The verbatim effect: 5 ways to do away with those boring headlines

A few years ago, I watched “300” with a few of my friends. At the time, we (or at least I) really enjoyed the movie and found that we couldn’t stop talking about it for some time.

Cut to a few weeks ago. We all got together for a little reunion. Before too long the conversation, as it does, shifted to movies, and someone brought up “300”. All we could remember, though, was that it was about a bunch of guys in barely-there clothes trying to kill each other.

For the life of us, we couldn’t remember too much else.

As far as I was concerned, the gist of the movie was just fighting and killing. This isn’t really all that surprising considering a study done by Poppenk, Joanisse, Danckert, and Köhler, which found that humans are more likely to remember the gist of what someone says and not the specifics.

This phenomenon is called the verbatim effect.

Consider this-statistics from Chartbeat suggest that modern users only spend around 15 seconds, on average, on a website. This is due to a combination of time constraints and a short attention span. A marketer needs to recognise this fact to get their message across effectively.

One workaround is to use the verbatim effect in marketing. This means focusing more on that all-important headline.

After all, people are more likely to remember the headline than the content of a blog post. Having an attractive and accurate headline, therefore, may help you attract new and repeat readers to your site.

In this post, I dive into a few ways you can make sure your headlines stand out 🙂

Having an accurate headline helps set the tone for your blog post. A headline that is not in sync with the content is misleading to the reader and your post will then be remembered for all the wrong reasons.

Imagine clicking a headline that reads, “Alexa: The Assistant”, and finding out that the content is all about Jeff Bezos’ haircut?

It’s an extreme example, sure, but it can happen if you focus too much on that click-bait element of your headline and not enough on its substance.

Choose headlines that are specific to the content you are writing. Avoid using generalised topics as headlines, as they cover a much broader range of information compared to a simple blog post.

Start by drafting a working title. Working titles never have to be perfect. Just make the title specific to that particular piece of content and you can always tweak it later to make it more attractive and clickbait-y 🙂

Never make your headlines too long unless it’s necessary. Current data shows us that long headlines generally have low click-through rates.

According to recent research, headlines with less than 70 characters perform better compared to longer headlines. Statistics from Hubspot reveal that headlines with 8–14 words get more likes and shares from Facebook and Twitter respectively.

Even, authors keep the titles of their books short. The strategy here is to create interest and withhold important information simultaneously.

The bottom line? Try and keep your headlines short and sweet.

While accuracy is very important, you don’t need to sacrifice everything for it.

To make sure your headline is interesting and compelling, a thorough understanding of your target audience can be very useful. You can also try the following tips:

  • Use alliteration: alliteration makes your headlines pleasant and exciting to read.
  • Use strong words: people are more likely to remember a headline when strong words are used. Make use of them.
  • Use visuals: if there is an opportunity to use visuals in the headline, grab it!

It’s always a good idea to have a peer review before finalising your headlines. Different colleagues may have different ideas for your headline and may help you see things that you may be missing out on.

A quick peer review will also help you see how well your headline performs across different audiences. It’s A/B testing in a crude, but effective, form.

The verbatim effect is a basic human tendency. Marketers can exploit this very human trait by making the most of attention-grabbing headline techniques. Using these can increase the probability of your audience remembering your content-and coming back for more.
Use this tactic in your marketing strategy and make your site a heavy source of traffic.

Originally published at https://hypeinsight.com on February 5, 2021.

Ari has over 15 years of experience in Content creation and digital marketing. He has published a book on marketing and has contributed to numerous companies

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