7 Simple Tips for Writing Better Headlines

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By Theresa Braun Start using your headline.

The title is the powerful bait that hooks a reader--and it can certainly make or break your article. In fact, according to Copyblogger, eight out of 10 people read this post's headline, but only two out of the 10 will actually read the rest of the post.

So to those of you who stuck around: Here are seven simple tips for writing better headlines.

  1. Use keywords and keyphrases.

Make sure your headline is search-friendly. Use topic keywords and keyphrases in the headline to help your post rank well within search engines. Of course, using these will also help  inform the reader about the topic you’re writing about. Customize these keywords to each social network when sharing your post in order to reach its particular audience. For instance, on Facebook, titles with the word “video” tend to perform better, whereas on Twitter, titles with business-related words are more successful.

  1. Put the most important words in the beginning.

According to KISSmetrics, readers tend to only absorb the first and last three words of a headline. Make sure you place the most important, relevant words in these spots (or write a six-word title, making each word count).

  1. Make a list.

You might not want to hear this--and you’re surely sick of them--but the truth is: List posts (or “listicles”) work. There’s a reason why Buzzfeed took off; people want easy-to-digest articles that offer helpful tips or facts they might not already know. If you do create a list, make sure to use numerals rather than words (e.g. “7” rather than “seven”), put the number at the start of the headline, and don’t use an even number, as science shows that people are more likely to click on a post if it contains an odd number.

Here are just a few words that can spark list post headlines:

  • Reasons
  • Things
  • Secrets
  • Keys
  • Lessons
  • Facts
  • Tips
  • Tricks
  • Ways
  • Methods
  • Statistics

Other tactics like asking a question or using “how to” or “why”  can also do the trick, letting the reader know that they’re going to get their click’s worth by learning something new.

  1. Focus on the reader.

“What’s in it for me?” That’s what we’re asking before we click on an article. Speak directly to your readers, and call them out right in the headline by using the second person narrative (i.e. write “you” or “your”).

  1. Use trigger words.

By using powerful words, you’ll be more likely to catch your reader’s attention and prompt a click. Try to include strong adjectives (e.g. “essential,” “surprising” ) and action verbs. Here is a list of 317 trigger words for inspiration.

  1. Optimize character count.

Depending on which network you’re sharing on, there are a few character limits you’ll need to be cognizant of. Google truncates titles after 70 characters. On Twitter, although you’ll have 140 characters for a tweet, you should aim for your title to be approximately 70 characters as well. Tweets with between 120 and 130 characters tend to do well on Twitter, plus you’ll have to factor in about 20 characters for the article link, possibly author attribution, as well as any text that a reader will want to add when shared.

  1. Be direct.

Don’t overthink it. While it’s certainly fun to create clever titles and throw in a pun, the smartest strategy is to get straight to the point. Tell your readers exactly what they can expect in the contents of your article. When they’re scrolling through their social feeds, they want to know what they’re getting if they click. Don’t make them play guessing games with vague headlines.

What tips do you have for writing strong headlines? Would love to hear them in the comments!