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How To Write Web Headlines That Beg To Be Read

By Expert Author: Walter Stewart

Web article headlines are different from news headlines are different from magazine headlines are different from catalog headlines are different from circular headlines are different from print ad headlines.
(If you're an astute copywriter, you should already have noticed this!)
Because we're on the web, today's discussion is about web article headlines. Some experts refer to these as article titles. Whatever you call it, the line that introduces your article should ALWAYS compel people to read more.
Imagine your web headline in the lineup of hundreds of other headlines on a page. YOUR headline should be like that overeager kid from your old fourth grade class, waving his hand in the air going, "Oooh! Ooh! Pick ME."
Web headlines don't mince words: generally, what you see is what you get. If they do play the occasional guessing game, the riddle is usually answered in the first line or first paragraph of the actual article. In the same way that good headlines compel your audience to read, they should compel you to write. Craft a list of solid web headlines BEFORE you write a word of copy, and you'll be pleasantly surprised at how easily the content just flows.
Perfect your headline writing skills: try your hand at these five popular styles of attention-getting headlines.
1. The question on everybody's minds:
Do You Really Need an E-zine?
Pose a question in the headline, answer it in the article. It's a simple formula that almost anyone can follow with ease. Here's the easiest way to learn what people want to know: ask them. Put out a survey and invite readers to share their most pressing questions in your industry. Even if just 10 people respond, that's enough headline and article-writing fodder to keep you busy for the next month.
2. The unexpected outcome:
Many Happy Returns: Find Out Why Today's Dissatisfied Customers Are the Key to Tomorrow's Success
A great writer can always find that silver lining in the dark clouds of despair, turn that frown upside-down, or deliver the unexpected "twist ending" to the story. Set this up in your headlines. If you have trouble, start with an issue. "I want to address customer care." Next think of a common challenge business owners face: returns. Finally, apply the positive spin: "I get upset when customers return items they bought from me, but it helps me define and correct what I did wrong the first time so I never make that mistake again." Make this the basis of your article and sum it up in a line, which will become your headline.
3. The straw man:
10 Reasons NOT to Revamp Your Web Copy (and Why They Couldn't Be More Wrong!)
Students of logical and rhetorical analysis learn how to tear down an argument point by point, as in the straw man argument. Do this in your article: write five positive statements that are the OPPOSITE of the point you intend to prove, and then defeat them with the alternate view one at a time. This may seem like a backward way of working, but argument always gets attention and it's often the missing ingredient needed to spice up your content and get people clicking.
4. The controversy:
Top 7 Misleading Statements by the Most Prominent Web Marketers
Feeling especially daring? Put a somewhat controversial statement out there and see who takes the bait. The headline above will no doubt paint you as the black sheep of internet marketing, but if you were the same color sheep as everyone else you wouldn't have much to brag about, would you. Admittedly, controversy has the potential to make you some enemies if you aren't super careful about what you say. But if you construct the article copy without name-calling or finger-pointing, you can draw some positive attention without alienating yourself from fellow colleagues in the process.
5. Informational (How-to, 5, 7 or 11 Reasons, Top 7 Ways, etc.):
How to Make Your Ezine Mailing MORE Professional in LESS Time
Top 5 Ways to Put More Ooph in Your Copy and Dramatically Increase Sales
While this type of headline (informative and instructional) remains popular, it's also in competition with the millions of other headlines out there just like it. Therefore, it's going to take some extra punching-up to get the informational headline on par with some of the previously mentioned headline treatments. Pay close attention to the end benefit. Is it something that the reader desperately wants for his own business? (More profit, more sales, less headaches, increased ROI?) Make sure the second benefit is there to create a sense of desire. Without it, you're just another marketer telling your readers, "How to Write Great Headlines!" (and why would anyone care to know that? ;)
The more articles you write, the better you'll get at creating headlines that are impossible to ignore. Go out there and study headlines written by other marketers. Keep a creative brainstorm file where you store headline concepts for future use. Take note of headlines of yours that worked especially well; analyze why, and use that tactic again to create more headlines. With practice and a little good luck, your headline well will never run dry again.

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