Getting Noticed Online: HEADLINES/Titles Do 80% of the Work

 caption headlineThe Internet is so crowded – it can be really hard to get noticed with all the chatter.  How to get your message out there is the ongoing battle, against all the other online noise fighting for the same space.

Oh, it’s easy to blame lots of things for not getting your fair share of online attention – little traffic, the product, too much competition – when in actuality the real problem is largely due to an improperly written headline.

You have only seconds, sometimes fractions of a second, to catch your audience. If you miss the open window, it can slam shut in a heartbeat, never to reopen with some audience members.

In a busy world, people are looking for a reason to bolt, any reason – you have to give them a reason to stay.  That’s one of the jobs of the crucial headline. (For simplicity, I’m going to stick with “headline” to refer to email titles, website page names, domain names, and titles of formal documents like articles.)  A whopping 80% crucial.

The headline has 4 very important jobs:

  • Grab attention, get noticed, stand out in a crowded field
  • Select the audience, parse the wheat from the shaft
  • Deliver a complete message, let it be known in a few words exactly what’s coming
  • Draw the reader into the body of the content, get them to want to know more, arouse curiosity

So how exactly DO you write a great, relevant, attention-grabbing headline???  And certainly not those overly ambitious, sleazy come-ons that scream I’M RIDICULOUS!

While the subject of great headline creation cannot be fully covered in a single blog post, let me at least include some good starting points here and refer you to the website more training opportunities.

Do you pick a headline with a positive approach (“Look 10 Years Younger with Ronco Cream!”)??  Or is the negative headline better (“Eliminate Those Nasty Wrinkles with Ronco Cream!”)? ?  Hmmm… the answer depends on knowing your target audience, knowing them really really well.  What would speak to them at their core?  What really keeps them awake and worried at night?

Another key to good headline creation is the standard mantra of maintaining the other person’s perspective; their What’s In It For Me – WIIFM – which is easier said than done.

Let’s look at some e-mail title ideas, with a little creativity thrown in:

“By way of introducing myself” –> “You + Me = New Teammates”

“Appointment next week?” –> “You’re delightful company.  When can I share time with you soon?”

“My [product] is simply amazing!/great!/words to that effect” –> “Experience [product benefit] now”

Which of the above emails are you more likely open?


Specificity also really helps.  When highly specific the reader can save time, which is always desirable.

“My services could really benefit you” –> “Information on tax law changes to make your accounting job easier

So what does the research recommend?  The top words in headlines that get attention are:

“Why”, “Free”, ”Quick”, “Easy”, “Guarantee”, “Proven”, “Results”,

 “Save”, “Last Chance”, “Bargain”, “Sale”  (these 4 with a retail focus)

While these words are highly overused, they are used so often because they work in headlines.

And the concept of familiarity is also at work here – these words are so familiar to our ears that we are trained to pay attention to them and like them because they are so familiar.  But use these words in your headlines with restraint to avoid sounding like a cliché

There are lots of headline creation templates that you can use to fill-in-the-blank your way to success… or can you?  The problem with those instant template headlines is: which template do you choose?

I will have more on that next time.  Onward towards curing the disease of being ignored-itis, along with addressing other internet communication ailments!