Writing a strong subject line will get your email noticed and opened, but it won’t ensure that your important message is read. For that, you need an irresistible headline. Every headline is a hook that pulls readers deeper into your content and leads them straight to your call to action, so you’ll want to take the time to write the very best. To help you craft eye-catching headlines that grab readers’ attention and keep them reading, we’ve pulled together these 10 tried-and-true tips:
1. Use the active voice
Keep your prose punchy, direct and engaging to readers by using the active rather than passive voice. In other words, write a sentence that describes the subject doing the action, not being acted upon. Here’s an example:
Active: I threw the ball.
Passive: The ball was thrown by me.
See how an active voice is much stronger than the passive voice?
2. Be crystal clear
If your headline doesn’t tell recipients what your content is about, they won’t take the time to decipher it and they won’t read your email. It’s best to keep your headline straightforward. Nobody wants to be tricked into reading an article that isn’t relevant to them.
3. Stay short and snappy
While there isn’t really an exact character count to follow, a good rule of thumb is that a headline should rarely break onto the second line. Keep your headline succinct and easy to scan. Your busy readers will thank you.
4. Teach people something useful
People want to know how to make pancakes, tie a tie, boil eggs, lose weight — you name it. Why not quench their thirst for knowledge with an informative email and a stellar how-to headline. Here are some examples:
- How to write catchy headlines that attract readers
- How to get bikini-ready in 24 hours
- How to look and feel 20 years younger
- How to jumpstart your productivity
5. Appeal to your audience
Always consider who you’re writing for and what matters to them when you’re coming up with a headline. The following examples appeal to the audience’s pride in their appearance as well as their status:
- Have a smile you can be proud of
- Now you can quit your job and make even more money
- Become the best-dressed guy in the room
- Become the leader you were born to be
6. Speak directly to your reader
Use “you” and “your” in your headlines to make the reader feel like you’re speaking directly to them. It makes your email more personal, and it lets readers know you’re in tune with their needs, desires and emotions.
7. Try trigger words
Use trigger words, such as what, why, how and when, to pique people’s curiosity and prompt them to keep reading your email:
- What you need to do now to list your home in the spring
- Why you need to change your LinkedIn headline … right now
- How to make a perfect quiche
- When is the right time to sell a stock?
8. Use numerals
Numerals work in headlines because they break up the monotony of text and tell readers exactly what to expect. Odd numbers, in particular, stand out to readers because they break the mold. You’ve probably seen a lot of “top 10” lists (including this one!), but how many “top 11” lists have you stumbled across? “Top 11” lists offer readers more tips, fun facts, ideas and value. And who doesn’t want that?
- 300 ways to make $1,000 in 2018
- 7 surefire ways for catching striped bass this winter
- 5 rules for gaining muscles
- 3 things you can do today to get your business found online
9. Make every headline count
One bad headline can be the reason your email is sent to the trash folder, so approach the writing process with care. Spend some time thinking about your headlines. What are you trying to tell your readers? How can you draw them in to read the rest of your content and get them to perform the desired action? The key is to reward people for reading your body copy. With this in mind, you can start writing your headlines.
10. Measure headline effectiveness
Be sure to write several variations so that you can optimize your headlines through A/B testing. Trying out different combinations of headlines, as well as subject lines, calls to action and design elements, is an important part of developing a successful email campaign.
Copyblogger found that 80 percent of your visitors will read your headlines — but only 20 percent will go on to finish the rest. If they don’t like what they see, then they won’t read your email. Why let lackluster headlines keep you from engaging your customers? Follow these tips, and you’ll be writing catchy headlines that attract customers in no time.
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Editor’s note: This article was originally published in May 2013. It has been updated and revised for accuracy and relevance.
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