How to Overcome a Headline Hurdle Like LeBron James

by Lauren Tivnan on June 22, 2016

So you wrote the article. Five hundred words researched, organized and edited. You wrote, re-wrote, tweaked and are ready to hit “post.”

That’s when you realize you need to write a great headline. One that stops your reader mid-scroll and grabs their attention.

That’s also about the same time your head hits your desk. 

Now Gold Fish Have Longer Attention Spans Than We Do

Writing a strong headline is hard. Not only do you have to accurately convey what your article is about, you have to capture the reader’s attention while competing in a world where readers can’t stop scrolling. Then you have to do it in record time.

Recent stats from the folks over at Statistics Brain have shown that you’ve got only 3 seconds to capture your reader’s attention and only 15 seconds to then keep it. If you visit their site (which you should) you’ll also learn that a gold fish now has a longer attention span (9.0 seconds) than we do (8.5 seconds). Yup. Gold fish can focus longer than a human with a smart phone.

This is exactly why you need to write a headline to make your audience stop and focus on your content. Here’s three tips to help you get started.

Three Tips to Overcome the Headline Hurdle

1. Make it useful.

What’s the one big thing your reader will take away from your article? The one single thing (we call them benefits in the marketing world) that you want them to remember and take action on? Start with writing down the one major benefit in five words or less. Consider that the “first draft” of your headline.

2. Make it trendy.

Then, take a moment to stop writing and start scrolling. Yes, I said it. Become your reader. Stop writing and tune in to what’s going on in the world.

Is there a sporting event (think Stanley Cup play-offs, Kentucky Derby, World Series) or pop-culture reference (think Oscars, entertainment, not-really-news, “news”) that you can tie your headline to?

Not sure? Then head on over to Twitter and scroll through their “What’s Trending” section. Still not sure? Google has a new tool called Google Trends that shows the latest hot searches in the U.S. and across the world. It’s a really cool tool that help take the pulse of online searches worldwide.

3. Make it compelling.

This is where folks usually get hung up writing their headlines. They start by trying to make their headline compelling right off the bat and they run straight into a headline hurdle. Completely understandable.

Remember, you can’t make your headline compelling if you can’t convey the one main benefit your readers will take away from your article. And you can’t write a compelling headline, if you don’t know what is trending on social media. See how this works?

If you’ve followed the steps above and still can’t come up with a compelling headline, try asking a provocative question to your reader and makes them ponder a point.  Announce exciting news. Or, appeal to their “how-to” instinct.

Once you grab your reader (and don’t worry, you will) you’ll content will do the rest of the work. If all else fails, read it to your pet gold fish. At least you can hold their attention!

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