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How to Write Headlines for Marketing Content That Readers Just Can’t Resist

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Discover how to write headlines for marketing content that will keep readers engaged. (Photo: simona pilolla 2)

What’s the single most important element of your content?

Your headline—that’s what.

No matter how brilliant your copy is, it won’t be widely read unless you have a headline that grabs the reader’s attention. It is your first impression on a reader, but unless your headline is impressive, it might be your last.

Eighty percent of readers will read your headline, and only 2 in 10 will read the rest of the text. These statistics say that if your headline doesn’t work, there is almost no chance readers will continue.

True, headlines don’t sell—it’s the body of the content that persuades the reader to buy. But headlines grab the attention of a would-be buyer and lure them in. One doesn’t work without the other, so knowing how to write headlines is paramount to your content marketing success.

Yes, making a simple tweak to the headline of your ad, email, or other marketing promotion can take it from a failure to a huge success.

The article below will dive into the details of how to write headlines for marketing content. These six tips will help you organically attract more readers and give you a much better shot at converting them to buyers.

Let’s get into it.

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1. Know Your Ideal Reader—And Speak to Them Directly

Your headline has to hook the reader immediately.

Some businesses make the mistake of thinking this doesn’t apply to them because they think their industry is dull. Many people are passionate about topics like traveling, snowboarding, and gardening, but what if you sell commercial-grade kitchen appliances?

Even if you’re in an industry many would consider dull, you still need an intriguing headline.

Why? Because you aren’t speaking to everyone—you’re talking to your target audience. Most people don’t want to read an article titled “10 Tips for Choosing the Best Commercial Oven,” but if your target audience is restaurant owners, then it can still be an effective headline.

So your headline should speak to readers who are interested in your industry or offering in the first place and not try to cater to the masses. After all, marketing is about targeting your audience, and your headlines should speak directly to them.

Here’s what I mean:

  • How to Get Rich (meh)
  • How to Get Rich Without Working 9-5 (yes!)

Or:

  • Try Pilates for a Great Workout (meh)
  • Try Pilates for 6 Weeks and Finally Get That Six-Pack (yes!)

Which headlines do you think work better?

Right—the second versions are going to be much more effective headlines.

Image of a quote that says, "A headline doesn't have to be interesting to everyone—just your target market."

2. Create Curiosity With Open-Ended vs. Closed Headlines

How you frame your headline is equally as important as the words in it.

Not only should your headline grab the attention of your target audience, but it should also make them curious to read more.

Let’s look at a simple example:

Vitamins Are Good for You

Because this headline is closed, it’s really just a statement—so it’s not very compelling to the reader. How about this one?

Here’s the One Supplement You Should Take Every Day

Nice. Here’s another:

The Top 5 Vitamins to Keep You Healthy

Both of these headlines are much better! People are more likely to be intrigued and want to find out the answer.

Two popular examples of open-ended headlines are lists and how-tos, such as:

  • 10 Ways to Improve Your Blog
  • How to Double Your Website Traffic in 30 Days

One reason these types of headlines work so well is that people are naturally curious.

At Super Copy Editors, our team can help ensure your marketing headlines—and all the content underneath them—look and sound great. Our professional proofreading and editing services are built on years of experience working with agencies and marketing teams to help ensure their copy converts more readers to buyers. Learn more here, including the #1 brand killer (and how to avoid it).

3. Make a Bold Promise With Your Headline

Just as no one will read your content if they aren’t hooked by your headline, your content needs to live up to what is being advertised.

Your headline should make a promise, and your content needs to deliver on that promise. If not, people will feel misled. Also, try to include a statistic to back up your claim. (More on this in a minute…)

Your readers will instantly decide whether the benefit of clicking on your headline is worth taking two seconds to read it. So don’t be coy or funny—state the problem your product or service helps people solve.

Here are some examples:

  • Can’t Sleep? Here’s What 70% of People Do to Fall Asleep Fast.
  • The Best Way to Track Your Projects Without Spreadsheets
  • You’re Still Missing Deadlines! Here’s How to Stop It.
  • Try XYZ Now and Get More Done in 30% Less Time

4. Be Surprisingly Specific. Use Numbers.

Readers have short attention spans and will quickly move on if you don’t state your point right away.

This is true for your content as well as headlines. People will ask themselves, “Why am I reading this?” If you can’t answer this simple question with your headline, you have already failed.

Vague headlines usually don’t perform well. It’s time to get specific.

Using numbers is an excellent way to engage more readers. If you saw two different blog posts or ads with these headlines, which one would you be more likely to read?

  • Save Money
  • How to Save 50% on Your Grocery Bill Right Now

Pro Tip: Use numerals (for example, “7”) instead of writing out numbers (“seven”) in your headlines. For example, “7 Tips for Writing” rather than “Seven Tips for Writing.”

Earlier, I mentioned that irrestible headlines for marketing content often use statistics. Here’s why.

LinkedIn found that headlines with a statistic had a 37% higher click-through rate and 162% more impressions than ones without.

5. Test Variations

Many people get stuck trying to create a single, perfect headline. But headline writing is a process, and going through a few iterations is a common theme.

So write a few headlines and see which one jumps out at you the most. Alternatively, you can A/B test your headlines to see which one performs better.

Another mistake writers go through is writing the headline before writing anything else. While there are no rules, sometimes it helps to write the headline last—after you’ve wrapped up the rest of the content. It’s like tying a finishing bow on top of your work.

No matter which order you follow to write your headline, don’t just go with your first idea—try out a few others to see if you can come up with an even better one.

Illustration showing A/B split testing of two different headlines: There are two computer monitors shown. One is labeled "A" and "CONTROL" and it has a red box on a website, along with a label of 20%. The other computer monitor is labeled "B" and "VARIATION" and it shows the same website but with a green box instead of the red box. There is a big green arrow next to it with a label indicating 39%. This green variation is clearly the winner in this A/B test. Illustration by Super Copy Editors.
Making a simple tweak to the headline of your marketing content can take it from a failure to a huge success. Use a free A/B testing tool like Google Optimize to test different variations and see what works better.

6. Choose an Appropriate Length

Headline lengths can vary depending on the situation, especially in digital marketing. Social media headlines have character limits, so you’ll need to ensure you’re writing for maximum efficiency.

Advertisements, emails, blog posts, and white papers all require different character lengths.

A good rule of thumb for headline length is 5–10 words long, but don’t take that too literally—it’s OK to be outside that range. The quality of your headline is much more important than how many words are in it.

Keep in mind that your headline only needs to speak to your target audience, so craft it to a length that suits those specific readers.

Don’t forget! Download “How to Write Headlines for Marketing Content That Readers Just Can’t Resist” to keep it handy and take action on it. Click here to download it now.

Final Thoughts on How to Write Headlines for Marketing Content

A great headline can make or break your campaign. If the headline doesn’t convey the right message, a high percentage of potential readers will pass right by it.

Following these tips will help you write headlines that grab your readers’ attention and keep them interested enough to read more. The rest is up to you.

After you’ve learned how to write headlines, you’ll want to make sure your marketing content is edited and proofread to perfection. At Super Copy Editors, we know how important it is to get everything sounding just right in your marketing materials to drive better conversions.

Have our expert editors refine and polish your text to take the worry out of your content production process. Get a quote for your next project here.

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Dave Baker

View posts by Dave Baker
Hi, I’m Dave Baker, founder and copy chief of Super Copy Editors. I have more than 25 years of professional proofreading and copy editing experience, including work for The Nation magazine, The New York Times, and The Times-Picayune of New Orleans, where I shared two staff Pulitzer Prizes. At Super Copy Editors, we’re passionate about helping agencies, marketing teams, and education companies refine and polish their text to give them confidence and ensure success. Learn more here.

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