How to Write Better Headlines Today

Even though a low percentage of headlines actually generate click-throughs, almost all of them are read. What is it about great headlines that motivate people to read more? The classic Copywriter’s Handbook introduces the concept of the four U’s that build a great headline(1). I’ll discuss the four U’s and how you can utilize each one to deliver headlines in social media that will drive engagement with your audience.

How to Write Better Headlines Today image four uHow to Write Better Headlines Today

Urgent

An urgent headline calls for immediate attention. Great headlines that demand attention use some type of time aspect to drive interest. Consider adding the following words to your headlines to incorporate urgency:

  • Today
  • Now
  • This year
  • Until [date/time]
  • Soon
  • Early
  • Latest

You’ll be surprised at how easy these words are to incorporate into a headline and how much they add a feeling of urgency. For example, “Write Better Headlines” is not nearly as compelling as “Write Better Headlines Today”. Just one word can trigger a sense of urgency and make all the difference.

Unique

This is what my social news curation strategy is all about – saying something new and unique every day. Everybody knows a headline that you’ve seen a thousand times the moment that you read it (like “[fill in the blank] is Dead”). It’s the unique and new headlines that generate clicks. I have found that the easiest way to do this is by curating late-breaking industry news and informational resources.

Having a sense of uniqueness in non-news articles requires a bit more work and creativity. Start by doing a ton of research about your target audience. Then you will understand the difference between what they’ve seen a thousand times and what they will find unique. Focus on the unique to drive engagement.

Ultra-Specific

This is a core principle of content marketing. If your organization has well-defined target personae, then the stage has been set to be ultra-specific. If not, then you need to do the hard work and research necessary to tease out all the fine details about who exactly you want to communicate with through your social media campaigns.

Follow popular and trending topics among your target audience members. Use Facebook’s new Graph Search to discover common interests among your page followers. Go past the first few pages of common likes (Coca-cola, Justin Beiber, etc) to find the real niche interests. Use these to generate ideas that your audience will find specific to their needs and desires.

Useful

Last but certainly not least, your headline must provide value or be of some use to the individual. It’s no surprise that the second-most commonly retweeted topic is ‘Instructions’(2). Think about how the content makes life easier or solves a problem for your target audience. Perhaps you should only consider creating or curating content that meets this criteria. Notice how “Write Better Headlines Today” is not nearly as compelling as “How to Write Better Headlines Today”. Now that’s a great headline!

Writing great headlines doesn’t require a stroke of genius or luck – it just requires keeping principles like the four U’s top of mind during the writing process. Doing the necessary research to fully understand your audience is the other half of the battle. You’ll find that combining these two qualities will enhance your headlines and target audience engagement.

Citations:

  1. Robert W. Bly – The Copywriter’s Handbook, Third Edition: A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing Copy that Sells
  2. Dan Zarrella: Viral Content Sharing Report

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