 years ago. A headline may be the single most important component of a great ad. It’s also important for your email, your press release, your social media post, your blog, or anything you create that has the specific goal of capturing someone’s attention.
We get bombarded with ads and content every single day. If we tried to read them all, nothing else would get done. Instead, we skim the headlines to get a synopsis. As I wrote last week about our shrinking attention spans, it’s no more important than ever to get your interesting idea across in just a few words. You have to get to the point. You have to write something snappy, and it has to pique the reader’s interest.
Writing a great headline is so important, but a word of caution — there’s a difference between a great headline and clickbait. A great headline captures our attention and the subsequent content should delight and deliver. Clickbait, on the other hand, is designed to disappoint and sometimes disgust. In short, a headline is the truth. Clickbait is not.
Clickbait: “87-Year-Old Trainer Shares Secret to Losing Weight” and the article is about eating eggs. #SayWhat
Headline: “I’ve Eaten Chili Dogs Three Times A Week Since 1941.” The article tells the story of 87-year-old Gloria (aka Glory B.) who was born in 1935, works every day as a seamstress, and has eaten chili dogs at the Texas Inn since she was six years old. #TrueStory
Headlines are click magnets.