The importance of a good headline
Buzzfeed.com is worth around $1.5 billion.
Yes. You read that figure correctly.
Just how does a news site that shares what doesn’t appear to be particularly newsworthy material become so valuable?
The answer is because its team of journalists have mastered the art of writing good headlines.
Specifically, ones that use shock, mystery, humour and intrigue to get you clicking your mouse.
Whatever medium your story exists in, it’s going to need a headline that grabs people’s attention. This is particularly true in the mass information age.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at five techniques this canny site uses to pull in many millions of page views every month.
1. Hijacking The News
How it works: Leverages the high profile nature of a popular news item to encourage you to read the related content.
E.g. “Donald Trump Secretly Told A Newsweek Journalist What He Really Thinks Vladimir Putin”
2. The Sensitive Topic
How it works: Uses the sensitive nature of certain topics like race, sex, politics or religion to provoke debate.
E.g. “A Black Man Applied For Work Using Popular Names For White Men To See If It Improved His Chances Of Getting A Job”
3. The Cliffhanger
How it works: Teases you with just enough information to make you want more.
E.g. “Things Nobody Tells You About Long Distance Relationships”
4. The Inside Joke
How it works: Makes the reader feel like they’re part of a select ‘in-group’ that gets it. Relies on you knowing your audience extremely well and understanding what motivates them in particular.
E.g. “Heidi Klum Is Embarrassed By Old Throwback Photos Just Like The Rest Of Us”
5. The Silver Bullet
How it works: Promises you a quick and pain-free way to quickly solve your current problem.
E.g. “15 Books That Will Set You On The Path To Business Success”
The reason the above approaches work so well is because they appeal to us on an emotional level. They make us feel something.
More often than not it’s fear because fear is such a powerful motivator. It’s what keeps us alive after all!
Whilst the above techniques won’t necessarily be appropriate for your story they will help you to recognise what is likely to move your audience versus what might send them to sleep.
To finish on a practical note, check out these handy online analyser tools to aid you with coming up with your own attention grabbing headlines.
If you want to learn how to tell better stories then check out our course on storytelling made in collaboration with some of the world’s experts.