Marketing Miscellaneous Writing/Content

How to Create Engaging Subheaders to Keep Your Readers Reading

It’s no secret that a magnetic headline stimulates your readers’ curiosity and gives them a good reason to click through and want to continue reading.

But did you know subheads are just as important? These little phrases can keep your readers engaged, or make them yawn and run for the hills.

Since people are in a hurry to find and use quality information available online, they won’t hesitate to bounce off pages that do not provide pertinent answers to their burning questions.

As a matter of fact, most people who scan pages will manage to assess the quality of your content in less than 20 seconds, according to a study published by Nielsen Normal Group.

Kind of scary, right?

The good news is that you could make your readers linger for a bit more than a few minutes, take the time to read all the information that you’ve been so kind to share with them, and maybe even respond to your calls to action, by simply writing better subheads.

Let’s explore.

4 Expert Tips on How to Write More Attractive and Effective Subheads

Believe it or not, subheads, the key elements that you may have been forgetting until now, are extremely valuable tools. Put these to good use to keep your readers engaged and craving more with every piece of content that you create and distribute.

So instead of seeing your subheadings as mere list of items, why not turn them into super powerful weapons of mass seduction that you could use in your battle with the terrifying Reader Attention Deficit Disorder (RADD)?

If you’re looking for excellent advice on how to step up your subheader writing game, here are five tips that will point you in the right direction.

1. See Your Subheads as Sub-Benefits

Simple, but a key of how to win at your subheader each and every time.

By now, you’re probably aware that readers are intimidated by large chunks of text. What they do like to read and follow is clear, information-rich text with real substance and a clean, reader-friendly layout, based on short paragraphs preceded by clever subheads.

Your subheads should help them continue feeling the emotions evoked by your headline, and bring them a few steps closer to the promise that you’ve made from the very beginning.

Focus on the main points conveyed by each text fragment, then write a subhead revolving on the benefits that visitors could unlock by simply reading the following section.

In other words, build suspense and anticipation through your subheads, and use them as hooks to convince your audience to keep following you.

2. Have a Method to Create Supercharged Subheads

Start by writing your web content as usual. Once you’re done, re-read your draft, treat each chunk of text as an individual post and focus on its purpose.

What message does it actually convey? Does its subhead help you summarize and emphasize your message? Would it make a high-impact headline if your fragment were an independent content piece? If the answer is no, rewrite it until you finally come up with a version that enables you to deliver maximum information with minimum words.

3. Work on Subheads That Stir Curiosity

Most online readers are swimming against the current in a sea of predictability, looking for something different. The savviest ones know how to avoid click bait, and manage to stay far, far away from yawn-inspiring, redundant content when surfing the net.

This is why you should strive to turn your subheads into a creative element of surprise.

Don’t be afraid to be a storyteller. Go for a headline that raises the curiosity of your readers, and encourages them to read the entire post to find out what you actually have in store for them and how your story ends.

Create curiosity through your subheads, then work with a mix of emotion, personality and surprise to keep your readers on their toes.

4. Convert Subheads into Weapons That Re – Ignite a Connection with Your Readers

This reinforces No. 3.

Don’t forget that subheads should represent an extension of your headline. You should always strive to tie your subheads to the creative headline that you’ve come up with, and make them refer back to the claims or promises that you’ve made in your title.

This doesn’t mean that you have to use the same words over and over again. On the contrary, feel free to get creative and craft a high-impact subhead meant to announce a new chapter of your story. Look for new methods to add value to these key elements by adding superlatives, supporting information and cues aiming to add spice to your content.

Ideally, you should go beyond subheads reading as lists, and opt for personalized formulas based on a well-balanced mix of curiosity, personality, emotion and surprise. These key components encourage human eyes to keep reading and become actively involved in your story.

Final Takeaway: Follow a List of 5 Proven Methods to Create the Best Subheaders

While creativity is an invaluable asset when it comes to crafting subheads, before you let those words flow freely, consider employing a series of tactics to achieve better results.

  1. Focus on the benefits described in the paragraph introduced by your subhead and write your subhead with that particular benefit in mind. Express one benefit that will convince your readers to read the rest of your body copy, paragraph after paragraph, instead of just scanning your piece and bouncing off your page in 10 seconds or less.
  2. Rely on parallelism to improve the overall flow of your content piece. As Brian Clark of Copyblogger points out, you should keep the structure of your content clear and consistent by creating effective subheads that start with the same part of speech. Ideally, you should use verbs in your subheadings to make your writing more powerful and dynamic, and advocate action.  Of course, verbs aren’t everything. As a matter of fact, a recent post written by Kevan Lee from Buffer introduces a list of some of the most common words incorporated by viral headlines. Words like “people” “you” and “your” rank high on this list, proving once more that reader-oriented headlines (and subheads for that matter) are the ones that always get bonus points for efficiency and appeal.
  3. Write subheads first. This sneaky little trick will help you add value to your writing by delimitating each section and highlighting the most important facts with more ease.
  4. Use the best tools at hand. Don’t hesitate to make the most of every single available tool to perfect your subheads. For starters, use the headline analyzer brought to you by Advanced Marketing Institute. This little helper will help you establish the Emotional Marketing Value of your headlines, and give you the opportunity to communicate with your readers on a higher emotional level. The tool is very easy to use: just write down your headline, select the type of industry and business that your headline/content refers to, and submit your headline for analysis. The tool can also be used to create magnetic subheadings that could add real emotional value to your content and create solider bonds with your audience.

Keep the RADD Threat at Bay with Better Subheads 

Avoid cryptic or overly embellished formulas with no real substance, and fight RADD by turning your subheads into key elements that tell a compelling story on their own. Edit your subheadings until you come up with a final version with the highest practical, aesthetic and emotional value, which would manage convince even your non-readers to distribute your content, inspiring others and giving them at least one good reason to take action.

About the author

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Julia McCoy

Julia McCoy is a serial content marketer, entrepreneur, and bestselling author. She founded a multi-million dollar content agency, Express Writers, with nothing more than $75 at 19 years old. Today, her team has nearly 100 expert content creators on staff, and serves thousands of clients around the world. She's earned her way to the top 30 worldwide content marketers, and has a passion for sharing what she knows in her books and in her online course, The Content Strategy & Marketing Course. Julia also hosts The Write Podcast on iTunes.

2 Comments

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  • I haven’t seen that headline analyze from the Advanced Marketing Institute before – thanks for sharing! CoSchedule also has one that is very good though I believe they put it behind an optin now.

    I like the Joseph Sugarman style of headings that are written purely for attention. It’s liberating to write headings simply to capture attention without worrying so much about SEO and strict relevance.

  • Thank you, Julia McCoy, for such an interesting article! I’ve always wondered about how to write engaging subheaders I see all over the web or print media, and this was very informative. Also it was really neat to read about how much work those blogs actually are for their authors. It makes me feel less awful about not being so fashionable/picture perfect most of the time myself lol.