By Lolly Spindler

how to write headlines

Do you ever find yourself at a loss when it comes to writing a headline? Do you ever feel a bit intimidated by all of the great headlines and the sheer volume of content out there?

Don’t fear! By learning a few headline formulas and how to properly construct them, you can get your content in front of more people and make your mark in the blogosphere.

I recently downloaded and read the eBook “How to Write Magnetic Headlines” by Brian Clark of CopyBlogger and learned a lot of great techniques to apply to my own headline-writing. Therefore, I decided to summarize and share my new-found knowledge with a real estate tweak to make it more applicable to all those blog-writing-Realtors out there. What follows is how to get started writing headlines, as well as the basics and the alternatives of headline writing. Furthermore, there are 22 concrete headline examples and their real estate incarnations.

But before we start, there is something very important to know about headline writing: On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest. Therefore, your headline has to be eye-catching and pique the reader’s interest, or it won’t get read. This is largely due to the inundation of information being thrown at us from all angles these days—people just don’t have enough time to read everything anymore.

As Brian states, “A poorly-crafted headline allows good deeds [like your content] to go unnoticed.” So take time to create well-crafted headlines, and let great content (and more readers) follow.

THE BASICS

keyword research

Keyword Research

If you have any familiarity with SEO and the blogosphere, you’ve heard of a keyword. Why are keywords important? Because keywords help signal search engines (like Google, Bing, etc) to pull up your content when someone searches using that particular word. Therefore, incorporating a keyword into your headline, as well as throughout your content, is crucial.

To get started, check out Google AdWord’s Keyword Planner (formerly Keyword Tool). This will allow you to get a general idea of people’s searching habits, including average monthly searches and the amount of competition for that word.

For example, while the word “Realtor” is searched for 1.5 million times a month, “Real Estate Agent” is searched for only 12,100 times, and “Real Estate Professional” only 720. Furthermore, “selling a house” has 2,400 hits a month, while “selling a home” only brings in 880. These numbers will help you hone in on exactly what words you should be using in your headlines.

You can also go the niche phrase route instead of picking an overly-popular keyword. Niche phrases are more specific and therefore have less competition. A great example of a niche phrase in real estate would be “homes for sale in [the city you work in]” or “[the city you word in] real estate listings.”

Once you’ve decided on a keyword, Google it to see which existing headlines are doing the best. This will give you an idea of your competition and what pre-existing headlines are already performing well in search engine land. If you want to take it a step further, you can see what these articles are offering and employ the Skyscraper Technique to beat them out and potentially rank higher (we’ll talk about this technique more in a bit).

Headline Spring Boards

headline

First, let’s take a look at the most clicked-through words that can help jumpstart your headline.

In “11 SEO Changes That Will Give You Big Results,” Neil Patel of QuickSprout.com states that “by analyzing 63 Google Webmaster Tools accounts, I’ve found that the most clicked-through words are:

  1. How to
  2. [List-related numbers]
  3. Free
  4. You
  5. Tips
  6. Blog post
  7. Why
  8. Best
  9. Tricks
  10. Great

Let’s take a look at numbers one, two, and seven, as these are the most popular headline formulas.

“How To” Headlines

By using a “how to” headline, you are promising to make readers’ lives “better, easier, [and] happier,” as Brian would say. In other words, you are offering a benefit to the reader.

These headlines work because people are motivated by benefits. If you can help make their lives a little bit easier, they’ll be more than happy to read what you have to say. Furthermore, Brian reminds us, “implied benefits don’t prompt action like express benefits do,” so make sure you are very forthcoming with exactly what the express benefit is right there in the headline. If you “spell out the benefits rather than relying on implication,” you’ll get through to a lot more people.

Here are three ways to write your “how to” headline:

  1. “How to [benefit #1] and [benefit #2]” with benefit one and two being related
    1. Real Estate Example: “How to Buy a House and Keep Your Sanity”
  2. “How to [do a task] that [reaps you a reward]”
    1. “How to Write Headlines that Drive More Traffic to Your Real Estate Blog”
  3. “How I [did something]” (which makes it more personal)
    1. “How I Helped My Buyers Find Their Dream Home”

List Headlines

list headlines

List headlines and content work, mainly due to the fact that the reader can see exactly how many benefits they will be taking away from your article.

For this type of headline, start with a number and then write what you’re offering the reader. For example, let’s say I want to write about mortgages that require little money down. Once I’ve done some research, I have a number to add to the beginning of my headline: “3 Mortgages That Require Little Money Down.”

But I’m not done yet. Now I type my niche phrase “mortgages that require little money down” into Google. What do I find? Someone has already written a list of 4 mortgages that require little money down. That’s when I employ the Skyscraper technique (which I mentioned under Keyword Research).

The Skyscraper technique was created by Brian Dean of Backlinko.com and is simple in theory, time consuming in practice, but incredibly beneficial in the long run. Basically, you perform a search of the topic you want to write about and find out what your competition is offering on that subject (as I did for mortgages). You find the list article with the highest number, then double or triple it. Since my competition in the example above had 4 mortgages, I need to find 8 or 12 mortgages that require little money down. Not only will I be offering more value to my readers, Google will take note of the longer length of my article.

This technique really does work. In fact, I used it when writing an article about tools for Realtors and ended up with the “Top 55 Real Estate Tools for Agents.” Published on April 14th of this year, it’s already our second most-viewed article.

Lastly, as Brian Clark of CopyBlogger reaffirms, “[list] posts and articles are perfect for building your authority and demonstrating a mastery of your area of expertise”—just another reason why they make perfect headlines for Realtors.

“Why” Headlines

“Why” headlines do well for the same reason “how to” headlines perform, they tell the reader exactly what benefit the content is offering.

“Why” should start off your headline, followed by a declarative statement—not a question. An example of such a headline would be “Why Some Homes Sell More Quickly than Others.”

In essence, it tells readers why they should read your article—because they want to know more about the declarative statement you just made.

Brian reminds us to “make a strong statement that clearly demonstrates that the elaborated answer will be provided in the body content.” However, don’t promise something you can’t deliver. One way to ensure you don’t do this is to employ modifiers to help showcase your credibility (note the word “some”).

THE ALTERNATIVES

Alternative Headlines

Have you had your share of commonplace “how to,” list, and “why” headlines and want to spice it up a bit? Brian gives us some alternative headlines, while I provide some real estate-related examples.

  1. “Who Else Wants [insert word here]?”
    1. “Who Else Wants a Hassle-Free Home Selling Process?”
  2. “The Secret of [insert word here]”
    1. “The Secret of Maximing the Investment Value of Your Home”
  3. “Here is a Method That is Helping [this] to/do [that]”
    1. “Here is a Method That is Helping Home Buyers Determine Buying Power”
  4. “Little Known Ways to [do something]”
    1. “Little Known Ways to Profit from a Fixer”
  5. “Get Rid of [a problem] Once and For All”
    1. “Get Rid of the Dog Smell in Your Home Once and For All”
  6. “Here’s a Quick Way to [solve a problem]”
    1. “Here’s a Quick Way to Determine Ideal Room Sizes for Furniture”
  7. “Now You Can Have [something desirable] and [do something else desirable]”
    1. “Now You Can Have a Mortgage and Still Have Cash to Burn”
  8. “[Do something] like [world-class example]”
    1. “Profit from Real Estate like Donald Trump”
  9. “Have a [blank] OR Build a [blank] You Can Be Proud Of”
    1. “Have a Front Yard You Can Be Proud Of”
  10. “What Everybody Ought to Know About [insert word here]”
    1. “What Everybody Ought to Know About Buying a Home”
  11. “Give me [short time period] and I’ll Give You [insert word here]”
    1. “Give Me 3 Days and I’ll Give You a Personalized Marketing Plan for Your Home”
  12. “If You Don’t [do this] Now, You’ll Hate Yourself Later”
    1. “If You Don’t Know Your Home Loan Options Now, You’ll Hate Yourself Later”
  13. “The Lazy [blank’s] Way to [blank]”
    1. “The Lazy Seller’s Way to Stage a Home”
  14. “Do You Recognize the [number] Early Warning Signs of [blank]?”
    1. “Do You Recognize the 5 Early Warning Signs of Mold in Your Home?”
  15. “See How Easily You Can [desirable result]”
    1. “See How Easily You Can Close on a House”
  16. “You Don’t Have to Be [something challenging] to be [desired result]”
    1. “You Don’t Have to Be a World Class Author to Write an Offer”
  17. “Do You Make These Mistakes [doing something]?”
    1. “Do You Make These Mistakes When Pricing a Home?”
  18. “Warning: [blank]”
    1. “Warning: If You Don’t Listen to Your Partner’s Needs, You May End Up Buying the Wrong Home”
  19. “How [this] Made Me [that]”
    1. “How Losing a Listing Made Me a Better Realtor”
  20. “Are You [blank]?”
    1. “Are You Ready to Sell Your Home?”
  21. “[Blank] Ways to [blank]”
    1. “20 Ways to Increase Curb Appeal”
  22. “If You’re [this], You Can [that]”
    1. “If You’re Pre-Approved for a Loan, You Can Search for a Home with Confidence”

Remember to use these headlines in the appropriate context. If your headline structure doesn’t match up with your content, or if you don’t live up to your promise, you may lose those precious readers forever.

CONCLUSION

Don’t forget: if people don’t believe you can deliver on your promise, a.k.a. your headline, they won’t bother reading any further. To conclude, here are some last bits of headline-writing advice from Brian:

  1. Say it simply and directly.
  2. State the big benefit.
  3. Announce exciting news.
  4. Appeal to the “how to” instinct (think self improvement).
  5. Pose a provocative question.
  6. Bark a command (but be helpful).
  7. Offer useful information (that in turn offers people control over their lives; think tips, secrets, etc).
  8. Relay an honest, enthusiastic testimonial.
  9. Be quirky (add something extra).

Employing these techniques in your headline and content writing strategy will allow you to grab more eyes, capture more peoples’ attention, improve your click through rate (CTR), and ultimately drive more traffic to your site. By taking these—and any SEO tips—and making them applicable to real estate, you’ll be ahead of the curve.

 

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