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9 Dos & Don’ts for Writing Compelling, Clickable Headlines to Draw in Your Audience

Posted on Aug 9th, 2016
Written by TopRank Marketing
  • Blog
  • B2B Marketing
  • 9 Dos & Don’ts for Writing Compelling, Clickable Headlines to Draw in Your Audience
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    Well, hello there. I’m so glad you’ve stopped by the TopRank Marketing blog today. I’m pretty sure I know why you’re here — you’ve been searching high and low for the most adorable cat video of the day. Well, here it is:

    Okay. Okay. Just kidding. But I really do know why you’re here. You’re looking for a little headline help. And regardless of how you found this blog post today, you believed something valuable, educational and actually on the topic of writing headlines (not cat videos) was waiting for you when you clicked—and that’s all thanks to the headline.

    Headlines are arguably the most important aspect of any piece of content. It’s the first thing—and often the only thing—users will read. In fact, 8 out of 10 people read headlines, but just 2 out of 10 will actually continue reading the rest of the content, according to Copyblogger.

    The bottom line? The better the headline, the better your chances for actually getting interested eyeballs on your content—with the caveat that you have a solid and engaging piece of content to back your headline up.

    But what’s the secret to writing a click-compelling headline? In my opinion, there’s no one secret formula. Each brand should build their own formula for creating headlines resonate with their audience, but there are certainly some dos and don’ts that can help guide you. Below we dive into those dos and don’ts, complete with advice and examples.


    #1 – Use numbers.

    This is one of our absolute favorites here at TopRank Marketing. Numbers stand out in a sea of letters and they’re also easily understood by people. Here’s one of our recent examples:

    Delicious Content 1

    It’s a technique that many magazine publications have used for decades to sell issues. Think: “5 Simple Ways to Eat Your Way to Skinny.” It’s simple, easy to understand, and uses a number to intrigue and entice. (OK. While this example might not be all that realistic, you get my point.)

    In addition, if you’re not creating a listicle post, use data or statistics for your numbers to grab attention.

    #2 – Ask questions.

    Asking questions is a way to connect with a problem your audience is having and signals to them that you’re there to provide the answer they need. This idea can guide your content strategy, too. Get started by answering some of the most commonly asked questions your audience has about your product or a topic related to your business.

    #3 – Be original.

    Your headline is your hook. Even if you’re writing about something that’s well covered, a unique headline can set you apart from your competition.

    Here’s a fun example from CPQ software company Axonom (client). Not only is it original, but it also speaks directly to the target audience.

    Axonom 1

    Read the full Axonom article.

    #4 – Use active language.

    Your audience is likely looking for something that can make a difference in in their own lives or for their company. Active language helps create a sense of urgency and action — and tells them that they can do it. In my line of work, some of my favorite action verbs to use are: drive, boost, propel, motivate and power.

    Here’s an example of one of my recent favorites. Not only does this post use active verbiage, but it also tells my audience the specific benefit this post can offer. This post has garnered more than 1,500 shares, as thousands of pageviews, and even a nice little discussion in the comments section.

    Roadtrip 1

    #5 – Be helpful.

    You know your audience. You wouldn’t be in business right now if you didn’t offer something useful. Take what you know about your audience and your current customers to craft a headline that showcases how your content is valuable.

    Hubspot is always a great place to draw inspiration from. For me, this headline tells me that these six steps can help me create a video that will resonate.

    Hubspot !

    Read the full HubSpot article.


    #1 – Be boring.

    This one is probably a no-brainer, but needs to be said anyway. Be creative, colorful, inspiring and even entertaining to give your audience something they can’t scroll past. Include a descriptive adjectives such as “powerful” or “engaging” that speaks to the value or benefit the reader can gain by reading your content.

    #2 – Promise something that you can’t or won’t deliver.

    The worst thing you can do is get people on the page and then fail to deliver what you promised upfront. As mentioned above, make sure to back your headline up with solid and engaging content that is educational or entertaining.

    #3 – Get too wordy.

    The more words you use, the more work it is for your audience to read. In addition, your headline could also become confusing. Get rid of any word that aren’t necessary. Use a headline analyzing tool to give yourself a nudge in the right direction. Sharethrough and Co-Schedule offer tools for free.


    Now, with all that said, sometimes going a little longer is necessary and that’s totally fine. Just make sure it’s easy to read and conveys that necessary value to the reader.

    #4 – Be afraid to start over.

    Creating a great headline is a process, and it often doesn’t come to you on the first try. Take the time to write out a number of contenders and keep tweaking until you get it right. For example, here’s the evolution of the headline for this article:

    1. Here’s Your Cheat Sheet for Writing Killer Headlines That Draw Your Audience In
    2. Cheat Sheet: How to Write Killer Headlines That Draw Your Audience In
    3. How to Write Killer Headlines That’ll Get Your Audience to Click
    4. How to Write Compelling, Clickable Headlines That’ll Draw Your Audience In
    5. The Dos and Don’ts of Writing Compelling, Clickable Headlines That’ll Draw Your Audience In
    6. 9 Dos & Don’ts for Writing Compelling, Clickable Headlines That’ll Draw Your Audience In

    What recent headline got you to click? What made it so compelling? Tell us in the comments section below.