It’s a noisy world out there, so your opening line needs to be a belter to get and keep your audience’s attention.
Wow – that’s a lot of pressure.
Thankfully there are some tried and tested formulas for headlines that work anywhere you need to use text to connect. Subject lines, social posts, blog posts – whatever you’re writing, these 5 techniques will work to hook the eyeballs of your potential reader.
1. Tell them what they want, they really, really want
You’re asking the reader to give up some of the precious time and energy, you need to promise them something in return. The most compelling promises offer more of the things we care about – time, money, health, sex, reputation, happiness.
Credit: Blog post from femaleentrepreneurassociation.com
2. Threaten them with something they’re really scared of
OK ‘threaten’ is a bit strong. Mention. Mention something they’re really scared of and imply that you can help them avoid this.
Credit: Homepage entrepreneur.com
3. Say something relatable
This gives the reader an immediate sense of connection, because it feels like you know them, and you know their life. You can either describe a situation the reader experiences, like in this example from a Facebook Ad….
Or you can jump right into the middle of a story about yourself, and describe something they have also experienced, like….
‘As I inked my son’s name into the 30th clothing label that afternoon….’
‘The sharp tang of bitter lemon flooded my nostrils….which is not what milk should smell like’
4. Say something unexpected
What usually gets your attention when you’re deeply absorbed in something else? An excited child strolling in front of the TV? A loud crash at the cat knocks a glass off the counter? Something unexpected will break the audience’s attention, and give you a chance to redirect their eyeballs to your content. On social media this will often be done with an image or a video. But you can also do this with text (which is essential if you want your email to stand out in their inbox, or your blog post to jump out among the Google search results).
In this example the stand-out headline says something a bit extreme, and doesn’t even use the search phrase ‘drink more water’ – which really sets it apart from the rest of the results.
You could also say something controversial, or that goes against commonly held beliefs:
‘Drinking 8 glasses of water is terrible advice – here’s why’
5. Open an information Gap
There’s a reason why your favourite TV show ends with a teaser of what’s coming in the next episode – our brains cannot tolerate an open loop. If your opening line creates an information gap by implying there is knowledge in the rest of the content that the reader doesn’t yet posses, they will want to keep reading to fill that hole.
Want to make these techniques more powerful?
Here’s how you can turbo-charge them:
1 – Add numbers. Being specific adds credibility to your claim, and adds an element of curiosity, because the reader might be able to think of 2-3 ideas, but if you’re promising a list of 5, they’ll want to know which things they’ve missed.
Bonus 2 – Combine Techniques
Layer your techniques in the headline, and in the line that follows. You can also use the techniques as sub-headers throughout the body of your content.
In this example from femaleentreneurassociation.com we have:
- ‘Avoid burnout’ – tapping into a common fear
- ‘Biohacking’ – opens an information gap
- ‘Our businesses rely solely on us……’ – something relatable that the reader will be nodding along with.
Your opening line, headline or subject line is the hardest working text in your marketing content, so it’s worth investing the time and energy to play around, create a few different versions, and keep tweaking until you feel like you’ve got it as clickable as possible.
Wish your marketing efforts were generating more leads and sales?
My free course, Conversion Crushers walks you through the 5 most common client repelling mistakes I come across and how to fix them: https://worditude.co.uk/conversion-crushers/
Guest post by Laura Robinson, Worditude Ltd
Laura is an online copywriter, with more than 10 years experience writing digital copy. She helps business owners write their own personality-packed, conversion-focused website copy so they can sell more of their services, programmes and courses.