Monday, March 9, 2015

5 Tips to follow if you want to write a killer headline

Photo courtesy of
There is an art to writing headlines and titles for the articles and stories you write.  In the newspaper and magazine world, it is an editor’s job to come up with the perfect words that will draw readers to your article.  In the online world, that job falls to the writer; and the more you know about writing headlines, the better your chances to entice readers into reading your words.

WordStream: Online Advertising Made Easy offers a ton of great advice for writing outstanding headlines on their blog of July 17, 2014: 19 Headline Writing Tips for More Clickable, Shareable Blog Posts.  A few of their tips are shared below, and I urge you to check out all 19 tips on their blog.

19 Headline Writing tips
for More Clickable, Shareable Blog Posts
It’s easy to let headlines take the back seat in your writing process. Headlines can wind up as a quick afterthought, but really should be treated with much more consideration. In fact, your headline is arguably more important than the article itself. After all, who cares how great your blog post is if no one even reads it?

Out of all the folks who read your headline, only 20% will read the article copy. Whether it’s for email subject lines, blog posts, ebooks, or webinars, you need a powerful, sexy headline to make readers swoon.

Modern online article headlines are tricky – they need to be SEO (Search Engine Optimization) keyword friendly, but also should be unique and creative. The end result needs to be super clickable, irresistible headlines.

If you’re like me, your eyeballs encounter nearly a hundred headlines before you’ve finished your first cup of coffee. What makes you read one story over another? It’s all about the headline – that magical string of words that allures and excites.

1. Numbers, digits, & lists
Starting your headline with a number helps the headline stand out. Just as the human eye is drawn to contrasting colors, we’re also naturally drawn to the juxtaposition of digits resting beside text. A list also gives readers a clearer idea of what to expect in your post, as well as promising a quick, scan-friendly read.

Some great list words to get you started:
  • Reasons
  • Ways
  • Tips
  • Tricks
  • Secrets
  • Ideas
  • Techniques
  • Strategies
  • Facts
  • Methods
  • Statistics

2. Educate the Masses
People often search online to educate themselves or learn more about a particular concept. They want to learn how to build a fire pit, where to see an off-Broadway musical, how to eat an apple core (hey, I don’t know, people are wacky!)

Many successful headlines use the “how to” concept with some extra embellishment. Starting all your articles with “how to…” gets really boring really quickly, so think of creative ways to present a “how to” educational article, for example….

  • 3 Best Methods for Peeling a Mango
  • 6 Strategies for Deterring Burglars
  • Build Your Own Firepit: A Beginner’s Guide
  • Teaching Your Dog to Fetch: Canine Training 101

Hot headline writing keywords like “101” and “Complete/Beginners Guide” are great to include in educational posts. Using words like these reassures readers that your article will be in layman terms that they can understand, marketed towards beginners. 

3. Remember the Five Ws
In grammar school you probably remember learning the 5 Ws:
  • Who
  • What
  • When
  • Where
  • Why
These engaging, interrogative words are used to gather information. By using them in your headlines, you articulate to readers the kind of information you intend to provide.

4. Address Readers in 2nd Person
While writing prose in 2nd person is infamously awkward, it’s the perfect form for headline writing, grabbing the attention of readers by calling them out.
  • You Think You Know Game of Thrones? Take Our Quiz and Find Out!
  • 3 Ice Cream Recipes You’ll Drool Over This Summer
  • 5 Emergency Tools You Should Never Leave Home Without
5. Use Images to Complement Headlines
Headlines are a big deal, and in many cases on the web, they are the one and only way to introduce your article to the world. However, many social sites like Facebook, Instagram, Pintetrest, and, more recently, Twitter, make it easy to add images alongside your link headlines. This is awesome news because images are insanely powerful and can do a lot to boost the success of your headline.

As Buffer notes, you can’t just use any old image to compliment your headline. The image you should provide a strong visual clue to the topic of the article.


Jennifer Rova said...

Excellent information. I like posts that give me concrete ideas to try. Yours did.

Anna said...

Great post MJ. I will definitely look up the rest of the tips as well.

Elizabeth S. Brinton said...

Excellent. There are five reasons why this post is so helpful.