In a digital landscape overpopulated with branded messaging, your headlines must stand out from the crowd. But how?

The web is flooded with content vying for attention from online users. But even the most well-written article chock-full of reputable sources and valuable information will go unnoticed if it’s missing one key element: a catchy headline.

So what’s the secret to crafting the perfect headline? While the answer may vary from industry to industry, there are a few tips that are applicable across the board.

Research Trending Topics

Even the most perfectly formulated, tantalizing headline won’t generate traffic if nobody cares about the subject at hand. Doing research to discover what’s trending in your industry is a valuable practice for brands, as it equips you with concrete data on the content that’s been most successful for others (and therefore worth emulating).

Choose several hot topics and think about how they relate to your specific industry. Carving out your own unique take on a trending subject is a great way to create relevant, industry-specific content that still feels fresh. Convince & Convert notes the importance of piggybacking on trends, even in non-conventional ways, such as “using brands or topics metaphorically to make a comparison with something very different.”

Use a Headline Analyzer

Writing headlines is, in our estimation, one of the hardest skills to master. It takes creativity and a concerted effort, and many people simply don’t spend enough time thinking about, revising, and rewriting their headlines to perfection.

If you face serious writer’s block every time you try to come up with an eye-catching headline, we have some good news: you don’t have to go it alone. There’s a bevy of helpful tools available to get the creative juices flowing and analyze your efforts — and while you shouldn’t necessarily rely solely on an analyzer to create your headlines, using these type of tools for validation or to make small tweaks can be helpful.

A good place to start is with the CoSchedule Headline Analyzer, which gives you an overall score and tips for improvement. Try writing at least 10 different headlines, then run each through the analyzer. See which one scores best. Aim to score a 70 at minimum (ours scored a 74!). While this won’t guarantee success, it does improve the odds that people will click and share your article.

Consider Your Social Channels

While formulas can be helpful for writing headlines, you won’t necessarily use the same type of headline for each social media channel. Different platforms respond best to different types of content and subject matter.

When you conduct your research, take note of the kinds of posts that work better for Facebook as opposed to Twitter or LinkedIn. For instance, research conducted by BuzzSumo suggests that “words like ‘amazing’ work well on Facebook whereas ‘successful’ has more appeal on LinkedIn.” In other words, your headline has to be written in a format that appeals to — and therefore has the greatest potential for success among — the userbase of your social platform of choice.

Get Inspired

Like most things in life, knowing where to begin is half the battle. If you’re having trouble getting started, check out the 100 most shared headlines of 2016 for inspiration. It sometimes helps to look at popular posts and think about why certain words or headline formulas might entice a person to read further.

Browse Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms for more ideas of the types of headlines that resonate on social media. Write down a few of the headlines that jump out at you as you scroll through the infinite stream of posts, but remember: what you think is a great headline may not perform well with a larger internet audience. Hard, fast data tells a far more important story than your own personal preferences, so consider these important content marketing metrics to develop a holistic means of evaluating the resonance of your headlines.

Be Consistent

When you find a formula that works for your brand, be consistent. Break down each word in the headline and categorize them for future use.

BuzzSumo identifies the following five elements of viral posts: emotional, content type, topic, format, and promise, stating that “it is common for a viral headline to include three, four and often all five of these elements.” They include the following example: “27 Amazing Charts That Will Turn You Into A Baking Whiz,” which hits all five categories: it’s “amazing” (a strong emotion), there are “27” items (a listicle format), it contains charts (content type), it promises to “turn you into a whiz,” and the topic of “baking” is clear. By identifying and grouping commonalities among popular posts, it is easier to create a consistent pattern for writing headlines in the future.

Finally, keep in mind that different styles of headlines appeal to different audiences. The best way to find out what works for you is by using existing research and data as a guideline, and then tapping into your own industry knowledge to create a headline that’s specific to your target audience and overarching marketing goals.

Longneck and Thunderfoot offer brand publishing services and strategies to transform your company blog into a sophisticated trade publication that drives visibility and influence in your market. Learn more about brand publishing here.

Author Ami Foote

A graduate of the University of South Carolina, Ami is a staff writer at L&T. She has previously written for, Lowe’s Home Improvement, Britax Child Safety, and a variety of non-profits around the country. On a good day, you can find Ami obsessively consuming one or all of the following: folk music, NPR, black coffee, jeopardy, or Guinness.

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