I was reading a student’s work the other day, and I noticed something profound about headlines.
It was simple. It could’ve only came to me after reading through thousands of articles. It’s something I want to share with you right now.
Here was their headline.
It needs some work, sure. It’s not horrible though — just a few tweaks here and there should do the trick.
Then I read the sub-headline.
Pay attention to the highlighted part in blue with me..
Now, I’ll ask you a question…
Doesn’t that look like a better headline to you?
Which sounds like a better headline? “Why VC’s favorite question is, “Why Now”
“The Number One Lesson I Learned From My Failed Start-Up” ?
My goodness, that second headline is gold. Sounds perfect. For someone who is a student of mine, I was fixing to give them a hug through the computer screen and tell them well done.
Then I realized something..
This Happens A Lot In The Articles I Read
If I had a dollar for every time the sub-headline of an article was better than the actual headline, I’d actually have a pretty substantial amount of dollars.
This happens all the freaking time. I don’t know why.
I’ll try to speculate, though, and then I’ll show you what you can do to employ this headline trick yourself.
We Feel Less Pressure Writing A Sub-Headline
Sub-headlines are super easy to come up with for me. Headlines aren’t so easy. I have to mix in the right amount of curiosity and information to make a cocktail of highly click-able sh*t.
Not to mention the whole success of your article sorta depends on 9 words.
You could write 2,000 words of amazing content, then completely shoot yourself in the foot by screwing up the headline. After 10 hours have been sunken into a blog post, that’s a hell of a lot of pressure, isn’t it?
A Sub-Headline Is Also Our Second Try
A sub-headline is also our second crack at summarizing our article. I always tell people to write down 10 different headline variations before settling on their favorite.
The more you think about a headline, the closer you’ll come to nailing it.
I think that sometimes people write such great sub-headlines because it’s their second crack at it.
Beginners, Pay Attention To Your Sub-Headline Next Time
This seems to be a magic coincidence that all beginning writers are in on. I swear, most times when I read an article written by a student, I have to work with them on the headline. It’s like 95% of the time.
And that’s natural. You should see the first 50 headlines I wrote. I cringe just thinking about them.
But something that seems to be just as common is the fact that the beginner’s sub-headlines sound better than the actual headline 75–80% of the time.
A useful tip for beginners? Pay attention to the sub-headline you write. It could be the better headline. In fact, in my experience, it normally is.
I swear, I don’t know whether there is a secret conspiracy to put the better headline into the sub-headline or something, but if there is, it should change.
Get more eyes on your work. You deserve it.
That’s a simple headline trick that actually checks out more than you might believe.