7 Headline Writing Tips for Your Digital Content
You’ve put in the work perfecting your latest post. You’ve written, rewritten, deleted, and maybe even started over with the whole thing. But you’ve finally managed to get it perfect. The only thing left to do now is creating a headline.
Since you’ve already written the bulk of the post, crafting a quick and simple headline is something you can do in seconds, right? Well, it’s possible, but chances are that a quick headline isn’t going to be the best for your content.
Writing a strong headline is just as important as perfecting every sentence in your work. The headline is generally what shows up first in search results and it can either work for you or against you.
Some have compared writing a headline to wrapping a present. When giving a gift, you wouldn’t go through all the trouble of finding that perfect present only to leave it in the store bag, would you? Most likely, you’d use wrapping paper and bows to give it the full effect.
Just like that wrapping paper, your headline is the first (and sometimes the only) thing a reader sees before clicking into your content.
So to make sure that they do click on your post, here are 7 headline writing tips to consider the next time you’re crafting a title.
1. Keep it short.
Simply put: Don’t write a long headline. Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) and social media only allow for so many characters, so an extra-long headline isn’t going to help you nearly as much as a short one could.
Most SERPs will cut off around the 55-60 character mark. And if a reader is seeing the headline in an email subject line on a mobile device, it will cut off even sooner.
If you can get your full headline within this range, great! But we know that’s not always doable. If you find that your headline is longer than 60 characters, make sure to keep the most important keywords at the beginning. This helps ensure that most (if not all) of your most important keywords will appear in SERPs. This also ensures that your headline will be easy to share on social media.
Hint: Use a tool like SERP Simulator to get an idea of where your headline will cut off in results and adjust as needed.
2. Do your research.
Once you’ve figured out who makes up your target audience, figuring out what kind of content they are looking for is a crucial next step. Understanding what they respond to and what keywords they look for will help you craft relevant content.
It’s no secret that keyword research is a huge help in learning what your readers are looking for, so use it to boost your headline too! As mentioned above, make sure you keep the most important ones near the beginning of the headline.
3. Focus on the “Why.”
When you’re creating a headline, really think about the topic you’re covering. Ask yourself questions to get to the “Why” of your post.
- Why should your reader click on this story? Why should they care?
- What emotion does it convey?
- And yes, the Who, What, When, Where, and How are always relevant and important to a story. But the Why is what brings it home.
4. Keep things consistent.
When you sit down to write a new post, you likely work hard to make sure the voice in your post matches the tone of your site. When writing a headline, you should do the very same thing – match the voice of your headline to your post.
If you tend to put off writing a headline, it can be easy to lose that voice, so make sure to give it a good read-through to make sure everything flows nicely. If it’s a conversational post, match it with a conversational headline.
5. Use numbers.
According to The Write Direction, headlines that feature a figure in them see a much higher rate of engagement. Numbers grab a reader’s attention right away and, in the case of listicles, can be a signal that it will probably be an easy read.
To take this a step further, use odd numbers, which have been proven to get the most traction. (See why we used one in this post?)
6. Pique your readers’ interest.
Your headline is the gateway to your content, so it needs to hook the reader immediately. A good way to do this is to mimic a cliffhanger-style headline.
For instance, let the headline get the reader excited about your topic but don’t give everything away. Make them work for it. Make them have to read your content to get the full story.
Note: Think of this as teasing your content. Don’t be vague or misleading or rely on clickbait headlines.
7. Write a few headlines.
As amazing as it would be to create the perfect headline on the first try every time, it’s just not realistic. So don’t limit yourself by going with the first title you create. A good rule of thumb is to write 3-5 headlines, vet them, and pick the best one. This will allow you to challenge yourself and get even more practice from the get-go.
Tip: Use a headline A/B testing tool to determine which option will likely perform best.
To wrap up…
This is a lot of information and if you’re feeling overwhelmed trying to apply all of these into your next headline, take a deep breath and try a couple at a time. As you get more practice, you can implement more and more of the headline writing tips. Before you know it, you’ll start factoring them in automatically.
So the next time you want to just add a quick headline to your work and call it a day, stop and give it a thought. Think about the reward of strong engagement on a post you put so much heart into and give it the headline it deserves.
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Lauren Klonowski is a Senior Customer Content Specialist at PR Newswire, Deputy Editor at Beyond the Stage Magazine, and freelance writer. Connect with her on LinkedIn. When she’s not working, Lauren can be found traveling, reading, or binge-watching The Office.