This is part 1 in a series of posts about how to write content that people actually want to read.
Some tried and true marketing tactics are no longer effective, especially when speaking to online viewers. People have been hit with so much hyperbole, so many empty, information-free articles, and so many offers that seem – and are – too good to be true that they have simply begun ignoring some forms of message delivery. Users have seen so many sites that are just pure spam that words like “free,” “award-winning,” “save” and “innovative” can actually cause a negative reaction. Headlines that contain over-the-top promises and shameless self-promotion will cause people to click away or overlook the piece altogether.
Good content must catch the reader’s attention and prompt them to do something. And good content starts with a good headline. If you cannot convince people to read your posts, you will not be able to convince them to fill out a form or call your office. To get visitors to act, you must connect. How can you write headlines that prompt your visitors to read on?
Writing a good headline
According to Copyblogger, 8 out of 10 people read headlines, while only 2 out of 10 continue to read the rest of the article. Heat mapping studies show that headlines are the most looked at elements on a webpage, receiving even more attention than photos and videos. A good headline is key to holding your visitors’ interest.
Headlines must explain why the rest of the page is worth reading. When writing a headline, always ask yourself if it would make you want to read on. If not, why? What can you add to make it more compelling? This does not mean headlines have to be sensational or contain an inordinate amount of description; they should simply let readers know what benefit they will gain from continuing.
Grammatically, keep readers focused on what they need to know here and now by using active verbs and present tense. All headlines should contain a verb; passive headlines are neither interesting nor informative. Headlines should be long enough to convey the essence of the article, but short enough to keep people engaged. A few adjectives can spice up a headline, while too many can ruin it.
Writing a good headline is a matter of practice. You do not have to create something new with every article. Many headlines fit into a series of categories, and knowing these categories can help provide inspiration. Here are some examples of different types of headlines from which you can draw in your writing:
1. The list: Using numbers in a headline makes an article more likely to be read. People like lists, probably because they give a clear statement of what to expect. As an attorney, your experience is an abundant and constantly updated source of lists, which you should put to good use.
Example: Five signs your loved one may be a victim of nursing home abuse.
2. The trigger word: Trigger words, like how, what and why, offer the promise of a helpful explanation within the article. Attorneys often use trigger words to explain why clients need their services, but this is only effective if you are offering solutions to a specific problem. Broad generalizations are not nearly as compelling as niche topics.
Example: How to use a family corporation to protect your assets.
3. The question: Asking a question in your headline implies you will answer it in the article. This is effective but should be used sparingly. Too many questions within your content will make it look overly sensational. But a few headlines that ask questions of interest to your target clients can help them engaged. (Hint: This does not include questions like, “Have you been injured?” or “Do you need an attorney?”)
Example: Is a C Corporation or an S Corporation best for your business?
4. The solution: Lawyers are in the business of solving problems, making this category a nice fit. Of course, be careful not to offer specific legal advice and add appropriate disclaimers.
Example: Protect your child with special needs by keeping needed public benefits.
5. The comparison: The comparison follows the structure of do [something] like [something], ideally something many people want to emulate.
Example: Write legal blog headlines like a professional.
Headlines should not be an afterthought. They are one of the most important parts of your content and can determine whether your pages and posts hold people’s interest. Take the time to make sure your headlines are speaking to your audience in a way that is meaningful.