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The Back Deck

Our view on navigating today’s marketing landscape

2 Mar

Get 80 Percent of People to Read Beyond Your Headline

We all know the value of a catchy headline. But this finding in the February issue of PRSA Tactics stopped me in my tracks: “According to Copyblogger, ‘On average, eight out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only two out of 10 will read the rest.’”

Think about all of the work we go through to craft the perfect article, blog post, press release, or white paper. Now think about 80 percent of your readers not even reading past your headline. That’s depressing. This one little statistic made me think about the recent headlines I’ve written. Did they capture the attention of those eight out of 10 people? What could I do to improve my headlines?

For answers to these questions, naturally, I went to the source: The Interwebs. Here are the tips I found to be most useful:

  1. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery: Find inspiration from master copywriters who craft the best headlines, such as the ones at Digg, and Huffington Post. Source:
  2. Hook ’em with a headline: Consider the type of headline that will be most compelling to your audience. You could use a direct headline (e.g., the headline I used for this blog post) or a question headline (e.g., Where Can You Find the Best Seafood Restaurant?). A handy, complete list of headline categories can be found on
  3. Optimize: On top of captivating an audience, you must also have a headline that captivates the search engines. Consider the placement of your keywords and your use of puns or wordplay, which are not understood by search engines. Oh, the witty humor that these machines are missing out on. Check out a whole list of SEO headline writing tips from SEOMoz.
  4. What’s in it for me: Business writing is meant to persuade. You’ll find more success in persuading readers by stressing the benefits they’ll gain than by highlighting the features alone. Source:
  5. Give it a test run: How can you tell if those eight out of 10 people will read your headline? Play around with different headlines and test them out using Google’s Website Optimizer to track likely conversion traffic. Source: Google Conversion University

What headline writing tips do you have?

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