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How to Craft ‘All Killer No Filler’ Headlines

Posted by tma admin in General on September 29th, 2013

Paint by Numbers

Using numbers in headlines, for example ‘top ten’, ‘eight tips’, etc. has become very popular. Headlines with numbers in them denote purpose to the article, and everybody loves a countdown! Perhaps it subconsciously brings to mind the good old days of MTV when they had the Top 30 songs of the week? Numbers are easy on human eyes, because they denote a defined structure to an article. Readers enjoy structure and nugget sized portions of information.

shaun-of-the-dead

Source: http://www.buzzfeed.com/

Tap Into the ‘Universal Hunger for Knowledge’

Are you writing a general interest piece, or what we like to call in the trade a ‘puff piece’? Then you have permission to be as adorable as a Scottish Fold cat. Try and tap into something I like to call the ‘universal hunger for knowledge.’ This is every human being’s need for love, laughter, inspiration, positivity, and squee (particular during the mid-afternoon work slump).

This last word ‘squee’ you may not have heard before. It’s internet slang for the irresistible cuteness factor of certain people, animals, situations or ideas. In my personal experience, for any commercial enterprise, feel-good posts tend to have greater virality, than feel-bad posts that thrive on sadness, guilt or fear. People are more likely to share posts that are shocking, funny, strange or cute. Although that contention is open to debate.

Take a Pun-t On the Occasional Pun

The usage of puns and double-entendres in headlines is always fun. The ‘Paint by Numbers’ example above is compelling because it’s out of context here, and generally isn’t associated with copywriting or marketing.

So how do you create something punny? This is where you need to call up the darkest reaches of your imagination. Come up with word associations that are ridiculous and odd. You also need to use your sensible and rational self, to decide whether or not the pun is too risky in its new context.

midget-sues-grocer

Source: http://www.womansday.com/cm/womansday/images/zb/08-Midget-sues-1.jpg

Create a Sense of Urgency

Sometimes the best way to sell the idea of clicking on a post, is by appealing to people’s sense of urgency. Give them the feeling that if they don’t click on the article, they will be missing out on indispensable life lessons, and will be poorer for it. ‘Can You Prove You Grew Up in the 90’s?’ Asks Buzzfeed, and what did I do? I clicked on the link.

theage
Source: http://www.theage.com.au/lifestyle

buzzfeed-books
Source: http://www.buzzfeed.com/summeranne/nonfiction-books-learning

Think of the Audience

A pun-riddled, slightly raunchy headline won’t do well in a corporate or B2B website, however for certain literary publications or a news site targeting younger people, it will be fine. When thinking of the audience, don’t err on the side of caution and make it unbearably dull either. Even in the most corporate of contexts, there is still room for a pleasurable and juicy headline! When in doubt vet the headline with several others, to make sure you’re all on the same page! Boom-tish!

Sell the Value of the Article

The headline is the mini-sales pitch for what comes after that. It’s the old premise of don’t judge a book by its cover, turned on its head! Time poor people trawling the internet for that tiny nugget of joy, knowledge or je ne sais quoi, will only venture into your domain if you give them a compelling enough reason. Sell the benefits such as ’10 tips on SEO for start ups’, ‘Five ways to save money on electricity this winter’ Although these are missing the clever pun, they are still effective, because they sell the value of the article.

Find the Right Superlative

Finding the right superlative is going to make people fascinated and drawn to the article. These words are the thrill factor and energy that otherwise wouldn’t be there. Here are some great ones, although only use them when it’s appropriate: amazing, lush, splendid, brilliant, powerful, valuable. And the more risque: bitchin, kick-ass and bad-ass.

copywriting-infographic
Source: http://www.waichim.com/the-copywriting-infographic/

Sell the News Back to the Audience

Essentially this means you take what’s newsworthy and promote this in the headline. For example: ‘Will and Kate decide to name their baby George’. Remember that certain places, people and current affairs issues are newsworthy. So if you mention this in your article, highlight it in the headline.

Does the Carpet Match the Drapes?

That was another mutant phrase completely reincarnated in a new context! What I mean is – do the contents of the article live up to the fancy headline? A well-crafted kick-ass headline is only as good as the article itself. So it’s crucial for the article to live up to the hype. Otherwise you may find that your blog or website may be overlooked by readers in the future.

screaming
Source: http://pixabay.com/en/megaphone-shout-action-call-scream-50092/

And finally, here’s a TED talk about which headlines of today will still matter in 100 years time. A thoughtful and insightful talk on the long term resonance of news from Kirk Citron.


http://www.ted.com/talks/kirk_citron_and_now_the_real_news.html

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