Let’s face it — it’s extremely difficult to attract audiences.
Even with the most groundbreaking or earth shattering news, it’s far too easy for content to get lost in the proverbial haystack. Whether the aim is to capture the attention of an assignment editor in a newsroom, engage a potential customer on Twitter, or garner a top ranking for an online search, an alluring headline is required to generate engagement.
Content creators are up against the well-documented, ever-shrinking attention span. A recent Microsoft study declared attention spans are eight seconds long, shorter than the one reportedly held by goldfish. Another suggested the majority of internet users spend less than 15 seconds on a webpage.
Is it because consumers are selective, only attracted to high high-quality, relevant, and resourceful information. Or is there another reason in play?
On April Fools Day in 2014, National Public Radio trolled its audience, publishing a short article, entitled, “Why Doesn’t America Read Anymore?” Instead of reading about society’s literary deficiencies, those who clicked were let in on the joke: share the article, don’t comment, and enjoy a good laugh reading the ironic commentary of the people who obviously didn’t read the article.
In fact, some of the data surrounding social shares shows just how un-engaged social media participants are. According to a study by computer scientists at Columbia University and the French National Institute, 59% of links shared on social media have never actually been clicked by the sender.
The point being, headlines are extremely powerful. They are oftentimes the first and only thing audiences read about a brand, and there are only a few seconds to get a bite.
The headline and the press release
Before a headline is written, these questions need to be answered by the brand: Who is my audience? What do you want them to do? Why is it relevant?
Once these questions are answered, the press release is essentially written. Now comes the headline.
Making headlines great again
A Google search on how to write the perfect headline generates hundreds of blogs and articles. Last year, Cision published an insightful blog outlining 10 tips for writing a great press release headline.
In 2017, BuzzSumo analyzed over 100 million headlines to better answer the question of what makes a headline successful. Key takeaways covered phrases that drive the most engagement, worst performing headlines, and differences between B2B versus B2C headlines.
But perhaps the biggest takeaway is that there is no magic headline formula. Even if a headline does not have a catchy trigger, a number or a promise, it can still be effective, especially if the right keywords are included.
Use Google to drive search visibility
Compared to their marketing counterparts, PR professionals have been slow to incorporate data into their workflow. For example, digital marketing professionals know exactly what their target audiences are searching for, while PR professionals are left in the dark.
To boost impact and reach, there are numerous tools to optimize a headline. There are advanced search engine marketing tools like Moz Keyword Explorer and Google Keyword Planner, but for the majority of PR pros, this is way more than is necessary.
Instead, leverage the easy-to-use and completely free Google Trends, which will compare keywords and phrases and instantly calculate the level of interest over time.
What to do
After the press release is written, take notice of the industry-specific keywords and phrases used most often. Check with digital and content marketing teams to see if they have target keywords to be included.
Generate a list of main keywords and phrases, and then visit trends.google.com.
In the search bar, enter the first keyword. Depending on the target audience, adjust the location accordingly.
Compare up to five queries in a single search.
After finding the phrase that receives the most attraction, write headline and include it.
A final tip
Adjust the time period based on content. If it’s a timely news release and immediate search visibility is required, adjust the time frame to the past seven days or less. But for long-tail search visibility, keep the search fixed on the past 12 months.