Center for Online Evangelism - Amy Prindle
The Center for Online Evangelism is a missionary project devoted to developing online mission stations.
Think about your daily morning routine with your inbox or social media feed.
It’s a bunch of scrolling, skimming headlines, and likely hitting “delete” 18 or more times. Noise. Clutter. Overload.
What would it take to get your attention?
Maybe an email’s subject addresses a question you’ve had, a process you’re stuck in, or a new idea you’ve been trying to crank out. Maybe it pushed the envelope a bit, or was just odd enough for you to wonder about. Bottom line: It cut through the clutter because the words in the headline connected with you and your current situation.
We have to expect that those in our audience, on our mailing lists, or following us on social media are in the same noisy, cluttery, overwhelm-y state of content consumption. They’re on your lists for a reason, so you do know there’s a common interest or shared mission. But is your content rising above the noise in their inboxes?
“In today’s world, digital media is so pervasive that it’s no longer considered unique; it’s a way of life,” explains a recent post on SearchEngineLand.com. “Virtually everyone has a smartphone, and most individuals and households have smart devices.”
But we’re on these devices because we’re all looking for something—whether it’s a moment of entertainment, help with a problem, statistics to back up a claim, or just something useful to feed our ravenous yet attention-deficit brains for the time being. So what can we give our audiences that they’re already looking for?
You should already know your audience. (And if you don’t, maybe it’s time for a survey, a study, some A/B testing, etc.). What can you give them that would make their lives easier, help them grow, or do something better or faster? Marketing guru Seth Godin asks, “How will your audience change as a result of your [article/letter/post/video]?”
An effective headline can open the door for further ministry
Your content has to be clicked on before it can have any kind of life-changing effect. So to truly stand out among the noise, your headline has to communicate directly to the reader, “This will make your life easier” or “Here’s a way to do the thing you always do, faster” or “Here’s some insight on that nagging question in your mind.”
Here are some great headline tips, summarized from okdork.com's 1,000,000-headline performance analysis.
List posts perform well
This is a highly shareable form of headline for an article or video. This doesn’t seem to get old—people love that list posts are highly skimmable and offer clear takeaways, such as “5 Ways to Streamline Your Mornings” or “21 Undeniable Facts About Bananas.”
Use “you” and “your” frequently
These words already tell readers’ brains that this is about them—which is who they’re consuming content for in the first place. A simple headline such as “How to Organize Your Inbox” will perform better than “How to Have an Organized Inbox.”
Enable your readers to envision a better life
If readers believe they will learn how to do something amazing, win free stuff, save lots of money, or get the inside scoop on a little-known tip or trick, they are more likely to click on your headline or email subject. “Use promising words to your readers,” which will make them more likely to hit “share.”
Slightly alter headlines for different channels
DIY-ers love Pinterest, while business and tech talkers hang out on Twitter and LinkedIn. Facebook tends toward the light and friendly sharing of ideas and household tips, especially in video form. YouTube has a niche for just about everyone.
Tug at emotions
Descriptively acknowledge what your audience is going through and how this piece of content addresses it. Ask questions, even venture assumptions, such as “Feeling stuck? Try these 5 decision-making tips” or “If you still haven’t decided what to do this weekend, here’s all you need.”
For your swipe file, keep a list of “power words” and phrases that can trigger emotional responses, such as “the truth about,” “breakthrough,” “stress-relieving, “revolutionary,” “exhilarating,” etc. (Just google “power words for headlines” and you’ll find several useful results!)
Keep these tips in mind, but remember to stay real and conversational. If you’re stuck on writing that email subject or post headline, think, “how would I title this if I was sending it to my friend?”
Read the full 1,000,000-headline-analysis article here.
Also incredibly useful: Cheat sheet for writing posts that go viral
Reposted with permission from centerforonlineevangelism.org.