Headlines that entice

Why do people fall for clickbait? Unlike writers of clickbait – those sensational headlines that don’t deliver what they promise – we try to write honest headlines. But we can learn from those who don’t.

If you sit back and observe your own behaviour, you get a pretty good idea why some headlines attract your attention and persuade you to click to find out more.

For example, I recently read a story about changes in the property market in Britain since the Brexit vote. Why? The story wasn’t particularly relevant to me. The clue was in the headline; it included the words ”revealed” and “surprising”.

On the other hand, I picked up a newspaper that I hardly ever read, because the headline referred to the area I live in.

Already we have two guidelines for web writers. One, make the headline intriguing, for example “the mysterious disappearance of Bing in China”. Two, make it relevant to the people you want to attract.

A third technique is to use numbers. People tend to go for headlines that suggest they are getting something useful in a form that is easy to take in. A headline such as “Ten benefits of …” will often persuade people to click.

You might use all three techniques and say something like “Five unexpected ways we can help you become a better writer”. Would you click on it?

If you’d like advice or training in headline writing or any other aspect of writing for the web, please contact me.

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