We've all been there, merrily clicking our way across the internet, only to be stopped in our tracks by that oh-so-enticing headline that we just can't pass up reading.
What's that, you say? 20 delicious cheesecake recipes... that also help you to lose weight! That can't be true… can it? Hmmmm, I have to know - click!
It's a common phenomenon and one that actually speaks to the curious nature in all of us. However, if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is - as you've just found out!
But seriously, the headline is all too often often the neglected sibling when it comes to the amount of attention that writers pay this area in comparison to the body of their work; many times left until the end and only given a passing thought when the deadline looms.
However, I'm here to tell you that you've got it the wrong way 'round. The headline is one of the most important aspects of any great work, as it's the first thing the reader sees and it has to grab their attention and never let go. Putting in the effort to make it intriguing and eye-catching is therefore time well spent.
So, what can we do about this? Well, let's face facts, not every subject lends itself to a flashy headline, but there's still a difference between a plain old description of the text to follow and a thought-provoking snapshot of the work that draws in the reader.
For example, let's consider this very topic; I could quite easily have named this piece something like 'Headlines are important: How to best draw in readers' and while that's a perfectly functional title, it doesn't really stop you in your tracks when browsing.
Instead, I went along the lines of 'aha, this will cause a few raised eyebrows' and hopefully it worked. If it made you stop and click then that's mission accomplished for me, and hopefully you can see how, even though the title itself might not fully reflect the nature of the content, it was an interesting way into what otherwise might be a subject that many could see as quite dry.
I'm not saying that all headlines need to follow this formula though, they simply have to stand out from the norm in order to capture our attention. Be smart, be funny, be insulting, do anything that will force people to stop and think, but please don't ever be dull!
A great headline really is the best way to attract readers to your content - especially in today's age of social media and online engagement, where a well-crafted article can garner thousands of views simply by virtue of going viral - so don't be afraid to be creative. Give it that bit of extra thought and you might be surprised with the number of additional views that your work receives.
And just so no-one has cause to accuse this post of being misleading, here's a great cheesecake recipe that you might just love - [SPOILER ALERT: Eating the whole thing WON'T help you shed those extra pounds, but it might help you to remember this useful lesson!]
Chris's scrumdiddlyumptious strawberry cheesecake
250g digestive biscuits
100g butter (melted)
1 vanilla pod
600g soft cream cheese
100g icing sugar
284ml double cream
400g fresh strawberries
Bash up your biscuits into semi-fine crumbs and mix with the melted butter. Compact the resulting buttery loveliness into a 20 cm loose-bottom round baking tin and chill.
Meanwhile, mix cream cheese, cream, vanilla seeds and sugar until smooth. Top the chilled cheesecake base with the filling and chill once more.
Finally, slice strawberries and add to the top. Bon appetit, and happy headlines!