There are plenty of articles online which list the best headline formats. Most of the research has come from the world of ‘clickbait’, a rather disparaging label referring to the world of articles written to enable a headline which will prove compelling to click. People working in this area have massive amounts of data to show what does and doesn’t work, and we may as well learn from that.
Now, it’s unlikely that we’ll be writing articles headlined: “He decided to use a different blue widget – and the results will astound you” or several other styles you’ll see in the Mail Online’s ‘Sidebar of Shame’. But many of the proven formats do have a place in serious professional writing.
We’ve discussed in the past how articles should concentrate on what’s in it for the reader. Here’s the headline format which offers just that and also happens to match one of the proven styles:
How [xxx] did [yyy] and gained [zzz]
You’ll be able to see how it works instantly:
- [xxx] is the customer: obviously it’s great if it’s a well-known name, but it doesn’t have to be – indeed, it could just be a generic label such as “one UK sprocket extraction company”;
- [yyy] is what the customer did; and
- [zzz] is what benefit it brought them.
As a magazine editor, I used to read hundreds of case studies a year which were presented as announcements: “The Blue Widget Company installs a £1M Sprocket Extractor at Speedy Motor Racing”. Now that we’re writing directly for the customer, and know a lot more about what works, we need to be a lot cleverer. Now we would say: “How Speedy Motor Racing won the world title by cutting sprocket extraction times in half”. If you want the click, you need to generate the curiosity.