The Most Effective Content Headlines: Tips for Getting More Attention!

Effective content headlines: This is how your blog articles, YouTube videos, podcasts & Co. gain even more attention.

Successful blog article titles can generate more than just clicks.

They attract attention, arouse curiosity and guide the expectations of your readers. They make a promise, such as a solution to a problem, while being both entertaining and informative.

No wonder so many Bloggers, journalists and columnists spend 50% of the time they need for an article on the headline or at least continuously testing and optimizing it.

But what makes a good content headline? What is important and are there “success formulas”?

The short answer: Yes, there are, but …

What is the function of headlines?

Why are the titles of blog articles, e-books , podcast episodes, YouTube videos etc. so important at all?

Well mainly because they ensure that content at all be seen/heard/read. Readers often only decide based on the title whether they want to read an article or not – i.e. whether they visit your blog or not.

The following screenshot shows, for example, my Feedly stream from today. I don’t have time to read all the articles, so where do I start? Above all, the title is decisive for whether I even shortlist a publication. Since this feed is already curated, the sender, for example, is no longer so important to me (!) – after all, I trust all sources, otherwise they wouldn’t be in my feed. And I personally have hidden thumbnails because for me (!) they have not proven to be a useful criterion for selection.

I use Feedly to curate content and choose what to read based on the headline only (Screenshot:

Brian Clark speaks of the “80/20 Rules of Headlines” in this context:

“On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest. This is the secret to the power of your title, and why it so highly determines the effectiveness of the entire piece.”

– Brian Clark, copyblogger

As they say: You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

The opinion of advertising copy legend David Ogilvy goes in a similar direction, because he defines the function of titles – loosely translated from the English-language book Ogilvy on Advertising – as follows:

“The function of a title is to get potential readers to read the first line of your content.”

The most important content elements after the headline

The first sentence u nd the first paragraph, because they signal relevance and based on this, readers decide whether to continue reading or not.

The outline, table of contents and /or subheadings, because they help readers to skim (“scan”) your texts and thus basically with orientation.

Summaries that contain the core statements of the individual sections or the entire text/video/podcast and readers can convey the essence of the text in a few words. This saves them time and cognitive work and is valuable for that reason alone.

My tip: Measure the interaction rate with such content -Elements, e.g. by click tracking in the table of contents or the scroll depth in relation to the summary. This data can help you understand user behavior and identify the most effective elements.

The situation is similar with podcasts: In the various apps we see the titles of the latest episodes of various productions (which we may have already pre-filtered through subscriptions) and often choose on our own based on what ends up on our playlist and what doesn’t.

Only visual platforms are partially excluded from this. Even if the headline is important with regard to the keywords used on platforms such as YouTube, the preview image also plays an important role there in the consumer choice. The headline must therefore work in combination with the visual.

So how do we design effective headlines?

Tips for designing attractive headlines for blog articles & Co.

Headings must (potential) readers always communicate added value. The promised content must be useful, for example, solve a problem or satisfy a specific need.

You surely know the phrase “Talk in benefits, not in features”? I would even go a step further and emphasize the personal value that comes from an advantage. An example: 
  • Feature-Focused: The “Magic Bullet” method – the secret of good copywriters (Aha, sounds interesting…)
  • Advantage-focused: How to use the “Magic Bullet” -Method of doubling your copywriting skills in the next 5 minutes (Cool, that won’t hurt. But what exactly does it do me?)
  • Value-oriented: Sell more products through using the “Magic Bullet” copywriting method (Perfect, that’s exactly my goal!)

As short as possible, as long as necessary. In a guest article on Unbounce, Angela Stringfellow advises a maximum of eight words. A short title is not only read faster, it also offers enough space to add your own opinion when sharing via social media without exceeding the character limit. Short headlines work particularly well for special offers, well-known brand names or products and services that the target group is already (at least partially) familiar with. But are eight words really enough to trigger curiosity and motivate users to click? More on that soon

Not too many keywords.

Keywords (and also the title itself) are important ranking factors in search results, but a keyword-crammed and therefore unnatural-looking and Difficult to read title not only deters readers, but in case of doubt is also devalued by search engines.

Okay: Why content Marketing is beneficial for almost every business
Too much: Content Marketing is a Must for Businesses – Why Marketing Without Content Doesn’t Work
Add powerful adjectives like “free”, “simple”, “exclusive” etc. to interest your to awaken readers. Although every author must define these terms for their own target group, they can then use them effectively in headlines. For example, I recommend using Limbic®.

But attention: Such terms can quickly arouse a certain skepticism. Readers often associate such terms with typical “marketing slang” and perceive such content directly as advertising (which then quickly develops a dislike for it).

Convey urgency, either through scarcity (e.g. through time-limited offers, as marketing does here or through the communication of a time reference. For example, the subject line of a newsletter from Rechtsanwahl Thomas Schwenke was “To be observed from 2022: Warranty for goods and digital products”. This small addition at the beginning in the context of today’s date creates urgency and motivates recipients to open the email.

Arouse curiosity.

When something is new to us, it piques our interest; especially when we assume we can understand it. Therefore, use the so-called Curiosity Gap in a targeted manner – this is the difference between what readers already know and what they want to know.

“The more curious your headlines make your visitors, the more they read your posts. The more posts they read, the higher the chance of building a relationship with them. The more connections you have, the more influential you will become in your niche” – John Morrow, CEO smartblogger

The Curiosity Gap: I know what content marketing is, maybe do it myself and wait for the big hit. Maybe this article will provide the missing building block…

To be able to use this gap, you have to know your target group very well; or targeted Experiment with your headlines and try different variations/curiosity gaps to identify the best. This also applies to the technical terms used or typical terminology, especially in a heterogeneous target group (e.g. young professionals without specialist knowledge compared to professionals with many years of experience).

Curiosity is a complex topic that many different departments approach : from philosophy and sociology to education and neurobiology. Definitions are correspondingly difficult.

Some scientists understand curiosity as a stimulus, others as an emotion. Curiosity is therefore a feeling that arises when we do not know something but want to know. Curiosity behavior has the goal and function of reducing uncertainty. We acquire knowledge that enables us to integrate information (stimuli) that surprises or irritates us into understandable and coherent cognitive schemas.

In various experiments, neurobiologists have tried to find out the exact place in the brain where curiosity becomes “visible”. To do this, they measure brain activity with imaging methods such as fMRT and at the same time try to arouse curiosity in the subjects of curiosity, a study from 2009 is particularly important. Colin Cramer conducted it at CalTech University. The subjects were asked simple knowledge questions. They were asked to rate how curious they were about the answer. When they self-identified as curious, three brain areas were particularly active:

  • The left caudate nucleus
  • The Bilateral Prefrontal Cortex
  • The parahippocampal gyrus

The left caudal nucleus in particular is no stranger to this context. It has long been known that it plays an important role in reward learning. When we react emotionally to new information, he is usually involved. Because it has the best connections to the dopaminergic system, i.e. the reward system in our brain.

If we become curious, it could be equated with one craving for dopamine. It is known that this makes us do the craziest things: becoming addicted and falling in love are just two of the possible consequences of this dopamine craving. Accordingly, our curiosity would be the desire for new information. If we receive these, we feel happy because dopamine is released.

But the experiment showed even more: The participants became more curious when they answered a question incorrectly. They could even remember the answer better in a next try. From this, the scientists conclude that curiosity could help the brain store new information. This also explains why the connection between the striatum (where the caudate nucleus is located) and the hippocampus (where many memory functions are found) is well developed in curious people.

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