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6 Ways to Write Better Headlines

What's the secret to successful titles for your web content? Click to read Diane S. Thieke's 6 tips for catchy, clickable headlines. 

By
Diane S. Thieke
December 19, 2012

6 Ways to Write Better Headlines

 

In the digital world, a headline can make or break your marketing efforts. A clever and interesting headline can pique interest and compel readers to click through and read more, while an SEO-friendly headline can help you find more readers.

Let me first say that headline writing is not easy, whether you are writing for a newspaper, a web site, or a search engine. When I was a young copyeditor, the prevailing thought was that you weren’t a good headline writer until you’d written at least 1,000. 

A good headline was defined as one that met the character limitation of the headline area and gave the reader a concise idea of what the article was about. The basic “who” and “what” of the story was a requirement. And, as often as possible, depending on the nature of the story, we’d try to write clever or interesting headlines.

Today, the definition of a good headline is far more complicated. Your headline must be interesting enough to stand out in a crowded field of LOLcats, hyperbole, and sensationalism. Yet, it needs to be SEO-friendly too, including keywords that people are using to find content like yours.

It’s a struggle because these two requirements often seem mutually exclusive. Luckily, they don’t have to be. Here are some suggestions for writing better headlines:

Search for your topic before you write the headline. Not only does this give you a sense of what others are saying, but it also forces you to think about the words and phrasing used in a search. That’s a good clue for understanding how others may find your content.

Write more than one headline. Content development isn’t a field of dreams. Once an article is published, you need to send it out to the world to find readers. Here’s an opportunity to be both direct and clever. Write one direct, keyword-driven headline and several more enticing and clever ones for each of your distribution channels: newsletters, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Keep it short. Search engines only look at the first 65-70 characters of a title, so be sure to get as much of the “who,” the “what,” and your keywords within this limitation.

Add a number. Headlines with numbers tend to drive a lot of clicks. For example: 3 Easy Homemade Christmas Ornaments.

Focus on the benefit to the reader. Searchers are quite often looking for a solution to a problem, which is why “how to” headlines are a favorite with SEO gurus and bloggers. Make it clear to the reader what they’ll get once they read your article: How to Measure Your Social Media Success or 10 Holiday Fitness Gifts.

Be Contradictory. No, not in a confrontational way. Introducing two contradictory ideas in one headline increases curiosity. Business Insider does this very well. For example: Proof that Google is Beating Apple on the iPhone.

Diane S. Thieke is the president and founder of Simply Talk Media, a digital media marketing consultancy. With more than 25 years in digital media and technology, she helps clients build stronger relationships with their customers and communities, using both social and traditional channels. Follow her on Twitter at @thiekeds or visit her blog at www.simplytalkmedia.com/blog.

 

 

 

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