Hacking the Headline

The headline is everything. As the world-famous advertising tycoon David Ogilvy said, “On the average, five times as many people read the headlines as they read the body copy”.
Creating an engaging headline is the cornerstone of an article. It sets the tone for the rest of the article and most importantly attracts the attention of your audience and potential audiences. Yet it continuously gets overlooked. People invest incredible amounts of time into the content, but they don’t spend nearly as much time on the engaging headline. It’s a second thought. Similarly, people never take the time to consider what makes a good headline. Luckily there are copious amounts of research that can be applied to any headline.
At Semeon, part of our Insights solution helps companies create more engaging content by understanding their customers and industry on a much deeper level. This article summarizes some of our findings from our 100+ collective years in using artificial intelligence to improve marketing.

The Statistics

Everything is riding on the headline. You could have the best content in the world, if you don’t have a headline that attracts the audience, it won’t be consumed. Headlines are a compact, incising representative for content. But what works when it comes to headlines? According to Moz, a leading marketing software company, there are 5 Key things that an audience like to see in headlines:
After analyzing a large sample set of headlines across multiple online publications and social networks to determine general ways that headlines get traction, they determined there to be five high-level headline types:
  • Normal: Ways to Make Drinking Tea More Delightful
  • Question: What are Ways to Make Drinking Tea More Delightful?
  • How to: How to Make Drinking Tea More Delightful
  • Number: 30 Ways To Make Drinking Tea More Delightful
  • Reader-Addressing: Ways You Need to Make Drinking Tea More Delightful
As informative as this can be, sometimes companies don’t want their articles to sound like a Buzzfeed article which is completely understandable. In the next section, we focus the steps a company can do to create successful engaging headlines without focusing on the techniques uncovered by Moz.

Building a Successful Headline

First things first, do not mistake a headline for a summary of the content. A headline should not be long-winded and should be extremely engaging. It should leave the potential reader intrigued, but not completely allow them to understand the content. The audiences time is extremely precious. If they think they got everything they could from the content through the headline, they will most definitely not continue.
Secondly, understand that it starts with the headline when the content is being made. You or your company needs to be making content that your audience is going to engage with and will find interesting and relevant. No headline can save an article that was sub-par, to begin with.
Thirdly, you have to make headlines that are tailored to intent. This means that the headline has to be filled with relevant keywords and phrases. It may seem obvious, but it is actually fairly hard to do since a lot of companies are out of tune with what the trends in an industry are. The goal is to find a headline that searched for often, has little content on it, and is relevant to your business. Obviously, this is not always possible, but it is important to always have the objective in mind.
Other specific tips for creating better headlines that we have found effective.
  • The longer the better, but don’t go off topic or dilute the importance: Length is a trade-off between engagement and search-ability. The longer a headline, the more chances it will have a keyword the user searches for but the less likely they will read the entire thing.
  • Be Unique: this is don’t by being specific and targeted. With regards to the third point above, it is necessary to find your niche.
  • Pick the right medium: some mediums are better for certain topics. For example, here are some other topics that tend to perform well on Medium: Life lessons, Entrepreneurship, Culture, Technology, Politics.
  • Its a skill, like creating the content: keep on doing it and you will get better.

Conclusion

“It follows that unless your headline sells your product, you have wasted 90 percent of your money…” – David Ogilvy
The importance of a headline has not been stretched in this article. It can make or break the success of your content. An established blogger or company may be able to get away with subpar headlines, but someone with less of a status will run into trouble. At Semeon, we make sure to provide our customers with the resources necessary in order to engage their users. We do this by providing the voice of the customer which was developed from both the companies private and public data. Through the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning, we are able to understand the customer on a deeper level than ever before by incorporating all unstructured data a company posses on their customer. This includes but is not limited to a customers intent to buy, their sentiment, the influencers, and trends in an industry. If you or the company you work for is interested in learning more about Semeon, feel free to contact us throughout the main page and speak with one of our customer representatives.

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