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Time is our most precious resource. This is why, when we encounter a headline on the internet, the interaction typically involves a quick cost-benefit analysis – will the benefit of clicking the link exceed the cost of time invested?

Crafting compelling B2B headlines that emphasize the reader benefit not only increases your readership over time but also boosts the shareability of your content on social media. It thus makes sense to invest as much time and effort in perfecting and fine-tuning your article titles as you do your content. 

Here are eight proven headline techniques that tend to be underutilized in B2B contexts.

Instructive ‘how to’ content

According to headline analysis by BuzzSumo, B2B articles starting with “how” are the second most popular headline type, in terms of LinkedIn social shares, right after articles starting with “the”.

Top words starting B2B headlines

Instructive “how to” content promises a solve a problem for the user and emphasizes the benefit of clicking right from the start. Here are application examples of this technique:

Instead of this... Try this...
The promise of big data How to leverage big data for enhanced revenues
Mental health and the workplace How to improve mental health in the workplace
Pre-launch marketing campaigns ideas How to build a successful pre-launch marketing campaign

A popular variant of the “how to” post is one that starts with “discover”: 

Instead of this... Try this...
Profit centers in your business Discover these secret profit centers in your business

Lists

List headlines (such as “5 ways to…” or “10 steps to…”) are the most popular headline phrase combination according to B2B research by BuzzSumo.

Top phrases starting B2B headlines

The wide appeal of list headlines is the promise of easily scannable text. This goes back to the cost-benefit analysis described above – users expect a list of headings on the page which they can skim-read before committing further. Trying leveraging list type headlines with the following techniques:  

Instead of this... Try this...
On leadership 5 Ways to become a better leader
Segmenting your email list 5 Smart ways to segment your email list like a pro
Data loss causes 3 Ways to protect your business from data loss

Freshness of content

Freshness of content citrus concept

Freshness of content has a huge influence on search engine rankings and headlines perform even better when they leverage the timeliness of their content. Here are application examples of this technique:

Instead of this... Try this...
The best B2B content marketing strategies The best B2B content marketing strategies in 2020
Our most-shared posts We analyzed our most-shared posts in 2020. Here's what we found.

Promise of thoroughness

Adding “the” to your headline immediately gives it a more authoritarian tone. This word, combined with a promise of thoroughness, can help your headline stand out when compared to a range of similar options in SERPs:

Instead of this... Try this...
What you need to know about SEO The complete guide to SEO: What you need to know in 2020
Video marketing guide Video marketing: The only guide you'll ever need
Inbound marketing guide The definitive guide to inbound marketing in 2020

Promise of convenience

Conversely, the promise of a quick, simple and convenient take on a complex topic speaks to an audience looking for instant answers to a specific problem. Here are application examples of this technique:

Instead of this... Try this...
Google Adwords guide Google AdWords made simple: A step-by-step guide  
Facebook marketing tips Here's a quick way to get more likes on your Facebook page
Social media strategies Social media strategy in 8 simple steps

Curiosity-driven

Curiosity driven concept

Curiosity-driven headlines tease the reader with a premise without giving all the answers away.  There is a sense of mystery and a lingering question that compels readers to find out more. Here are headline examples that leverage what is known as the “curiosity gap”:

Instead of this... Try this...
Marketing tactics of the past 10 marketing tactics you applied in the past that no longer work
Business and empathy Why empathy is one of the most overlooked skills in business
B2B headline mistakes Why that B2C headline is killing your B2B content

An emotional hook

While emotional hooks tend to work well in B2C contexts, they should not be overlooked entirely in B2B content marketing either. Adjectives such as “shocking” or “miraculous” may go a step too far, but the use of more temperate adjectives may just give your B2B headline the edge it needs. Here are examples:    

Instead of this... Try this...
B2B lead generation facts Surprising facts about B2B lead generation
Content marketing disadvantages 5 Painful truths about content marketing in 2020
Digital marketing hacks 5 Sanity-saving hacks for digital marketers

A provocative angle

Provocative B2B content

Lastly, a provocative title that takes a controversial stand on a hot topic can go viral if executed well. Here are actual examples of viral B2B articles that leverage their contrarian nature: 

Crap: the single biggest threat to B2B content marketing

Quit contributing to the lame content on Linkedin

Why I stopped selling SEO services and you should, too

In his LinkedIn article above, David C. Baker argues that the litmus test for “insight” versus “content” is the ability to force a divide in its audience. “Insight” leads readers to agree or disagree with the main assertion, whereas “content” remains neutral and largely forgettable.  An unconventional take on a popular topic can thus be seen as a sign of expertise and thought leadership.  

When I hit “send” for content, I'm worried about typos. When I hit “send” for insight, I'm worried about how it will be received. If I'm not nervous about the reception for what I'm writing, then it's not insight."
- David C. Baker

Conclusion

It comes as no surprise that the most popular B2B headlines tend to combine a variety of the techniques discussed above.

Combination of B2B headline techniques

Before hitting publish, spend time crafting and perfecting your B2B headline, trying out at least 10 variants before settling on the final one. Do so by maximizing the perceived benefit of the click – whether that be convenience, thoroughness, timeliness or an emotional hook – and you will start seeing your efforts pay off.