Headlines are all too often an afterthought. I’ve actually published articles and the headlines that went out with them were meant to be placeholders for the actual, thought out, creative, catchy headline that I’d later drop in. Ugh.
So how do you write a smart headline that gets all the clicks and provides meaning to the content you spent so much time creating?
How do you grab the attention of your readers and engage with them through just a small, tidy string of words?
Study Other Headlines
I mean, you know what grabs you, right? Pay attention to all headlines and take notice of the words, the style, the composition, the emotion.
Searching for content in your area of expertise will give you hundreds of related pieces to look through, and if you set up a Google alert you don’t even have to do all the searching, the content will be sent to you on auto.
Googling “power words” is another easy place to start the process and get your juices flowing.
Be Creative, Not Vague
Being clear and concise is better than vague and witty—usually. Your headline serves to tell your reader what’s to come.
You want your headline to be descriptive and direct so your reader knows what to expect, people don’t like to be deceived, so stay on-topic and don’t get too cryptic. That said, don’t be all bores and snores either. You can be descriptive and creative.
It never hurts to ask your friends or co-workers what they think. Gaining insight from an actual reader will provide valuable information.
If the stress of the perfect headline is weighing on you, look to others for some inspiration. Check out dictionaries, thesauruses, idioms, poems, rhymes, tools made for writers.
You can even look at social media outlets like Instagram and Pinterest. Perhaps an image will give you an idea for your words. Say you’re writing a piece on photography, look at a photographer’s image-centric boards or website or blog. What comes to mind?
The Truth Is in the Headline
It’s incredibly important to give the reader what you’ve promised them. If you want someone to click on you, don’t commit to something they won’t be receiving—you’ll lose a reader for life.
Look at the content itself. What have you conveyed? What was the craziest part? The funniest? What will capture your audience? You may have already written your very best headline—verbatim.
I’m not usually all about matchy-matchy, but your headline should absolutely match the tone of the rest of your content.
If you’re writing about a tragedy, you simply cannot have a funny or catchy headline. You’ll be criticized and criticizers don’t go easy on you, especially online.
If your story is about an alpaca farm that’s also a B&B and wine vineyard that provides yoga classes, by all means, make your headline: You Pack The Wine Glasses, Alpaca The Yoga Pants. However, if that very same place got hit by a tornado and there were no survivors, not a good headline.
(Also, if this place exists, please leave that info in a comment below.)
The Search Engines
You don’t wanna forget these guys. So keep them right there in front of your brain when creating your headline. You’re not only trying to appeal to your readers but also the crawlers of the web that rank your content.
Keywords are just as important in the headline as they are throughout the body. Don’t get crazy, but pack in some of those searched words so you actually come up when a searcher searches.
Theme the Rules
If you follow these steps we know you can come up with some quality headlines and before you know it, headline writers from across the globe will be coming to you for their headline inspiration.