Write Good Headlines Nine Ways. It’s true for advertisers, news writers and bloggers. No matter how brilliant the body of your piece may be if it does not have a headline that grabs attention and persuades people to read it, you might as well be writing with invisible ink. The headline of your blog post, article or news release is like the front door of your house. Your “front door” should compel readers to “come inside” and read because it’s more interesting and beneficial here than it is somewhere else.
I’ve read where some writers wait until they are completely finished with an article or post to start on the headline. If that works for the more experienced writers, then great. But if you are just starting out you need some direction, hints, or a kind of a process at least to get started. Here is what I do.
- Write a draft title first. Once I settled on the topic to write about a title goes at the top of the page. The draft title for this post is “What’s In A Headline And How To Write Good Ones”. Now look at the top of the page and see how much the title changed or did not change after writing and editing. A draft or working title like this anchors you and your thinking. I know after penning the draft title, hey, I’m writing about how to write a good headline, so think about that. On the other hand of my 1st headline was too broad, it would be hard to focus. If the draft was just “headlines” it would be tougher to figure out the specifics of why this mattered.
- Do not overpromise. If you write a headline that says something like “5 guaranteed ways to find customers without even getting out of your chair” you will attract readers. Unfortunately they will only come to visit your blog a single time because you overpromised and under-delivered. Trust is difficult to win on your best day. It is easy to lose, and once trust is lost, it’s gone. Don’t just write “click bait” but instead give your readers real value. Start the relationship with a reasonable, accurate headline.
- Be Accurate. This is along the same theme as number 2. Save hyperbole and creative exaggeration for your script-writing project. There are plenty of ways to use language creatively and honor your honesty value.
- What is the value proposition? Why or how will the reader benefit from reading your piece? Tell them and be specific. “Raid Kills Bugs Dead” tells you exactly what Raid will do and in very few words. Brilliant.
- Use interesting language. Or use combinations of words that do not ordinarily occur together. Strong phrases like “why we hate to eat our vegetables”, “how I earned the label genius”, “local sports team delivers ass kicking” or “kick ass” are acceptable, at least in some forums. If you have a doubt about whether or not a word like “ass” is acceptable or not, it probably is not. I have no issue using it here, but would not use when I write about performances by the symphony orchestra that I play in. “Brazosport Symphony’s Mozart Kicks Major Ass” is more than a little out of place.
- Don’t be boring or lazy. I read newspaper headlines that use hackneyed phrases and descriptions. “Pet Fashion Show Goes To The Dogs” is one I saw recently. Yawn. This headline writer was just going through the motions, barely. He had decided that the newspaper industry was dead and his performance could do little to save it. What About, “Pet Fashion Model Shakes, Licks Itself Then Raises Thousands.” Regardless of which you believe is best, the one that gets the readers is best. And mine was the best. Just sayin’.
- Numbers and lists. People are drawn to lists and numbers in headlines. I better have a really interesting post to write a headline that does not have a number in it because my experience and that of other bloggers is that without them, you will draw fewer readers.
- Shorter is better. When writing headlines, be brief. If you can write a tweet that fits their character constraint, you can do it with a headline too.
- Ask friends or co-workers their opinions. Brainstorm with them about what the best headline is. Two heads are always better and three is better still. Your good friends will tell you the truth about a headline. If they will alert you to spinach in your teeth, or toilet paper on your shoe they will help you with a headline. Good friends want you to be successful. If you have them, consider yourself lucky. If you work alone, maybe it’s time to make some friends?