The headline is your big chance to get a reader to stop scrolling and click. It’s the part of any post that captures attention for your blog post or your Google ad. If it’s forgettable, people will move on to the millions of other things on their screen.

Digital marketing and digital media are all about attracting clicks, which means the industry has developed an understanding of how to write eye-catching and attention-grabbing headlines. These tricks aren’t exactly rocket science, but applying them requires the discipline to use them every time.

Use numbers.

Even today’s most avid readers won’t necessarily take the time to read your piece. They’ve got several saved links, books, and articles they want to get to, which means if your stuff looks time-consuming they’ll dismiss it as something they’ll get to later. Naturally, this isn’t what you want. Using numbers in your list – “10 Strategies for Avoiding Customer Churn This Winter” – tells the reader two things:

  • Your list is scannable. They can easily skim the article and read the headers to find which sections are relevant to them.
  • They get quantifiable value. The reader knows they’re walking away with “x” tips or “x” strategies.

Teach people something or give them a reason to want to do something.

Readers respond well to instructions. We love articles that teach us how to do things, even if we’ll never get around to it. The thought is tempting enough. If you’re not writing a numbered article, a headline that says “How To Redecorate Your Office on a Budget” or “Why You Should Fly To Dublin This September” is your next best bet. You want to offer either a “how” (instructional) or “why” (educational).

Be provocative.

Now, you don’t want to compromise your reputation with misleading headlines and clickbait titles. That said, you also don’t want your content to be the wallflowers of the internet. Take some time to think about your article’s angle. It’s probably tackling a familiar topic, but is it tackling it in an unfamiliar way? The same goes for your ads. Just because it’s an ad for marketing services doesn’t mean you type “Marketing services ad” across the top. Use powerful language to make an impact on whoever views your content.

Take a look at the competition.

No one’s advocating you plagiarize your competitors, but do take a look at what headline formats are working for them. Chances are your readers will respond to that form too if you’re both in the same space. Again, you’re borrowing the form – not the content. Use social media to gauge what content is getting the most shares and engagement and see how you can adapt those methods to your own content.

Run A/B tests.

Sometimes, you won’t know which headlines are the best until you test them all. If you’ve whittled down an ad or article headline to two options, run them both and watch your analytics to see which performs best. A/B testing is addictive once you start since you can do it with almost anything — colors, photos, shapes, CTA buttons. But they are especially useful for headlines because you can find a successful format that works for all sorts of articles.

Keep it short but clear.

Don’t try to fit everything into your headline. First, it ruins the mystery by giving away too much. Second, it disregards how people consume content. Before someone reads something they have to decide to click on it during the split second they see it while scrolling through their newsfeed. If the title’s too long, they won’t catch the core message of the headline and move on.

Finally, long titles get cut off in the search engine results page (SERP). Titles should be about 70 characters to avoid losing your message on Google.

People have been perfecting the art of the headline since newspapers were invented, but today’s marketers have new competition in the form of apps, notifications, and competing content. Spend some time cultivating compelling headlines so your click-through rate will shoot through the roof.