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Content and Copy

3 Features of a Highly Effective Headline

When it comes to written content no single element that plays a more important role in turning prospects into subscribers or customers than the headline.  As a result of the internet and the explosion of media devices, we are all exposed to dozens of marketing message every day, most of which go completely ignored because they don’t do enough to grab our attention.  In today’s post, we’ll take a look a 3 key features shared by highly effective headlines so that you can begin to put them to use immediately.

Feature 1: Effective Headlines Use Numbers

Headlines that use numbers have the highest click through rate of any other headline style featured in the Conductor study from which the results above were taken. Just take a quick look around the interwebs and you will see this borne out on Twitter, Facebook and even this blog post. But, wait, there’s more. Researchers have also found that odd numbers have a 20% higher clickthrough rate than headlines with even numbers.

Feature 2: Effective Headlines Use 5 to 9 Words

According to a study published in the Guardian, headlines with 8 words performed 21% better than average. Although the reasons for this aren’t completely clear it may be that the human brain’s capacity to store for moment to moment perception (i.e, working  memory) is something on the order of 7±2. For the study that identified the magic number see here.


Feature 3: Effective Headlines are Clear and Concise

Ever use a question as a headline? How about a “how-to?” Don’t worry, we’ve all done it but the message here is that we need to stop or get used to ignominy.  To help make this a little more clear, let’s take a look at the five headlines that were used to generate the results above:

Normal (Ways to Make Drinking Tea More Delightful)
Question (What are Ways to Make Drinking Tea More Delightful?)
How to (How to Make Drinking Tea More Delightful)
Number (30 Ways To Make Drinking Tea More Delightful)
Reader-Addressing (Ways You Need to Make Drinking Tea More Delightful)

The clear winner is, once again, headlines that contain numbers with the loser being questions. Despite the compelling NLP research that seems to support the use of meta model questioning in headlines, Conductor’s studies show quite the opposite. My own theory is that question works well in the body of your copy and keeps the audience reading on but is not compelling enough to hook them in alone. Regardless of why it works, I think it is pretty clear that we need to take heed of these key characteristics of good headlines and start putting them to use now so we can begin to enjoy the fruits of our labors.


About Michael Rickicki

I am a freelance writer, translator, social media manager and co-owner of a mid-sized automotive accessories manufacturer and retailer in Brooklyn.

One comment on “3 Features of a Highly Effective Headline

  1. Pingback: 3 Tips to Get Your Tweets Shared | Et Scribis

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