Writing for digital media is a bit different to writing for print, for one main reason; time.
Your readers have access to an infinite amount of information in their news, search engine or social media feed. If you want them to read something you wrote, you have to convince them, incredibly quickly, that what you to say is worth the time.
Approximately 80% of people reading your blog for instance will not get past the headline. Only 20% will read on. So, use your headline to hook people in and increase that conversion rate of people who will read on to the juicy stuff, and to the bits that make you money.
Your readers will be scrolling very fast, and depending on their age, can process an ad in between 2 and 6 seconds. If you have information that will take longer than six seconds to deliver, you need to grab people with a picture and/or a heading. If you grab them, they are more likely to stop and read.
How to write a better article
Here are some things that you need to improve on your article, if you want people to stop and read it:
- Grab them with a great hook or heading (more about this below)
- Tell them at the top of the piece how long it will take to read (between four and eight minutes is good)
- Write as though you are speaking conversationally to someone; use direct, clear wording and shorter sentences, and words that are easy to understand.
- Your paragraphs should be no more than two sentences, or three lines long
- Break them up often with sub-headings
- Write sub-headings as though the reader hasn’t read any other part of the article yet, because if they are scrolling through quickly, then it is likely that they haven’t. For instance, don’t have a heading that says, ‘What does this mean?’ but say ‘What do you mean by Energy Healing?’
- Break up your articles with dot points, numbered lists, quotes, pictures and tables.
- Include a summary at the start, and at the end.
So, what is a good heading anyway?
The aspiring author in me is a bit horrified to admit what a good heading is today, but it sure ain’t what it used to be!
Headings, like the articles, do not benefit from being too mysterious, abstract or unclear. There is a certain amount of tantalising you can do, which is what gets people to click on or read further, but if you are too vague, then you are making things too hard for them. Making things difficult is not what social media or digital marketing is about.
Eight ways to write better headings
Make your headings the correct length
Headings that are too short and especially too long are ineffective. Your headline needs to be easy to read and to digest. The ideal length is around 6 words, or 55 characters, so try not to go too far either side of this. This effects how people read it, but also how much of the heading they see in things like google page headlines or email subject lines. So, keep it shorter.
Position the words in your heading wisely
Adhering to this tip is a little bit harder, but most readers tend to read the first three words and last three words of a headline only (hence why six words is ideal). So, if your heading is longer, make the start and end of the heading more relevant to the reader.
Headings should include keywords
Headings that contain searchable keywords and phrases are more likely to grab readers, as well as ensure your article appears higher up on search engine pages. For instance, words like Tips, Headings, and Hooks are words that people search for.
Include emotional or power words
Readers are more likely to stop for words and headings that convey emotion or power. Including words like Compelling or Shocking or Surprising, or phrases like ‘You won’t believe your eyes!’ or ‘Wait until you see what happened next.’
Headings that are neutral in sentiment and don’t get an emotional feeling in the reader are less likely to be clicked on than ones that have definite positive or negative emotion. Think of headlines like, ‘Something every parent needs to know!’, this will get people reading.
Ideally you should have a healthy mix of emotional, power, common and uncommon words.
Create a sense of time or urgency
Place words like Now, Immediately, Today, in your heading. This gives the impression that the reader should not pass this article by or save it to read later, because the information will then be irrelevant.
This creates in the reader that very millennial sense of FOMO or Fear Of Missing Out. Your readers will stop and look further because they do not want to be the only one who doesn’t know this, and even better, they would like to be the first.
Build headings that solve problems or improve your readers’ lives in some way
Use headings like, ‘How to get your newborn to sleep,’ or ‘Ways to increase the value of your home,’ or ‘Three simple tricks to losing weight that you need to start right now.’ These headlines tap into problems that a large number of people have, so increase the amount of people who are likely to read on.
Types of headlines that work well
Using all of the above guidelines, there are also a number of specific types of headings that are very good at grabbing people. They are also more likely to get shared.
- Headings that ask a question: Are you always stressed?
- Create a How To: How to reduce your energy bills
- Build a list, especially a list of an odd number of things: 5 lipstick shades that will pop this summer or The Top Ten ways to include your pet in your wedding
- Tell people how they can get something they want, and still retain something they don’t want to lose: How to decorate your home without spending too much or How to lose weight without exercising
Confused about your headings yet?
While all of this sounds a little bit hard to juggle, you don’t need to keep it all in mind; talk to RANDI Digital about ways to improve your current headings or create new compelling ones.