(Part 1 - get the message heard)
We’ve written about first impressions a number of times before when it comes to visuals or load times or technicalities of the website, but headings of course are the first impression when it comes to what people read.
Headlines are worth 90% of your advertising dollar because they can either draw the reader in for more, or send them to sleep.
Write the headings first, and last
When I am writing web content I start with headings as they give me structure to my thoughts - think back to year 8 essay drafting. I then fill in all the info I want to share. I then go back over it and re-work my headings to ensure they do everything I need them to:
- convey a benefit to reading on
- tell the user what is on the page without having to read any content
- include the appropriate SEO terms
How to convey a benefit with your heading
If I titled this section ‘headings must convey a benefit to the user’ do you think you would have read on? What portion of your decision to read this paragraph was influenced by the notion that by reading you would learn how to do it?
There are many ways of achieving the ‘benefit in headings’ idea, and here are my favourites:
- Use the ‘how to’ statement, then the user knows they will benefit with learning
- Use a statistic: “turn abandoned carts into 15% more sales”
- Put in a quality statement “create professional client proposals”
- Even better put in a time frame “create professional client proposals in minutes”
The type of heading we are looking for gives the ‘why?’ up-front. Compare these headings with ones that say “Services” and nothing else…
Do the opposite of telling a joke - start with the punchline
Web copy is the opposite of telling a ripping yarn. People on the web don’t have time to loll about while you amble along and eventually get to the point. They are hunters, looking for their next meal, and if it is too far away, they will change direction.
Make it so that the user only needs to read the paragraph if they are interested in what it will say. By the end of your body text you should have only really said what you already did in the heading but in more detail, for those who really want to understand what you mean.
For instance, my first heading for this block of text was ‘make sure the user knows what is on the page by reading the headline only’. That is what I want you to aim for as you write your headings, but was it not better that I just went straight to how to do it? That is the main message to take home.
This type of heading is a bit like putting the ‘how?’ up front.
Watch this space for Part 2 - SEO