Why the Headline is So Damn Important

collage of headlines

We’ve all been told how important a headline is. Now comes this from Copyblogger: Eight out of 10 people will only read the headline.

Kind of puts the headline’s importance in perspective, doesn’t it?

But what makes a good headline? What makes people claim that “Butt Seized by Terror Police” is a bad headline (and a real one from the British network ITV), and what makes “For Sale: One Used Internet Company Called Yahoo” a good headline (and a real one from NPR)?

If you want more of those eight people to read your words, you’ve got to know what it takes to craft a winning headline that will put the eyes on your prose.

There is only one thing that matters and that’s readers. The headline acts as the first impression that invites people to read on. Some might think a headline should make people care about the story. It doesn’t matter if they care. All that matters is if they read.

So, the reason ITV’s “Butt Seized by Terror Police” is a bad headline is because it makes you laugh and think it’s some kind of Onion headline not to be taken seriously. The real story is that a man named Hassan Butt was arrested at Manchester Airport on suspicion that he recruited British Muslims to join al-Qaeda. The headline doesn’t convey the seriousness of the story.

Similarly, NPR’s Yahoo headline works because it’s easy to understand, is specific, is not overly clever and leads to some sort of reader reaction.

When 80% of readers only read the headline, its importance cannot be overstated. Make sure your headlines lead to your desired results: the story getting read.

Lee Barnathan

Lee Barnathan

Imagine cradling your book in your arms. See yourself thumbing through the pages, reading the words, recognizing that what’s contained therein is your story, laid out for all to see. This symbol of your life is part catharsis and part healing. Your journey is complete, and you’ve reached the people who needed to hear your story.

You have a story that just has to be told. If you don’t get it out of your head, you will regret it. You know that if people just could tap into the wisdom that's inside you, their lives would change for the better.

You’ve probably been feeling like you need to sit down and get it on paper. But you haven’t made it a priority. Maybe it’s because you hate writing or you don’t consider yourself a writer. Perhaps the thought of you dedicating hours a day to organizing and writing your story is too overwhelming when piled on top of life’s demands.

Or maybe you’re beset with terror: "What if my story isn’t interesting or compelling enough to reach a wide audience? Am I good enough to tell it? Can I make it irresistible, a must-read?"

You're not alone. The vast majority of people who have experienced what life has to offer have a story to tell that’s worthwhile, unique and compelling, but they never get to do it for a wider audience.

Why is it so hard? Why are you like the 97% of people who start their book don’t finish it? There is a world of difference between having the story in your head and being able to get it down on paper.

What most people don’t realize is that having the story and writing the story require two different skill sets.

The more worthwhile and compelling your story is, the more critical it is to have a professional writer give it the treatment it deserves so it will touch lives in the way you envision. That’s why it’s so important to partner with a specialist who’s an expert in the art of storytelling. Your story is too important to leave to an amateur.

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