Back to Basics: How to Write Effective Headlines

By Amy Duchene

hzv_westfalen_de / Pixabay

In any article or blog post or other piece of marketing content, headlines are very likely the first thing people see, next to the images. In fact, it may be one of the few things in the item that readers view, because, let’s face it, most just skim.

A few years ago, the Washington Post claimed roughly 40% of articles were consumed beyond the headline. Copyblogger sets that number even lower, stating that only 20% of articles get fully read.

In some cases, the headline is the only thing people read. According to Forbes, more than half will share an article after reading just the headline – so let’s hope you get it right.

Forbes goes on to say, “In a read article, headlines are one of the most powerful contributors to performance, and in a non-read article, it’s the only contributor to performance. As a result, headlines have become almost like articles in and of themselves.”

A headline needs to convey a lot in a little space. It must be catchy, state the theme or thesis of your piece, and make people want to read more.

“Your heading (headline, title) is the single most important thing you write on the Web,” says Gerry McGovern in his book Killer Web Content.

So, why is a headline often an afterthought? Something thrown together in a scramble when you get ready to post a piece?

Today, let’s take a little time to give headline writing the attention that it warrants.

What is a headline?

A headline is the window into the content as a whole. Whether you’re writing for print or web, marketing or journalism or advertising, you need to create some form of headline.

Traditionally, a headline is what is used at the start of journalistic articles and blogs. Whether we realize it or not, we write headlines nearly every day … in the form of email subject lines. Those nifty marketing taglines and campaign copy are also a form of headlines.

How long should a headline be?

The rule of thumb I swear by is: three to ten words per headline (though I aim for somewhere in the middle as much as possible). A five-to-seven word headline is my sweet spot.

In some cases, you need to be especially cautious of the word count – especially when you’re writing for the web or email. You want to be sure character count limitations don’t truncate your copy. Try to keep your email subject lines to 50 characters or under. As for web search results, depending on your browser and search engine, a headline may truncate at roughly 70 characters.

Remember, you may be able to offload some of those words into a sub-headline, too. If your design allows the luxury of using a subhead, take full advantage to add more content and context.

Characteristics of an effective headline

Headlines, as we know, need to be succinct, savvy, and snappy. A former boss used to strive to make sure Go to the full article.

Source:: Business 2 Community

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