Ever heard of Snake Plants?
While the name might put an image of a cobra in your mind, the plant is nothing like its namesake. Snakes do not live in it nor have any poison glands. It’s called the snake plant because its leaves resemble the skin of a snake.
But here’s one fact that will boggle your mind – The snake plant needs low maintenance. My online investigation revealed that the snake plant could survive on weekly watering. Splash some water. Go away for seven days. Come back. And with wide eyes, see how the snake plant still has healthy, green leaves.
Such a non-needy dude!
Our articles, however, need water
And they need care. An article might have substance, but when it fails to grab the reader’s attention, all that substance is never discovered. With good headlines, our articles get a chance to survive and thrive.
Let’s find out what I have learned about writing headlines so you don’t have to.
Write a lot of them
I remember being frozen, with my hands on the keyboard, eyes staring intently at the screen, waiting for inspiration… waiting for the perfect headline magically to appear in my head.
And even after 11 minutes, the screen was still blank.
While writing headlines, quantity is your friend. The more headlines you write, the easier it becomes. As you write more, you have more options to choose from. Also, your 13th attempt will likely be better than the first one. Like peeling an onion, you see? The inner-most layer is the most beautiful.
Steal from others
Stealing is bad. It’s not! You get no points for innovation. A better approach is to steal and take inspiration from others. There is a slight chance that writers who have put their “10000 hours” into honing the craft of writing might know a little more about writing headlines than you and I do.
Can we learn from them?
Here’s how we can –
- Figure out the one thing that you want to convey through your article
- Go and find the bloggers and creators you admire
- See the headlines that they have used for their blog/podcast
- Use their headlines and adapt them to your topic
- You now have 15 beautiful headlines that you can choose from
This is not unethical because you are merely seeking inspiration… and your topic completely differs from theirs.
Okay, now that we have decided to write multiple headlines by emulating others, the question then is – how much do you really give away in the headline?
Reveal all your tricks
You and I are like a magician. Except that we are bad magicians. Unlike other magicians, we reveal all our tricks. No secrets. Would we then thrive in this world? Would we be successful? Probably not.
But when it comes to writing, giving away everything in your headline is actually a good idea.
Hang on, shouldn’t we create curiosity?
I am a big fan of creating drama and tension in writing. All successful writers do it too. Bland writing fails to engage the reader. But… there is a subtle difference between creating curiosity and click-bait.
A Click-bait headline creates desperation.
Example – “11 things you need to know about Brad Pitt – Number 5 will blow your mind away.”
And while such headlines may work for the business model of Buzzfeed, you and I are looking to build long-term trust. We seek resonance, not mere clicks. The question is not – “How can I get the person to click?”
A better question is – “How can I turn my page visitor into a fan?”
“How can I create a valuable experience for him?”
We don’t want mere clicks. We want the reader to come visit our blog again and again.
Let’s take an example.
Consider these two headlines –
- “Here’s the one thing that your marketing is missing”
- “How your marketing is missing the element of storytelling, and here’s how you fix it”
Number 1 is leaning towards being clickbaity, while number 2 is revealing everything. No secrets are being held back. But the second headline will attract and resonate with an audience that already believes that storytelling is important, while the first headline will attract a generic audience and will resonate with only a few of them.
Okay, time to wrap things up.
Don’t be like me. Writing headlines is not desperate. It’s a generous act of giving your content a chance to thrive. While writing headlines, write many of them. Quantity is your friend. Steal from others. And like a bad magician, reveal all your tricks in the headline. Don’t be clickbaity.
Because while magic may not be able to kill the snake plant, over-watering does.