Hibou Communication

Why headlines are important and how to grab your reader’s interest and keep them. 

The opening line in Peter Mayle’s well-known book, A Year in Provence, is memorable to anyone who has enjoyed reading the novel or watching the television programme. It captures the moment when the author starts to think of new beginnings, seizing the reader’s interest immediately. 

Mayle went on to write many other books which elegantly captured his love of Provence and France.  However, none are perhaps as remarkable as his best-selling memoir, when as a retired advertising executive he and his wife exchanged corporate life in the UK for pastures new in rural France. 

Deciding upon the title and opening words can sometimes be extremely quick – or can take quite a long time. In preparing copy for a client, I generally prefer to think about the title first, and once it is clear in my mind the words start to flow. However, on other occasions I will concentrate on writing the body of the text, returning at a later stage to finalise the introductory text. 

Grabbing the reader’s attention especially when writing online is of course critical, as people scroll through the headlines of articles and posts. The choice of heading is important too for SEO, and can play a key factor in conversion rates.  

What are the principles when writing a good title and headline? 

For every article I work on, I try to ensure that the headline is clear, concise, and informative. It should tell the reader what the article is about – essentially summarising the story crisply. 

There are similarly other tips to increase the chances someone will stop scrolling and read your content. 

Think about including numbers in the title – this can pique interest. 

People also like to read content which tells them how to do something – or answers a question, which is why ‘X reasons to do this’ and ‘How to do this’ are so popular. They imply that we will learn something interesting! You can also try asking a question – this can spur interest and may even yield comments. 

I mentioned in the beginning that headlines should be concise. Nevertheless, in today’s digital world there is space too for longer forms of text; and research has indicated that 15-word headlines had the highest average number of interactions. It certainly interested me when I read it – it may be worth a try!