Headlines are the vehicle to that which sells.

Headlines, whether you’re applying the term to what appears at the top of a blog post or if you refer email subject lines by this terminology, is a careful blend of art and science.

A headline needs to do just one job: get the user to take action.

Action in this sense means they’re digging deeper into the content that comes after the headline.

Yes, you can tell a story and make bold statements through headlines but it’s the content and call-to-action where all the magic happens.

The only problem, though … is that headlines can be hard.

Having one poof from thin air that’s engaging and gets the click comes few and far between; it takes a true talent to craft these elements to be effective.

But … there are some tricks to take some of this hard work off your plate …

1. Use intriguing Adjectives

Certain words scream for our attention because they’re used infrequently, sometimes out of context, and cause natural curiosity. You’ve seen this applied many times if you have visited a few product pages or noticed online advertising campaigns.

Injecting adjectives in key areas will pique the reader’s interest, such as (to give you an example):

  • Hilarious
  • Scary
  • Dangerous

Try adding a few of these adjectives to your headline the next time around to spice it up a bit.

2. Start the Story

A common misconception about headlines are that they need to spell out what readers can expect or needs to be worded in a way to immediately grab attention through power words and structure – you know, the usual way you’re probably writing them.

Instead, consider trying to open with the beginning of a story and use sub-headings to keep the reader moving forward.

For example, what if a headline opened like this:

  • I didn’t expect my business to grow by 213% this last month …
  • And then I ran into my ex-girlfriend …
  • Luckily I didn’t order the pizza …

These, as your headlines (and sub-headings) keeps the reader within the story you’re trying to tell rather than visually and mentally breaking the connection between each parts; try this flow and you could hook them right away and bring ‘em all the way down the page.

3. Try some Animation

Even the slightest movement or offset of color can draw our attention because we, as humans, have the ability to pinpoint these minute changes even if it’s merely subconsciously.

The use of animated icons can also come into effect when placed within proximity of the headline.

To see a great example of these slight animations in action I would suggest taking a browse through some of the pillar pages over at Copyblogger.

You can begin utilizing this technique by reaching out to a freelance designer or try your hand at simple animation using tools like Photoshop.

4. Open with an Emotional Question

Why do we fall in love with characters of our favorite movies, shows, and books?

There has been an emotional bond.

When we feel emotion whether its happiness, sadness, rage, and others, we are transported into the perspective of the character (or writer, depending on the story). When we’re in their shoes we begin to live their life which may take us through any number of adventures, connections, emotions, and insights.

Have a look at these examples and brainstorm how you could apply these when telling a story through your headline:

  • Are you tired of the endless rat race and want out?
  • If you were in my shoes – which tropical location would you work from?
  • Who could have guessed that you’re supposed to wear pants in public?

These run similar to the above section on starting the story but the addition of forming it as a question practically forces a reader to at least consider what’s ahead; this should intrigue them to move forward.

5. Get to the Point

Your audience is busy … get to the point.

Tell them what they’re going to learn in a simple manner with few words.

Remember: Test, Test, Test

Headlines are part of the conversion process – they’re probably the most important, to be honest, because the information, on the page, is worthless unless someone sees or hears it. For this reason you should always test – then test some more.

Make it a regular effort to conduct A/B testing with your headlines (and copy, while you’re at it). Keep notes including the wording, click through, and conversion rate of your tests. Run heat maps to find what part of the page (which includes the headline) catches their attention – these small insights can have a profound effect on building a headline swipe file that helps get the click.

What tip do you have for improving the click through rate on headlines?