Winning, profitable, popular content is content that is read. Content that isn’t read is simply worthless. Often, the crucial difference between the two is an engaging headline or a relevant tagline. Headlines consist of the text before an article or section. Taglines consist of a slogan used to describe an article or a caption for a photo.
Celebrities: Surprising, Amazing, or Funny
People adore celebrities, perhaps because they admire them or because they show us what we could achieve. Celebrities definitely reflect life in the extreme, and people love to read about money and glamour and fame. Although focusing a headline on a popular celebrity might engage readers, a more effective method would be to focus on a surprising turn of events. For example, “Brad Pitt Narrowly Survives Earthquake in Peru” is a fictitious example. A headline that really happened might read: “Matthew McConaughey surprises fans with free Thanksgiving Turkeys.” Such headlines for an article or a tagline of a thumbnail picture piques curiosity and helps increase reader engagement.
One of the most effective ways to attract attention is by creating within the headline or tagline a punchline or hook. For instance, articles about millionaires are nothing new, but headlines such as “High School Dropouts with Million-Dollar Fortunes” reverses the common (and often unwarranted) expectation that high school dropouts will not be successful. Jennifer Lawrence is a great example of dropouts achieving fantastic success as she didn’t finish middle school. Another example might be “Five Healthy Foods that Might be Killing You” or “Three People Just Like You Who Will Probably Live Forever.”
The ideas that people might die from healthy foods and that some immortals are just like normal people are reversals of the traditional thoughts that healthy foods are, well, healthy, and that normal people eventually die. This type of hook draws in readers.
One popular method of engaging readers is to make the headlines, or taglines interactive, meaning the text engages the reader, and the reader engages the text. Interactivity might consist of a quiz-type headline such as “Your Response to Five Common Scenarios Will Determine if You Have A Billionaire’s Brain.” These types of headlines engage readers, and the reader engages the material by applying it to his or her personality or perspective. Another popular way to create interactive headlines would be to use horoscopes. Horoscopes engage readers by having them apply predictions or advice to their daily activity. Horoscopes are especially effective because the article sticks with the reader throughout the day, and when the predictions seem to come true, the person will return the next day for another.
Recent Dramatic Events
When people read about dramatic events they are instantly engaged because of the extreme and sudden nature of the event and the impact of the event on popular or well-known places or people.
For instance, events that involve human tragedy such as hurricanes and other natural disasters are extremely engaging because readers might imagine themselves experiencing the event which evokes an emotional response. Crafting effective headlines for these types of events are best left simple: “Hurricane Decimates Florida” or “Volcano Spews Ash over Seattle.”
When faced with such headlines, readers often immediately empathize with the victims and often think about what they would have done in the event, how they would have escaped, how they would have done things differently, even imagine themselves as heroes. Many readers may be inspired to help victims of a tragedy and as a result, increase the likelihood that they will return to read more and hopefully have another opportunity to help again. Other dramatic events may cover major medical breakthroughs or unexpected business successes. Focusing on these types of dramatic events helps people stay informed giving readers the ability to change their lives for the better. Providing people with the ability to improve their lives is a sure-fire way to ensure readers return for more.
Fame and Fortune
Sometimes the article or slideshow is comprised primarily of images. In these instances, due to copyright issues or licensing stipulations, content providers might only be able to use mundane or slightly boring photos. In these instances where photos do not inspire, taglines to the image will help spur increased reader engagement. Even a stock photo of cash might be more interesting with the tagline: “Two Famous Actors Give Over Twenty Thousand Dollars in Tips.”
Technically True Awesome Shockers
If there is a way to pleasantly shock your reader, he or she will enjoy the experience. This is accomplished best by not focusing on disgusting or gratuitous details but on the humane details that are truly shocking or awesome. A recent event involving journalists dying as they tried unsuccessfully to save a friend might have the title of “Two Friends Die Trying to Save Third,” but this type of headline or tagline isn’t really shocking. It’s kind of awesome, but not entirely unheard of. Focusing on “Two Extreme Bloggers Die Living Their Credo” might be one way to provide a surprising or shocking headline because although some people die for their beliefs, it’s rare in the blogosphere.
For an example of the “technically true” shocker, an example might be “Girl is Immune to Bites by Family Dog (Shocking Video — Are You Sick If You Laugh?)” might be a “shocking” headline for a video in which a young girl laughs as she plays with the family puppy. Such a headline is shocking, and it’s technically true. The trick for this type of headline or tagline is to only use it when the content is rewarding. Viewers or readers will forgive gimmicks if the content gives a return on the time spent to watch or read it, but if the content doesn’t live up to the headline, they won’t return because no one enjoys feeling duped.
Surprise—Sand in the Eye
Sand-in-the-Eye Headlines are simple, sentimental headlines that typically deal with puppies, kittens, babies, or newborn animals at various zoos. Although such articles are often rewarding, it’s best to headline them with some type of surprise—the more specific, the better. For instance, the headline “Baby Chimp Wrestles with Keeper” can be slightly improved by writing “Baby Chimp Learns to Wrestle.” This description can be further improved by phrasing the content in a surprising way. Perhaps “Baby Chimp Wins Arm Wrestling Contest.” Or perhaps “Forty Pound Chimp Might Someday Earn Black Belt in Judo.” However the headline is crafted, including a specific surprising detail about the content helps draw readers.
Don’t be afraid to Mix and Match
As might be readily apparent, it is often best to mix and match the approaches. For example, if a headline includes a shocker—reverse it. Another example could be a headline that involves a dramatic event might also include sentimental “sand-in-the-eye” type headlines. Or a tagline that manages to include celebrities or use horoscopes in addition to fame and fortune and kittens is instantly intriguing. What reader could possibly resist?
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