A headline can make or break a written piece. Too weak, boring or wordy, and you risk getting skipped over, but a strong, captivating and concise headline can draw readers in and generate traffic. In fact it is one of the most important elements of any blog post, article, press release or heading for newsletter content.
How do you write a strong headline? When writing a headline keep in mind there are two primary goals: to capture attention and to preview your content.
- Audience – Start by determining your audience and the platform you are writing for. If it is going online, you will want to take into consideration keywords. This will help search engines find your content in the first place.
- Always keep your target audience top of mind. A headline that might work for a press release geared towards a journalist will be wildly different from a headline in your company newsletter.
- Reread – Review your content again then write a few different versions down – keeping your keywords in mind. This will help get your creativity flowing.
- Action – Be sure to use strong action words.
- Weak: The Cardinals Gain a Win Over the Broncos. (Not a horrible headline, but it can be stronger with action verbs.
- Strong: Cardinals Defeat Broncos.
- Avoid Being Passive – The new Yahoo Style Guide gives a good example on passive v. active
- Passive: Hare beaten by tortoise in footrace.
- Active: Tortoise beats hare in footrace.
- Avoid Jargon – Words that may be basic to you or people within your industry may not translate to those on the outside. If you want to have broad appeal, don’t use jargon.
- Be Clear and Concise – Brevity is important but not at the expense of making it incomprehensible. Be sure it is clear. If you have time, get another set of eyes to review your headline.
- Punctuation – Avoid most punctuation in headlines. The only exceptions are commas and questions marks. Of course your company newsletter will afford you more freedom, so if you feel it’s necessary and appropriate to use an exclamation point, go for it.
For blog and newsletter headlines, a good test is to draft several headlines for the same content and see which drives the most traffic or gets the most click-throughs. Over time you will begin to learn what resonates most with your readers. There are loads of resources out there on headline writing. One quick and dirty resource is the new Yahoo Style Guide. There are more resources listed below, but the best way is to practice and test, then repeat.
Question: What tips do you have on headline writing? Any tricks you employ?
1. Yahoo Style Guide
2. “The Copywriter’s Handbook” by Robert Bly
3. “How to Write Headlines that Work” by CopyBlogger.com
4. “Why less is more when it comes to headlines” – Communications Conversations