Content creation isn’t for the faint of heart. From creating catchy titles for articles to researching and including interesting facts to back your claims up – it can be tedious.
In fact, one of the most common problems most novice content creators often find themselves dealing with is low engagement rates.
Here’s the thing…
You can have the most outstanding content ever, yet, if you don’t have a catchy title for your article, one that grabs the reader’s attention and makes them beg for more, your amazing content won’t get noticed.
Why? 80% of readers will take the time to read your headline. However, only 20% of those individuals are going to move on to the body of your content.
Yes, content is vital to engagement. Unfortunately, that content isn’t the first thing your readers are going to see.
Much like an email, your online content is prefaced with a headline of some sort. This headline is the very first impression your readers are going to get from you. If your headline doesn’t stop them in their tracks, then they aren’t going to read through the rest of the content.
Why should they?
The moral of the story: First impressions are crucial!
To create a first impression that matters, you need to know how to craft a successful headline.
Capturing the Reader’s Attention: The 4 Primary Functions of a Successful Catchy Title or Article Headline
In his book, The Copywriter’s Handbook, Robert Bly outlines just how critical a properly formatted headline is to any piece of content. He states that your headline is the “first impression” readers get, and it can mean the difference between success or failure:
“If the first impression is boring or irrelevant, the ad will not attract your prospect. If it offers news or helpful information or promises a reward for reading the ad, the first impression will win the reader’s attention.” – Robert Bly, The Copywriter’s Handbook, 4th Edition
Before you can start creating catchy titles for articles, blogs, and other content, its essential that you understand the primary functions of a successful headline. Here at Express Writers, our content specialists are carefully trained in creating not only eye-catching headlines but headlines that perform.
We understand that there are four primary functions of a successful headline. I’ve gone ahead and outlined them for you below.
1. Select Your Audience
As a content writer, you already understand just how important it is to know your target audience. Julia McCoy, the founder of our agency, talks at length in her book, Practical Content Strategy & Marketing, about how creating content that nets any ROI requires the writer to not only identify, but understand who their audience is:
“Sure, you could start writing and creating content any time, but without an understanding of whom you’re creating it for, your visitors may not connect with any of it.” – Julia McCoy, Practical Content Strategy & Marketing
Bly also discusses this in The Copywriter’s Handbook. He goes on to say that a successful headline will cater to the needs of a specific audience member, and this is because it’s meant to drive action. If crafted correctly, your headline could be responsible for not only driving engagement to your piece of content, but also for converting a reader into a new prospective lead.
In the time of COVID-19, ComEd understands that many of their audience members are currently experiencing financial difficulties. So, instead of simply headlining their ad with “New Bill Options,” they target the members of their audience who are genuinely struggling by including the term “Assistance” in their headline as well.
2. Capture the Reader’s Attention
Once you’ve defined your audience, you’ll be able to start formulating a headline that captures their attention. To do this, you have to go beyond the “norm” and not be afraid to push the envelope a bit. Of course, I’ll never advocate for creating clickbait headlines, but that doesn’t mean you have to have dreary headlines that only state the facts.
The best way to get your reader’s attention is by appealing to their self-interest or by introducing a hot piece of news.
Here is a good example that got me to stop scrolling through my Facebook feed recently:
As a professional content creator, something I research quite a bit is ways to increase my follower engagement, and since I publish a lot of my own personal content on my social media pages, the fact that this ad highlights “Social Media” and maximizing follower engagement – I was instantly drawn in. This is an excellent example of a brand fulfilling my self-interest because it’s telling me they can help me accomplish something I’m currently working to improve on.
Here’s a fun fact worth knowing: 76% of consumers expect a company to understand what it is they need.
So, make sure you are addressing those needs in your headlines to convey to readers you can deliver what they want and/or are looking for.
3. Deliver a Complete Message to Your Audience
Let’s take another look at that Facebook ad from Marketo. They for sure were able to get me to stop scrolling by using keywords that caught my attention, however, for it to be a compelling headline, it has to deliver a full message, too.
While the copy in the ad was effective enough to get me to stop in my tracks, it was their message that got me curious.
“Develop a Social Media Calendar”
It’s short, it’s sweet, and it tells me exactly what I need to do to improve my follower engagement. In fact, this message is so effective, it stops my eyes from wandering and fulfills the final function of a successful headline.
4. Entice Your Reader into Reading Further
This headline is direct enough to tell me exactly what I need to do, yet it also has me wondering how to move forward. The headline is intriguing enough that I’m going to read its subheading, and I’m even compelled to click the ad to learn more.
Marketo did a wonderful job of fulfilling all four functions of a successful headline. However, no two headlines will ever be the same. That means this same approach may not work for a brand that, for example, provides email marketing services.
That said, it’s time to dive into the best formulas for creating catchy titles for your articles.
8 Catchy Headline Title Types for Your Next Article
Headlines are often put off to the end of the content creation process simply because so much more work goes into the meat of the actual piece of content. This leads to haphazard headlines that are created just to entice a click – A.K.A. clickbait titles.
There are right and wrong ways to go about creating a headline that earns not only click-throughs, but also increased engagement from your audience.
Julia talks more in-depth on the subject in her YouTube lesson on how to ditch the “annoying clickbait headlines” in favor of quality content:
Here at Express Writers, our staff is taught to use the eight headline title types that are outlined in Robert Bly’s book, The Copywriter’s Handbook. We believe so firmly in these title types that we want to pass the knowledge on to you.
So, get your pen and paper out and start jotting down notes on these eight headline title types that are guaranteed to help you increase reader engagement.
We live in a TLDR (too long, didn’t read) society, and while catchy titles for articles are great, if they get long-winded or try to hide the point of the piece, then your readers are going to move on rather quickly.
Here’s the thing – people don’t always READ your titles. They just skim them. So, keeping them short, sweet, and to the point is an ideal method.
This title gets right to the point and tells the reader exactly what they’re getting if they read the article in full.
2. Indirect Headlines
Now, while many readers prefer direct headlines, sometimes it takes a bit of finessing to genuinely capture their interest enough to click-through to your site and take the time to read the article in full.
60% of people will share an article they come across on social media without reading past the headline!
This is especially true if you give away all your goods in the headline. Instead, craft a title that not only makes your point but does so in a roundabout way so that your readers must actually click and read the article to find out what they should/shouldn’t be doing.
This catchy article title from ProBlogger is one of the most talked-about examples when it comes to crafting indirect headlines that work:
When readers head online for information, they are very likely searching for an answer to a “how-to” question. In fact, BuzzSumo did an in-depth headline analysis on what works and what doesn’t, and when looking into the top first word used in articles, the word “How” took the third spot overall:
Crafting “how-to” titles is amazingly simple, and when a direct approach is taken, these articles can perform quite well.
If “how-to” headlines work well with a direct approach, then question headlines make for an excellent example of an indirect headline that piques the reader’s interest and encourages them to click-through to your page.
These headlines highlight the reader’s issue, and then tells them that you’ve got their solution, much like this example from one of Julia’s recently published blogs:
If you want your readers to take action without having to spell it out for them in your headline, then a command headline is right up your alley!
These headlines tell your prospects exactly what they need to do to solve their pain point and to complete that action; they must click and read your article, much like this example from Smart Insights:
Another excellent example of a direct headline that generates action is the “reason-why” or listicle article headline. Again, your readers are looking for answers to their questions – so, you want to supply them with the answers, and a listicle allows you to give them “reasons” or multiple solutions to work with.
One of the most underutilized headline types is the testimonial headline.
Marketers understand just how crucial testimonials can be. After all, approximately 92% of consumers will read online reviews before making a purchase, while 72% of consumers state that positive testimonials/reviews help to increase their trust in a business.
A great way to use your customer testimonials is to format them into a detailed blog to show prospective clients how they could benefit from your products/services.
The email marketing giant, Campaign Monitor, does an excellent job of doing just that:
Our Content Strategy Research Now Focuses on These 8 Types of Headline Titles
Here at Express Writers, we don’t just talk the talk – we walk the walk.
We understand that reaching your customers in a deep and emotional way is vital to the success of your content. As I stated before, first impressions are crucial – so you must apply this same thought to your headlines as well.
Our Content Strategists have swipe files on hand that include lists of power words and lists of proven headline formulas that work, time and time again, for developing powerful headlines. They personally create and review your headlines for relevancy and accuracy using Robert Bly’s eight proven headline structures from The Copywriter’s Handbook, as well as relevant power words.
It can take quite a few tries to craft a headline that works, so our Strategists put in the time, work, and effort to build a great headline that drives traffic to your content.
Curious how our Content Strategists can help you craft catchy headlines for your articles? Schedule a call with one of our talented team members today!
Creating Catchy Titles for Your Articles
Creating catchy titles for your articles doesn’t have to be a tedious process.
The key to success, which Julia discovered back in 2012 just after forming Express Writers, includes better strategy – researching your topics and keywords carefully, picking the right terms, and then weaving those into headlines that perform.
After testing out her theory among her team and clients, she decided it was time to pass on the knowledge to those who needed it most: content creators, such as yourself.
The lessons taught in this course are an excellent complement to the teachings of Robert Bly and his approach to crafting catchy titles for articles, which include the eight types of headlines we’ve covered above.
Freelance writing online—a part-time gig to fill your spare time, a common misconception that many have.
Sure, writing online can be a fun hobby for some; however, for others, it’s a passion that fuels a fire that some simply don’t understand. Content writing is oftentimes a thankless job—in some cases, you work hours on end researching and toiling over a keyboard creating an outstanding piece of content that doesn’t even garner you a byline. So why bother doing it?
Here’s my answer: because it’s my passion.
I’ve been a writer my entire life—I kid you not. Before I could even write, I was telling wild stories that my family would write for me so I could have a copy to show off to my friends, family, and maybe my own children someday. That passion turned into a love of reading and a love of creation, one that spurred my love of education. An odd combination, sure, but it all comes together, I promise!
I knew college was my dream in elementary school, but when the time came, choosing what road I was going to take and what I was going to do with the rest of my life…
Talk about an impossible task!
Freelance Writing Online: From Dream to Present & Future
What started as a love of education and wanting to educate other’s, quickly fizzled out as soon as the job market told me that becoming an educator wasn’t ideal. Teachers were getting laid off left and right, so why bother wasting my time and tuition money in a dead-end dream?
Okay, so it was time to choose a fallback option. I loved to read and create, so English was an obvious choice, but what kind of job could I get as an English major… Besides teaching English? Enter in Dr. Terri Fredrick, and there began my journey in professional and technical writing. This was a professor who encouraged us to look at every option available, including freelance writing online.
She taught us every lesson in the book:
How to spot scams
How to research clients
How to cold-pitch ideas
To not count yourself short
However, the lesson that stuck with me the most was to do what you love.
Upon graduating in 2013, this English major with her background in professional and technical writing knew that she wanted to write, but oddly enough, there weren’t all that many positions open for in-office writers. So, despite my family’s objections, I headed online, hit up ProBlogger.com, and landed my first writing position for a journalistic style website.
Freelance Writing Online: Part-Time Gig or Full-Time Job?
The overall job outlook for writers and authors is projected to grow 8% between 2016 and 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and with traditional publishing declining due to the uprising of online publication, the demand for online freelance writers is expected to grow.
What does that mean for anyone looking to start freelance writing online? Is this a position for part-timers looking to fill in some downtime? Alternatively, are there real possibilities to go full-time and make a living?
It all comes down to your intentions and personal preferences. For those looking to make a hobby of it, there are plenty of opportunities, both paid and unpaid; however, for those looking to make a career of it, I have some advice:
Prepare to get dirty and fight for your position.
Becoming a full-time freelance content writer takes a lot of time, patience, dedication, and yes, maybe a few tears along the way. Just like any other dream, you must be willing to work for it.
When I first started my journey into freelance writing online, I figured my degree would be enough to land me quality work, but just like with any other position, I had to prove that I could tough it out.
This meant researching and writing on topics that I didn’t love, working long hours and when I finally had the opportunity to take on freelance editing, it meant working overnight shifts, effectively putting my social life on hold.
What made it even harder, personally, was the fact that my circle didn’t believe that freelance writing was a “real job,” simply because I worked from home. To most, a “real job” consists of putting on business casual clothing, driving into the office and working 9-5. A “real job” wasn’t working in your home office at varying times researching and writing on topics varying from healthy keto recipes to Kim Kardashian’s latest relationship dramas.
While it wasn’t a traditional reality, it was my reality, and I loved it. Not only was I writing, but I was continuing my love of education because I had to continuously research topics for client pieces, and I knew I would be educating others once they read the content I was creating.
I was living my dream…. I am living my dream.
Becoming a Full-Time Online Freelance Writer
I could go on to tell you that to become a full-time freelance writer online you must create a website, pitch your ideas and network, but I’m not going to. There are enough blogs and how-to articles out there that do just that.
That said, here are my tips on how to become a full-time online content writer.
1. Put Yourself Out There
By putting yourself out there, I mean get comfortable with being uncomfortable. If I’ve learned anything in my 6+ years of freelance writing online, it’s to be prepared to get out of your comfort zone. Since I was trained in literature during my school years, never did I imagine I would end up writing about digital marketing, celebrity entertainment, or health and wellness.
As a freelance writer, you can choose your niche; however, if you are just starting off, you need to prove your skills just as you would in any “real” job. This means researching and writing on topics you aren’t that familiar with and providing top-quality content that delivers results. Don’t be afraid of writing outside your comfort zone because it could be the difference between going full-time and struggling to land work.
2. Build Your Network
Okay, so I said I wasn’t going to go there… however, I’m going there. Building your online network matters more than you know. Writing is a creative art, even if it is technical in nature. You are creating something from nothing, and you need to have a network of people surrounding you to endorse your skills and help guide you on current trends. Think of it this way; your network works a lot like an artist’s online portfolio or a business’s testimonials page.
Having a strong network of people to endorse your work is one of the best ways to prove to future clients that you are capable of completing given tasks. Better yet, this network can also work to give you feedback to help shape your future work. Having a networking profile, such as a LinkedIn profile, is beneficial on so many different levels because it helps you continue learning from industry experts, all while allowing you to showcase your talents to prospective clients—all of which are vital steps in your journey to freelance writing online.
3. Your Client is Your Customer, Treat Them as Such
Another essential lesson I’ve learned through my years of online freelance work is always to treat each client as if they are the only one you have. Whether you found a steady job with a content creation agency or are choosing individual assignments on your own, each client needs to be treated as if they are your only focus.
Freelance writing online is a service that you are providing, and just like any other service, you are being hired to fulfill a customer’s needs. Treat your clients with the respect they deserve and always give them your best work. If you don’t feel like as if you can do their assignment justice, do the right thing, and tell them so. The absolute last thing you should be doing is handing in half-@$$ed work. That’s not going to get you the reputation you want. So, remember, the client is your customer, treat them as if they are the only one you have, and give them the quality work they deserve.
4. Let Go of Stigmas
If I’m being honest, this is probably one of the biggest struggles I had to overcome as a freelance content writer. Between disapproving loved ones, the stigma of being “lazy,” not having a “real job” and dealing with the instability of the job market, there were many times when I felt that freelance writing online simply wasn’t a viable position.
Here’s the lesson—I let outside influences tell me that it wasn’t viable, when, in fact, online content creation is a booming industry. With over 1.6 billion websites online, businesses are turning to online freelance writers to create expert-level writing that will attract new readers that will eventually lead to new customers.
That said, let go of all stigmas! The more you tell yourself you can’t, the more real that negativity becomes.
Sure, while many individuals turn to freelance writing online as a source of extra income or even just as a hobby, there are many out there that want to make this more than that and turn it into a full-time career.
To do that, you must get serious and buckle down. There are dozens of different ways to go about finding a freelance writing job, but until you let go of those stigmas I mentioned earlier and start treating this as the passion you claim it to be, you won’t see much in the way of results.
Get Serious. Put Yourself Out There. Live Your Passion and Create Something Amazing!
This is a blog by our staff copywriter and Content Specialist, Cassie.
What makes a sophisticated marketer? A sophisticated marketer is someone who knows more than the definition of marketing—they know the ins and outs and that the industry is ever-changing.
These smarties know that because the industry is always changing, they also need to learn and adapt to make the industry work for them.
The main goal of a sophisticated marketer—to continuously learn and grow.
In order to do these two things, marketers across the world look towards industry influencers for guidance and thanks to lists such as LinkedIn’s Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to LinkedIn, users can identify those leaders and learn all that they have to offer.
LinkedIn is a game changer for almost anyone in any industry. Seriously. Not only is it a social media platform designed for professionals—allowing them to network, find and post jobs—but it is a platform designed to share information with the masses.
The social media platform began compiling its yearly Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to LinkedIn in 2014. Each year, the publication’s goal was to become the “definitive guide to growing businesses and building brands,” on LinkedIn.
LinkedIn acknowledges that marketing is an ever-changing industry, and because of that, they have gone out of their way to include more features to the platform.
A few of these features include:
Robust new marketing solutions,
Targeting marketing activity
The ability to track the overall reach, engagement, and ROI that user content generates.
How LinkedIn Adds Value With The Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to LinkedIn
LinkedIn’s 55-page Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to LinkedIn truly shines. First, LinkedIn listened in to their users’ top questions, and that’s what the guide was built on. Listen and learn, content marketers!
“For the last five years, The Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to LinkedIn has been the definitive guide to growing businesses and building brands on our platform. We launched it in January 2014 to answer the questions that we kept hearing marketers ask. It remains our most regularly downloaded piece of ‘big rock’ content, which shows that questions about how to use LinkedIn for marketing are as relevant now as they ever have been.”
Inside the actual ebook is a ton of value. It holds a gold mine of information, including information on:
Publishing on LinkedIn
Balancing organic and paid activity and maximizing them both for effectiveness
Tips and tactics on popular topics such as sponsored content sponsored InMail, Text Ads, Pages, Elevate and so much more.
This massive, in-depth, well-designed guide is a valuable product for any marketer, and the tips and tactics that are included within it come from top experts in the marketing industry. And in this year’s 5th-anniversary edition, LinkedIn included a list of 24 B2B marketing experts that they say are worth following.
Speaking of marketing experts, Express Writer’s own CEO, Julia McCoy, was included in this year’s top 24 list of B2B Marketers You Need to Know!
Julia is more than an expert marketer—she’s also a bestselling author and expert writer. So, what does Julia believe in when it comes to her work?
“A helluva lot of hard work, learning from failure, always being open to self-improvement and also having a constant mindset of ‘You can do anything you put your mind to.’” -Julia McCoy
Robert is also known for being a bestselling author, keynote speaker, and his skills in content strategy and as a customer experience expert. (Our CEO Julia was honored to author a piece for his site, The Content Advisory, not too long ago.)
Shane specializes in influencer marketing, product launches, content marketing, sales funnels and website conversions. He’s also shared his knowledge with over 100 publications, including Huffington Post, Forbes, Entrepreneur, and Inc.
Katie has several recognitions under her belt, including one of the top 10 marketing writers on LinkedIn, the number three most influential B2B marketer on Twitter, and a top 100 influencer in content marketing.
Michael is not only the CEO of the Marking Insider Group—but he is also a keynote speaker and author. He’s been recognized as a top business speaker by Huffington Post and a top CMO Influencer by Forbes.
Jason is considered an inspirational digital ideator, implementer, thought-leader and team mentor, organization builder, and network marketer. He’s also been acknowledged as a master of global digital best practices.