The headline is what grabs the reader’s attention. If you fail to craft a compelling headline, you’ve failed the assignment, no matter how compelling the rest of your copy is.
But attention isn’t enough in today’s cluttered digital world, where attention spans are shorter, and newsfeeds are longer. So the challenge for writers today is to compel readers to read beyond the headline. How, then?
As if the headline was like a highly anticipated first date, filled with intrigue and excitement, the subheading is the follow-up call that will most assuredly make or break the whole deal. Lackluster follow-up can diminish the chances of an ongoing courtship, and no follow-up at all can eliminate them.
Subheadlines are often overshadowed by headlines, poorly written, or ignored altogether.
To write exciting subheadings that beckon readers from their browsers, you must first understand what a subhead is. So let’s have a look.
What is a subheading?
There are two types of subheadings, based on the kind of content you are writing. While the rules are pretty much the same, but the location and function vary.
A short-form subheading (just one, under the headline)
A subheading will appear directly below a prominent headline at the top of a web page or advertisement if you’re writing short-form content. Your goal is to expand on your headline and drive the reader to your call-to-action (CTA).
Long-form subheadings (several throughout the content)
If you’re crafting long-form content, like blog posts, editorials, or whitepapers, you’ll probably use multiple subheadings.
In this article, I have used subheads throughout the body copy to divide the sections, similar to the example on a web page.
Using multiple subheadings throughout your writing serves several purposes:
- They outline the main points in a format that can be quickly skimmed
- Thye draw the attention of the readers to the section
- They optimize your post for Google searches
Consider subheadings as your article’s supporting characters. They may not be the star of your story, but your account lacks development and context without them. Just as every protagonist needs an excellent supporting character, great headlines need great subheadings.
What’s in a subheading?
Now you understand something about subheadings, where it typically appears in different kinds of written content, let’s put our fingers to the keyboard.
The best subheadings are those that anticipate and answer your readers’ biggest questions.
Let’s examine some great tips for creating compelling subheads.
Answer questions before readers ask them
If you’re writing about a product, service, or idea, you should state up front who you’re writing for and what you’re writing about.
It’s possible to tell what’s being offered (storytelling) and whom (the modern marketer). But the headlone by itself will leave some lingering questions. And you know be aware of what the most logical questions will be. Let your subheadings address them. This will ensure that your audience better informed and more likely to take action.
Here’s how to apply this concept to your own writing. First, make a list of all the questions your audience might have once you’ve decided on your headline. Then, write down the answers to your hypothetical questions. You can use this exercise to refine your subheadings and ensure you’re answering the right questions.
Be careful with your words
Experts claim we have around seven seconds to make first impressions. Reading a headline and subhead takes the same amount of time.
It would be ideal if a perfect headline-inspired readers to read every sentence you write carefully. But, unfortunately, the reality is that readers today are juggling social feeds, email inboxes, text messages, and internet browsers – and writers have to compete for their attention.
Don’t waste your readers’ time with unnecessary words. Your headlines and subheads should be concise but clear at the same time.
To connect with distracted, on-the-go readers, make your subheadings easily digestible.
Give readers the info they need
When you write for a company, client, or publication, you are not writing for yourself. Instead, this is the audience to whom you are writing.
Why you understand your audience ahead of time, it will help you tremendously in targeting your words toward their wants and needs.
Make sure you use your subheadings to provide a quick glimpse of the benefits they will receive by reading on. Readers are more likely to care if they see benefits in subheads.
A subhead can emphasize the benefit of adding these three activities to your daily routine by saying, “Add these three tasks to your routine to make your mind sharper.” Of course, this doesn’t reveal every detail but gives a clue that the reader will benefit from learning about specific activities.
There must be a reason for the reader to care, whether it’s to gain useful information or be entertained. To make your reasoning clear, use your subheading.
Yes, headlines are often the essential part of any content piece. Indeed, a compelling headline coupled with an impactful subheading can significantly improve the clarity and effectiveness of your writing.
Leave readers wanting more
If you want to provide enough information, so the reader gets what they need, sometimes it is helpful to ask questions or hint at what’s to come, so the reader keeps reading.
The reader feels satisfied when this is done well. If it’s done poorly, for example, if the question isn’t answered thoroughly, it can feel like click-bait. So be sure to deliver on any promises you make in your subheading.