7 Much Needed Alternatives To Using Lists As Headlines

The lazy marketer’s best friend, lists are everywhere.

They make the process of creating content that much easier and click through rates that much higher.

Here’s why:

✅ They establish expectations

✅ They promise to be easily digestible

✅ They offer choice – “13 reasons you should eat McDonalds” is bound to include at least a couple of great nuggets, right?

However, they are also completely overused and in isolation can make a brand blend in rather than stand out.

So if you want to demonstrate a bit more imagination without having to use your imagination, check out my lis… I mean slideshow.

Make an outrageously huge promise that people would be crazy to ignore.

For example – “You’ll never speed again after watching this video”

Remember, you have no prior relationship with the reader and you are simultaneously competing with 15 other headlines on the same page. Small promises won’t do. Yours needs to be life changing.

Be a tease

For example, “I thought I knew how to make an omelette fast, but then I saw this…”

The headline cliffhanger is a classic. Humans are inherently curious. If we get 80% of the story and then the final 20% is snatched away, we suddenly need that 20% more than anything in the world, even if the previous 80% was kinda lame (think of every single Eastenders episode ever).

Create a sense that you’re giving access to something exclusive or off limits.

For example “The weightlifting technique that the professionals don’t want you to know”

We all like to feel special, like we’ve won the golden ticket to the chocolate factory and get to play with the ompah loompas while all the other children are outside crying. Give the reader their golden ticket.

Make the subject something that they already have an emotional connection to, such as celebrities, brands, films or music.

For example, “The shocking scene in The Little Mermaid that you won’t believe you missed”

Stuff is more interesting when we have a personal connection to it. When a stranger falls down a large flight of concrete stairs on a YouTube clip I might respond with a slight curving of the lips and an inward titter, but should that happen to a close personal friend I would literally buckle at the knees with joy and laughter (and then of course check they were still breathing).

Contradict commonly held beliefs.

“Why you need to start eating more junk food”

Stop the reader in their tracks with an outrageous statement that they will either want to see verified or disproved. The only thing they cannot do is ignore it.

If it’s instructional, make it sound easy.

“The idiots guide to erecting a tent in less than 30 seconds”

People want to achieve great things, but they want to achieve them three days ago and at no outlay of effort or money.

Create a sense of urgency.

“Stop whatever you’re doing and read this secret to happiness now. Everything else can wait. This can’t.”

You’re not giving the reader a chance to think about it. They click before they’ve even had time to fully process the statement. After all, every second they hesitate is a second they could have been reading the article that’s going to transform their life …. probably.

That last word is an important one.

You see each of these ideas, whilst traffic effective, could do more harm than good if the content fails to deliver on the promise (or at least come bloody close).

Remember, getting clicks is only 10% of the goal. The 90% is tied up in the engagement that follows, and that engagement will only materialise when the reader’s expectations are met or surpassed.

In other words, the sensationalist heading should be no more than an accurate representation of some sensational content. If the content falls short then everyone loses, including you.