3 tried and tested ways you can increase readership of ...

3 tried and tested ways you can increase readership of your emails and online content

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Is no one opening your emails? Are your blog posts going unread? Are you getting no clicks on twitter?


Then it could be as simple as not getting the title right. Your content could be life changing, but if the headline isn’t right, it won’t get read.


In this post I will share with you 3 ways you can use headlines to generate interest and get your audience reading.


#1 Sell the benefits of your content

You need to appeal to the emotional brain.


Baba Shiv, a Stanford based neuroeconomist, has published much on this subject. Your emotional brain makes all your decisions and then the rational brain applies the logic afterwards.


So while you may think it is obvious to your audience that they will be interested in your content, if you haven’t poked at their emotions, you have already lost them.


What you need to do is sell the benefits of your content to the reader. The headline of this post is an example of a benefit headline.


I am writing a post for those who create digital content (most of us do to some extent), particularly those who may be experiencing difficulties in reaching their audience.


If I had gone with the headline “Writing headlines for digital content”, would you be reading right now? That is the feature of this post, it doesn’t tell the reader what it means to them and doesn’t tell the reader why they would want to read it.


You need to ask yourself “what problem does the reader want to solve?” Direct the title to the reader, make it personal. “You” is a very powerful word.


#2 Make your reader curious

You may have seen those articles on social media; “Dog falls 500ft off a cliff and survives, but that isn’t what shocked me most…”


Okay, there is a time and place for these kinds of curiosity headlines and they suffer from not being particularly well targeted, but they do grab your attention and it gives you an idea of the pull of this type of headline


What may work better for you is the question headline. If you ask the right question, the reader will want to know your answers. This comes down to knowing your audience and “what questions are my readers asking right now?”.


Questions are a good alternative to label headlines. For example, it may be that you have been told that all staff are required to have a new staff photo taken. You choose to share this information by email, what headline are you going to use as a subject?


“Staff Profile Pictures”, “New Staff Profile Pictures”, what is your reaction when you see this subject? It tells you nothing, it is just a label and could be mistaken for an information email.


We often think that when we write emails they need to be formal, and don’t get me wrong, sometimes they do. However, email is a relatively informal method of communication and playing on that can help you engage your reader.


Grab their attention and generate some interest, in the case of the staff profile pictures, how about going with “Do you like your staff photo?…”.


#3 Use numbers to engage your reader

A conductor study found that number headlines resonate most with readers and generate the highest click rates.


So what is a number headline? Well this post has one and if you are familiar with Buzz Feed, you will have seen such number headlines as “The 25 Most Awkward Cat Sleeping Positions”.


Numbers manage a reader’s expectations, letting them know what they are getting when they click on a link. They can also aid the credibility of your content.


Guidelines for using numbers in headlines:

  • Use numerals not letters, in print we are advised to spell out numbers 1 to 9. However, you do not read online text the same as you do print and it is thought that numerals stand out more and draw the eye.


  • Instructional lists are great, listicles are everywhere online “3 ways to”, “7 top tips” etc. But you should stop at 10, in fact stop at 9.


Why 9? Well 2 reasons, firstly 10 can make people cynical – how many of that 10 are filler to round up. Secondly, the symmetry of even numbers makes them bland.


Yes, it seems that although we love symmetry, and you may see an element of trust in even numbers, they don’t stand out.


So, stick to small odd numbers for lists. Why small?  Well, would you want to commit to “47 ways you can…”?


  • When ranking, 10 is the ideal number. This is contradictory to instructional lists, I know, but when we search for the “top” or “best” of something, we are likely to use a number ending in 0 or 5.


  • And another contradiction, you may not commit to “39 top tips for…” but you may well commit to “21 Pictures of Cats Sitting Awkwardly”. Entertainment posts benefit from large numbers, with 29 being the most popular number with Buzz Feed readers.


The large and seemingly unusual numbers make these types of content authentic. They suggest you have only included the really worthwhile images out of the 1000s available online.

Get in touch

Do you have any top tips for headlines for digital content or would you like to know more about writing digital content?

If so, we enjoy hearing from you and you can comment using the form below.

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