Are you Paying the Price for Ineffective Headlines?

Emma Keates
On average, it is estimated that 80% of people will read a headline, while only 20% will continue to read the full body copy. These numbers emphasize the critical importance of crafting compelling headlines to capture and retain the audience's attention in the world of digital content and marketing.

If you’re reading this, I’ve done my job… Phew, the pressure was on with this one!

On average, it is estimated that 80% of people will read a headline, while only 20% will continue to read the full body copy. These numbers emphasize the critical importance of crafting compelling headlines to capture and retain the audience's attention in the world of digital content and marketing. David Ogilvy, hailed as the father of modern copywriting, once said:

“When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”

To make the point about what makes a good headline, I’m going to focus on the common characteristics of the worst headlines:

  1. Lack of Clarity: Poor headlines are often vague and fail to convey the main point of the content. Readers should instantly understand what the article or piece is about from the headline. Ambiguity leaves readers disinterested.

  1. Bland and Uninspiring: Dull and uninspiring headlines don't evoke any emotion or curiosity. Readers are less likely to click or engage with content that doesn't pique their interest or emotions.

  1. Clickbait and Misleading: Bad headlines may resort to clickbait tactics, promising something exciting or shocking that the content fails to deliver. This erodes trust and credibility with the audience.

  1. Keyword Stuffing: Overloading headlines with keywords in an attempt to boost SEO can make them sound awkward and unappealing. Keyword stuffing can negatively affect readability and authenticity.

  1. Lack of Relevance or Newsworthiness: Headlines that aren't relevant to the target audience's interests or needs and don’t tap into a pain point or something topical will fail to grab attention. Understanding your audience and tailoring your headlines to their preferences is crucial.

  1. Too long or too short: Lengthy headlines can overwhelm readers, making it difficult for them to quickly grasp the main point. Conciseness is generally more effective. However, headlines that are too short and don’t compel the reader to keep reading will not work either.

  1. No Value Proposition: A bad headline may not communicate the benefits or value that readers will gain from reading the content. It should answer the question, "What's in it for me?"

  1. Overly Complex Language: In our world of B2B tech this is all too common. Headlines that use overly complex or technical language can alienate readers who don't have a deep understanding of the subject matter. Clarity should always be a priority.

In short, there’s a lot of things you can do with a headline, which often leads to overthinking and a poor result. There’s only one reason why you can’t afford to have weak headlines. People will not read on. And that means your efforts and investment have been entirely wasted. Don’t even worry about breaking the rules - some of the best headlines ever written do just that - as long as the reader keeps reading. 

My final tip which I find myself doing often. Flip the headline with the subhead, and you might just land on something amazing. 

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