Content marketing: Telling Meaningful Stories

Writing a good headline for your blog post

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Writing a good headline for a web post is crucial to get an audience’s attention – the humans and the search engines, which bring more humans. If the headline doesn’t get somebody’s attention in the first few seconds the person might move on to read something else … not necessarily because they wouldn’t have cared about the content, but they may just didn’t know that they cared because the headline was vague.

We do know that people do this:

  • Visit homepages and scan for interesting things.
  • See a short mention (similar to a headline) on Twitter or Facebook and may (or may not click through to the rest of the content) based on how interesting and relevant those handful of words were.

Writing a good headline: Get to the point

I’ve written and edited thousands of web posts going back to the days of Eastern Iowa News in 2009. My thoughts on this topic are based on trial and error, web traffic reviews and research done by others that I’ve reviewed.

Web headlines are different from newspaper headlines. Newspaper headlines sometimes play with words. For the web it’s usually better to get to the point. Be clear and concise. Don’t make the user guess what’s being said.

That’s true for a couple of reasons:

  • Web users move quickly. If they don’t get a headline now, they move on. Don’t lose them on a word play or reference that is vague or doesn’t resonate.
  • It won’t help with search engines. Google and the likes understand: “How to write a headline for the web” for example but may not get the same from “Webby Headlines” or something like that. (That’s another reason why I personally like the get to the point headlines. I’m better at those. 🙂 )

The below is an example of get-to the point headlines can help. I attended the Cedar Valley United Way Campaign Kickoff Event in 2012 and posted a picture to my iPhone Photo Blog. The headline was to the point. When people searched for the “campaign kickoff” that post showed up first.

Writing a good headline example

Tips on writing a good headline

It comes down to clarity and to a degree brevity. But I wouldn’t recommend having a headline that doesn’t reflect what the content of the post is about. Accuracy is also important.

When writing a headline think about …
What are the main points of the post? You might summarize them in the post. Try to use keywords in a sentence in the headline. To take this a step further you could do a keyword search on Google and pick keywords that are more likely to be used by searchers. (I don’t usually do a keyword search, however.) Login to Google Analytics to use the keyword planner.

What is the most important item I want people to know? I see headlines like this: “Today’s Links” or “Today’s Advertising News” or something else vague like that. Is that really the most relevant headline? I would pick something more relevant out of the content and highlight one thing or summarize the overall theme (if there’s one).

In the past I’ve also used the headline as almost the first sentence of the article. The headline kicks it off and then the article flows from there. That’s a bit different from how headlines were handled when I was in the newspaper world from 2001 to 2007. Reporters wrote the stories. Somebody else put the headline on top after that. In this new way, however, the headline becomes a part of the post.

Also remember what the message is that you are trying to get across. For example, if I send an email to my family with vacation photos I may be able to title it: “Christoph’s Vacation Photos” and they might look at it. But would that be the best headline for a blog that covers communication-related things? Probably not. This one might be better: “Lessons learned while shooting vacation pictures with my iPhone.” Granted that’s a very different post from just uploading my vacation pictures … but probably a more relevant one to an audience that cares about content creation and related tools.

Writing a good headline: Wrap up

Writing headlines comes down to a few points:

  • Clarity
  • Conciseness
  • Accuracy
  • Getting to the point

Writing shorter headlines can be harder than writing longer ones

Disclaimers: The information provided in articles is for informational purposes only and not personalized advice. It's accurate to the best of my knowledge at the time it's published. Enjoy and best of luck telling the best stories in your organization and life!

Christoph Trappe

Hello and thanks for stopping by. I’m Christoph Trappe.

I’ve written two books, speak at conferences around the globe and blog frequently on here. I love sharing my stories and helping organizations share theirs.

If you need help, just visit the Contact Me page in the navigation and drop me a note. I’m always happy to chat!

Thanks for reading!

– Christoph

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