Ask Yourself These 3 Simple Questions to Craft Better Headlines

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by Stefanie Flaxman Last week, when I wrote about how to become a writer , I forgot to mention something about why you’d want to be a...

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Last week, when I wrote about how to become a writer, I forgot to mention something about why you’d want to be a writer.
Writers are communicators. If you’re proud of your ideas, you want to be able to communicate them clearly and precisely.
Headlines are your first opportunity to present your message to the audience you want to reach. The language you use should appeal to those people and make them want to find out more.

To review the next headline you write from the perspective of an editor who is focused on audience engagement, here are three simple questions you can ask yourself.

A guide to finding the right words

Once you’ve written a draft of your headline and article (or you’ve recorded a podcast episode or video), use the questions below to ensure your headline is the most effective it can be:
  1. Who will benefit from this content?
  2. How do I help them?
  3. What makes this content special?
The answers to these questions most likely won’t produce the exact headline you’ll use. Rather, they’ll help mold your headline draft into a persuasive message that reaches and connects with the people you want to attract to your content.

To keep the process of infusing your headline with meaning and fascination simple, I recommend answering each question in one to two sentences.

If you need to write more, recognize your opportunity to fine-tune your goal for the content before revisiting these headline questions.

Let’s look at the important information each question will help you cultivate and how the answers will transform your headline.

1. Who will benefit from this content?

As Brian wrote yesterday:
“The point is to bond strongly with someone rather than boring everyone.”
When you define your audience, you can review your headline to make sure you use language that intrigues those individuals.

For example, your target audience may be marine biologists who have a tendency to procrastinate.

If your headline only says, “10 Tips to Beat Procrastination,” you can look for ways to add words that will attract marine biologists. And you don’t have to explicitly announce, “Hey marine biologists who have a tendency to procrastinate, this content is for you!”

You could try:
10 Tips to Beat Procrastination Faster than a Black Marlin
(A black marlin is one of the fastest fish.)

2. How do I help them?

People don’t necessarily wake up in the morning excited to read content.
The promises that certain pieces of content make to expand people’s understanding or knowledge of a topic persuade them to read content throughout the day. The content may even change their lives.
Your tips might help marine biologists accomplish tasks faster, and if they can accomplish tasks faster, they’re less likely to put them off.

Here, you can add another benefit to the headline:
10 Time-saving Tips to Beat Procrastination Faster than a Black Marlin

3. What makes this content special?

You may now realize that while a lot of other articles focus on “beating procrastination,” your content is special because it shows how to simplify and organize your daily marine biology to-do list so that each task is manageable.

Now you’ll want to revise a few words from your original headline:
10 Time-saving Tips to Zip Through Your Work Day Faster than a Black Marlin

Custom-tailored headlines for your content

We started this exercise with the headline:
10 Tips to Beat Procrastination
The final result is:
10 Time-saving Tips to Zip Through Your Work Day Faster than a Black Marlin
If you’re a marine biologist with a tendency to procrastinate, which headline would you click on?


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Ask Yourself These 3 Simple Questions to Craft Better Headlines
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