How to write great headlines for blogs and email subject lines

A headline is the most important part of just about any document. A powerful title draws your readers in, persuading them to read your blog post or open that email!

You spend ages writing a killer blog or beautiful email newsletter, something that will be really useful to your customers. And then you remember it needs a headline, and whack something in as an afterthought.

Tempting if you are in a rush, but not smart. A headline is the most important part of just about any document. A powerful title draws your readers in, persuading them to read your blog post or open that email!

In our view, powerful headlines for blogs and email subject lines should do two things above all else:

  1. Stand out specifically to your target audience
  2. Get them to carry on reading

Get those two things correct and you won’t go far wrong. But let’s explore blog headlines and email subject lines in a little more detail.

What is a headline?

A headline is the first thing that a prospective reader will see. And unless it is good, the only thing! It is essential for it to make an impact on the right people i.e. those who you want to talk to.

There are many techniques to maximise the power of headlines, but whilst writing one you must always bear in mind that it is introducing your reader to the rest of your communication. So you need to make sure that what your headline offers is delivered underneath.

Why are headlines important?

As we have covered, good headlines for blogs and email subject lines will engage the reader. You are trying to get them to read on and take in what you have to say.

Headlines must be captivating and here are some facts that highlight why:

  • Five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy underneath.
  • Many pros devote a significant proportion of the time they spend writing the content to thinking up a good headline.
  • Research shows that negatives in headlines do not perform as well as positives e.g. Our sausages contain no added salt.
  • We are exposed to anywhere between 247 and 3,000 marketing messages everyday. We use headlines as filters to focus on what is relevant to us.

Copywriting legend David Ogilvy described running an advert without a headline as “the wickedest of all sins”.

What makes a good headline?

So what are the attributes of great headlines for blogs and email subject lines?

Remember, a headline must catch attention. To be noticed good headlines often encompass shock, drama, news, the promise of useful information or humour. You may observe that many of these involve emotional engagement. That is important.

Attributes of headlines that encourage the reader to read on include:

  • Headlines with six to twelve words perform better than short headlines
  • Guides and informative statements – these types of headlines garner high click rates etc. e.g. “An introduction to…”, “The beginners guide to…”.
  • Punctuation! Headlines that include question marks and exclamation marks generally do better than those without – use within reason though.
  • Numbers – readers love to see numbers in a headline. This is due to the fact that the reader knows that they will extract specific information whilst reading the article e.g. ‘The top 20 pubs in Bristol’.
  • Powerful adjectives – a good headline can be transformed into a great one when it uses powerful or interesting words such as ‘essential’, ‘unique’ and ‘incredible’. But be wary of over-hyping your content and losing credibility.

Ensuring your marketing emails don’t end up as spam

A significant obstacle that marketing emails face is the spam filter. These attempt to block unsolicited emails from being delivered to the prospective reader’s inbox.

According to a report published by Return Path, just 79% of commercial emails land in the inbox. In other words, because of spam filters or mailbox blocking, one in five marketing emails never even reaches the recipient.

Unfortunately, there is no blanket rule on how to avoid spam filters. But there are good practices you can follow:

  • Campaign metadata – use merge tags to put someone’s name into the To: field of the campaign, to inform spam filters that you know the intended recipient.
  • Coding – spam filters pick up on poor coding. So use a proven template or work with a designer when creating your marketing emails.
  • IP address – spam filters possess the ability to block emails sent from IP addresses that have a history of sending spam emails. Make sure you’re not one of them!

For a more technical look at this, check out this article on avoiding spam filters.

And what about the actual content of subject lines? Here are a few pointers:

  • Be concise – there is limited space to get your point across.
  • Be truthful – tell people what they will find if they read on, and don’t mislead them. That’s a sure-fire way to lose their trust.
  • If you have the facility, use A/B split testing every time to refine the message that works to your target audience.
  • Consider personalising with names or other information if you have the data and ability to add it.

What to do next

Good headlines for blogs and email subject lines are all about engaging the right readers – your target audience. Therefore it is important to invest time in writing them, and applying techniques that are known to work.

On Point Copywriting have extensive experience writing marketing communications, helping businesses reach their target audiences. If you need any assistance in writing gripping blog posts or engaging marketing emails, please speak to a member of our team.

Kaine Shutler