Do You Know the Secret to Crafting Effective Headlines?

October 8, 2015 Matt Allison: Founder, Chief Strategy Officer


Woodrow Wilson was once famously asked how long it took him to prepare a speech. “It depends,” he is reported to have replied. “If I am to speak for ten minutes, I need a week for preparation; if fifteen minutes, three days; if half an hour, two days; if an hour, I am ready now.” He clearly understood that it is much more difficult to convey information succinctly than to ramble on. I wonder how long it would take him to write a six-word headline?

There can be no doubt that the headline is the most important part of any piece of content, be it a press release or a blog, that you write. Why? Because 8 out of 10 people who see your content will read the headline, while only 2 out of 10 will read the rest of the copy. Headlines are also the key to clicks and shares. They are so important that experts say writers should spend half of the time it takes to write an entire piece of content on the headline. Hey, no pressure.

Luckily there are a couple free tools that can really help. The Headline Analyzer from Co Schedule is a tool for improving the titles of your content. It looks at word balance, type and length. It also gives you a preview of how your headline will look in Google search results and provides some basic sentiment analysis. The Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer will analyze your headline and give you a score based on the total number of words with emotional marketing value. The approach is based on research into which words resonate with readers and set an emotional tone for content. In addition to the score, the tool also tells you which emotion your headline most impacts.

To demonstrate how they work, I’d like to walk you through the evolution of the headline for this blog. I started with:

The Art of Writing a Great Headline

Headline Analyzer Score: 64 (B+)

Emotional Marketing Value Score: 14.29% (Good headlines rank between 30-40%, great ones, between 50-70%)

So this headline isn’t terrible, but it isn’t very emotional. What it has going for it is that the number of words and the length hit near the sweet spot. (Headlines 55 characters long with 6 words tend to earn the highest number of click-throughs.) This headline is also fairly generic and I know I can do better than “great” which is a terribly boring adjective. Next I tried:

How You Can Craft a Compelling Headline

Headline Analyzer Score: 65 (B+)

Emotional Marketing Value Score: 14.29%

I thought adding “you” and using a more descriptive adjective would help, but it still lacks pizazz. I decided to go a different direction:

The Secret Art of the Headline

Headline Analyzer Score: 65 (B+)

Emotional Marketing Value Score: 33.33%

Here I made progress by upping the emotional appeal of the headline. I’ve still kept it the right size and it would probably do, but I think I could do better.

Do You Know the Secret to Crafting Effective Headlines?

Headline Analyzer Score: 71 (A+)

Emotional Marketing Value Score: 44.44%

Now I’m in business. The word and character counts are in the right range. Everything shows up nicely in the Google search preview. The headline type is a question and the emotional marketing value is high. Time will tell, but if you’ve read this far, I’ve done something right.

Spending the time to write a great headline (subject line if you are talking about email) will improve the results of every asset you create. If you skimp on it, you may as well not bother with the rest.


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