How to Write Headlines People Will Click On

Writing great titles is the key to getting readers

Writers who get a lot of readers of their stories have one thing in common; they know how to write attention-grabbing titles that people can’t resist clicking on. And getting people to click is the secret sauce of getting readers and making money from your writing.

Titles, like stories, need crafting. By studying how authors and website write their headlines, you can learn how to design your own. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula, but knowing what works for others is a clue to what will work for you.

There is a pitfall when writing titles. It’s called clickbait.

Clickbait titles work but don’t overdo it

A clickbait headline promises too much, and the promise fails in the article.

There’s a lot being said about clickbait titles. Is clickbait bad? Is it dishonest? Should you use it?

Clickbait titles can be bad or dishonest. They’re easy to spot because they use words like “guaranteed” “absolute” “unbelievable” and “life-changing”. Should you use a clickbait title? Yes, but don’t promise in the title what you don’t deliver in the story. The title of your story is advertising. And like any good advertising, it should give a truthful tease of what’s coming up.

This is an example of a no clickbait title: “People like bacon.” That is a boring, ineffective, and obvious title. I got this title from Neil Patel: “6 Reasons Bacon is Better Than True Love.” Both titles are 100% true. One will get no clicks because no one cares, and it tells the total story. The other makes people curious. They know people like bacon, but the title suggests something more. It makes the reader want to know how it’s better than love.

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Compelling titles don’t rely on outdated SEO techniques

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is so overrated that I’m sick of reading about it. Over the last 25 years, people have learned how to game the search engines to get their article a high ranking. And as they employ each technique, the search engine companies use their algorithms to defeat it. And a lot of techniques that people say works today have been around for years.

Today, search engines use AI to figure out what a story is about. Even though the search engines know what your story is about, you want to help them by putting your keywords in the title. And if you can put the keywords near the front of the title, it helps the search engines rank your story.

How to write titles that people will click on

One trait people have in common is they are curious about everything. So a good title will use their curiosity to make them click. “How to make a bed” is a title. But that won’t make people click. “The secret to making a bed for a romantic winter night” is a title people won’t be able to resist.

  1. Write titles that make people curious to know more: “What you should know about romance that your neighbor doesn’t”
  2. Write titles that use a list: “X secret ways to set up a romantic night out”
  3. Write titles that are how-to do something: “How to make money while saving money”

If you’ve written articles that should draw readers, but they don’t, it could be your titles. A headline is a doorway to your story. It is the first thing people see, and it is what determines if a reader wants to read more.

When writing your story titles make sure they seduce the reader. If you make your reader want more, they won’t be able to resist clicking.

Published in The Ascent, The Writing Cooperative, Illumination-curated, Writers’ Blokke.

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