Glitter and gold: How to write headlines that dazzle and deliver

Glitter and gold: How to write headlines that dazzle and deliver

A hit headline delivers on two fronts. It sparks intrigue. And it sets the tone for the content to follow – promising readers that the value to come will be worth their time.

Too much wit and too little substance? It’ll prompt a chuckle, but no click.

Too many details and too few flourishes? Perfect – for treating insomnia.

A stellar headline needs to engage readers at a glance – and promote the golden nuggets that await. All in as few words as possible.

So let’s walk that tightrope together. And craft headlines that command to be clicked.

Don’t squander quality content with a shoddy headline

Even the most engaging stories or life-changing insights will fall flat if people can’t be bothered to find out more.

Do any of these tired types of headlines hit a bit too close to home?

  • Headlines that underdeliver: Homemade banana bread recipe
  • Headlines that overdeliver: The easiest, tastiest banana bread recipe since the dawn of time
  • Headlines that go on and on: Think you know banana bread? Think again – with this unbelievably simple, yet totally delicious 5-ingredient recipe.
  • Headlines from Buzzfeed circa 2013: Twitter can’t get enough of this banana bread recipe (and neither can we)

To be fair, that last one isn’t half bad. But you get the point. You need to craft a standout line that stops your readers in their tracks.

(On the flip side: Brilliant headlines backed by bogus content will only harm your brand. The one thing that’ll sink faster than your SEO ranking? Your reputation.)

Give your readers a reason to care

Your headline is a promise of what’s to come. It foreshadows the value in the article/webpage/recipe that follows. We’re all busier than ever – while our attention spans continue to wither.

So you need to give your readers a reason to care. How will their life be better, easier or happier for having read your content? But remember, keep it clickbait free.

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To give your audience a reason to care, you need to know what they care about. (Sounds obvious enough. But unless you have a deep understanding of your audience, you’ll have a hard time answering this question.)

Here’s a quick masterclass that demonstrates just that.

Legendary copywriter, David Ogilvy, needed to promote a new Rolls-Royce. It was fast, comfortable and elegant. The only issue? So is every other luxury car.

So he thought about the audience. What do the elite crave? Peace and quiet.

His tagline: At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock.

Once you’ve pinpointed what your audience cares about, it’s time to craft a headline that dazzles and delights. Here’s how.

1. Harness power words to seize attention

Picture your reader. Every day they’re zipping through social posts and endless emails.

So your headline needs to stand out and grab their attention. How? By using bold language.

Sprinkle in one or two ‘power words’ – words like secrets, trailblazer, dazzle and thrive – to pack a more memorable punch. And weave in strong verbs – words like foster, forge and supercharge – to help your reader vividly visualise how they’ll benefit.

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Fantastic: Slash your power bill with these secret energy hacks      

2. Use numbers to quantify the value you’re offering

When you insert numbers or figures in your headline, you make the insights on offer more concrete and credible.

Numbers show that the content isn’t merely discussing vague concepts. It’s presenting specific tips and strategies.

Ideas can be nebulous – whereas numbers are tangible. So quantify the value of what’s in store for your reader. And to make your headline even more compelling, make it an odd or unusual number.

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3. Pose a question or pique curiosity

Question headlines: Are they really as effective as people say?  

By piquing your readers’ curiosity in the headline, you’ll instantly give them a reason to read on and resolve the uncertainty you’ve established. (And as a bonus, they’ll learn something useful along the way.)

To get your reader to think a bit more deeply, you might:

  • Connect two seemingly unrelated ideas out of context
  • Ask a burning question they’ll want to answer
  • Lead with a bold premise to create tension – and then resolve it

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4. Play with words structure to add depth

Pose an idea – and then riff on it. With a colon, en dash or parentheses.

You might clarify, elaborate – or surprise your reader by taking them in an unexpected direction.

You’re in control. So add some spice – or drop a turn of phrase that delights.

But if you do, stay concise and keep it under 15 words. Overly complicated headlines will confuse readers and deter them from clicking through.

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5. Write music (but steer clear of tongue-twisters)

Your headline should be clear, clean and, ideally, clever.

So play with rhyme and rhythm. Add alliteration – in moderation. And avoid polysyllabic long words where short ones will do.

How do you know when you’ve written a hit headline?

Read your draft ideas out loud. Do the words flow like honey – or get stuck like poor Sally selling seashells by the seashore?

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Drafted a few ideas? Polish them until they shine.

You’ve written an article people will want to read. You know what benefits your audience cares about. And you’ve got a few headline ideas floating around.

Now it’s time to test them out, refine them – and polish one until it shines.

At Refresh Marketing, we’ll often come together to brainstorm the perfect punchy headline. (It’s the highlight of my role. Well, that and going out for Monday mochas with the team.)

So bring in Adam from admin and call over Gemma the GM. And have a chat.

The best people to brainstorm with have a basic understanding of the topic – but aren’t bogged down by the weight of pre-existing concepts. They’ll spark fresh ideas and provide honest feedback about which headlines hit home – and which miss the mark.

Have a laugh as you bounce new lines around. Mix and match the standout strokes of genius. And polish your headline until it glistens as a beacon to the gold nuggets of content contained within.

Need a hand to help craft headlines that command clicks? Get in touch.