10 tips for writing effective headlines for the web


The importance of titles should never be overlooked, a little time spent finding the right title can make a big difference.

A good headline means more people will click on your article wherever they see it, it ensures that the effort you put into writing an article will not be wasted, and it can also help your content get picked up. by search engines within weeks and months of publication.

Here are some areas you need to think about when writing headlines. It should be noted however that this is not about writing sensational headlines for short term traffic gains, it is about making sure that if you write a quality article the headline works for sell it.

1. Titles must be descriptive

As I mentioned in a recent article on journalism and SEO, some have lamented the passage of the pun title with the advent of the web.

They were fun and there’s nothing stopping them from being used in print, but web titles need to be descriptive. Who knows, maybe you can handle both in one title.

The problem is, non-descript titles don’t work so well out of context. Title also has a big effect on rankings, so they don’t work for SEO.

In short, you have to tell people what to expect from the article.

2. Avoid crappy click bait headlines

Definitions of clickbait will vary, but I think a lot of people will agree on what a crappy clickbait is.

There is this kind of garbage that pops up on a lot of news sites these days. There are worse out there, but it’s taken from a Washington Post article on Syria, very relevant …

click bait

Clickbait can also refer to titles that do not keep their promises. Too many hyperbole, SEO tips that promise to revolutionize your marketing strategy, etc.

Yes, the headlines have to be enticing, but there is a balance to be struck. Don’t overdo it. Headlines that promise the world and only bring traffic to disappoint won’t work as a long term strategy.

3. Titles must work on their own

When we write articles it is easy to think that they are placed at the top of the article and forget that they are often seen out of that context.

They will be visible in tweets, news feeds, newsletters, search results pages and more.

They often compete with other articles for attention, and your potential readers will scan and decide if they should click in a relatively short period of time.

So the headline should work on its own, as hopefully these examples from SEW’s Twitter do:

sew tweetdeck

4. Think about the length of the title

The web, in various ways, limits the length of your titles:

  • Google will only display the first 55-60 characters of a page title, so keep that in mind when creating titles. Keep it under 55 or think about what will happen if it stops at this point. We just did this with our article on internal linking, while Moz and SEOmark are well within the limit. As for the KISSmetrics post, you will have to click to find out what these commandments will do …google page titles
  • Social media. Be aware of character limits on social posts. For example, if you want to tweet an article adding the URL and the image, the title should not be too long.
  • Email newsletters. This varies depending on the device or email program your followers use, but shorter titles are more likely to be viewed in their entirety.
  • Readability. Sorry for stating the obvious, but a shorter title is easier to read and digest quickly. Take it too long and people will be less likely to read it.

Overall, my advice would be to keep titles under 60 characters long whenever possible, especially if you’re looking to create evergreen content that performs well in search results.

This is why the following title is 103 characters long 😉big title

5. Don’t promise what you can’t deliver

This relates to the click-bait point to some extent, but you can write a good headline and not deliver the content.

Now part of it comes down to the quality. If you come up with what you consider to be “stuff” and it’s just pulled together from a bunch of posts on the web, without much thought or original details, people will feel like they’ve got it. made have.

There is a tendency for adjectives in headline writing that can sometimes oversell content – “amazing tips that will boost your content marketing” etc.

If you want to be bold, you had better be sure your content matches the title. I left for “The ultimate guide” on a recent ClickZ article. I think I made it this far …

6. Be concise

As we know from point four, there are a number of reasons to keep headlines relatively short.

Take the time and look at your headlines. Is every word essential? Otherwise, delete it.

7. See what works and learn from it

Take a look at your analytics and what articles are being shared more on social media. Can you spot some common characteristics?

For example, these are the five most shared SEW items in the past six months, as Buzzsumo shows.

I would say that in any case, the title tells the user what to expect if they click on it. They’re all relatively short too, and of course we have a few lists in there.

Buzzsumo headlines

It’s good to look at a mix of tools to get the right idea. What works on social media isn’t necessarily the same as what works in terms of traffic, or in terms of leads or conversions.

However, some common factors should emerge that will help you create better headlines.

8. Add keywords to titles

The rule has always been to pre-load the keywords, but that’s supposed to be less important to Google now. I would still like to have my keywords in the title.

This will help with ranking, it is more likely to be used as anchor text if people link to your site, and these key words can also grab the attention of your target audience on social sites, in newsletters, or in search results.

9. Don’t be afraid of lists

Listicle is easy to poke fun at, but the point is, they work well online.

People love lists, it tells them that the article has a defined structure and therefore should be easy to read and digest.

These are the first ten pages of last year on SEW. Five are numbers, six are lists. If I deleted the home page and category pages, there would be more.

sew lists

“How to” also works well for us – four of the top 20 fit this pattern. Then you have to ask and answer a question – it works on people’s natural curiosity and, if well written, is helpful to the reader.

10. Collaborate on the headlines

Sometimes I do the headlines on my own, but I find it very helpful to chat with colleagues and share ideas.

You might think you already have a great title, but maybe someone else has a better idea.

In summary

While you will find plenty of headline and formula generators, headline writing shouldn’t be too automated.

There are key factors to consider, rules worth following (most of the time) and some things to absolutely avoid, but headlines should also reflect the personality of the site and its audience.

Also, you have to mix it up. If each headline is a numbered list, it won’t look good even if it works for traffic (unless you’re buzzfeed).

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