5 Ways to Write Headlines Readers Want to Read

Why do so many blog posts have a number in the headline?

A pithy headline can pull prospects in to your story, blog post, tweet, or white paper - and a boring headline will push people away.

But 80% of readers never make it past the headline: according to Copyblogger, eight out of 10 people may read your snappy headline; only 20% will read the article, on average.

Conductor , an enterprise content marketing company, conducted a survey to figure out which headline styles readers like best, and why.

Conductor analyzed headlines from BuzzFeed, The Huffington Post, and its own million-plus headlines. They then batched the headlines into five major categories. Here are the five ways:

1. Headlines with Numbers

The headline type with the greatest preference had numbers in them: 36% of respondents preferred headlines with numbers. An example of a numbered list is “30 Ways to Make Drinking Tea More Delightful.”

A variant of the number headline is the “list” headline.” List headlines, like “10 Ways to Deliver Better Results,” were, according to CoSchedule, the most likely to be shared on social media. Also, headlines that used “You” and “Your” were shared more often versus headlines that had “I” or “Me.”

2. Headlines with Answers

The second most effective were reader-addressing headlines, preferred by 21% of readers. Example: “Ways You Need to Make Drinking Tea More Delightful.”

3. How to Headlines

How-to headlines ranked third on the most effective list, with a 17% preference. In the world of delightful tea, this means a headline like “How to Make Drinking Tea More Delightful.” Said Conductor: “The commonality among the top three resonating headline types versus the bottom two is that they were more explicit about what the reader was going to get out of them.”

4. Normal Headlines

“Normal” headlines like “Ways to Make Drinking Tea More Delightful,” were preferred by only 15% of readers.

5. Headlines with Questions

Fifth, headlines in the form of a question “What are Ways to Make Drinking Tea More Delightful?” were the least popular, preferred by only 11% of respondents.

Superlatives May Not be Super

Do headlines with lots of super jam-packed terrific awesome adjectives have a positive or negative effect on readership?

To get at the superlative issue, Conductor posited five headlines, from no superlative to four:

“27 Ways to Train a Dog” (0 superlatives)

“The 27 Best Ways to Train a Dog” (one superlative)

“The 27 Best Ways Ever to Train a Dog” (two superlatives)

“The 27 Best Ways Ever to Train a Perfect Dog” (three superlatives)

“The 27 Best and Smartest Ways Ever to Train a Perfect Dog” (four superlatives)

According to Conductor, just over half of readers either liked zero or only one word of upstanding magnificence, while one in four readers liked four super words. By contrast, headlines with two or three superlatives didn’t pull well.

The takeaway? “These findings suggest readers prefer either an understated approach,” said Conductor, “Or that the author shoot for the stars and tell the reader in strong terms why their content is worth reading.”

Caution: in the highly regulated financial services industry, it may be best to use superlatives with caution, particularly when discussing performance.

Analyze This

How’s your headline doing? Rather than guesswork, head on over the Headline Analyzer from CoSchedule , a content marketing planning firm, to help craft a boffo headline.

The title of this post "How to Write Headlines Readers Want to Read [5 Ways]" scored a 72, said CoScheduler (70 and above is considered pretty good). The headline got an A+ for its balance of word types, but got knocked for being kinda wordy, and for lacking emotional resonance.

So whether you trust the analyzer or not, it's a place to start. The ultimate proof of a headline's worthiness may be in the number of leads, conversions, and revenue generated by the post the headline headlined.