• Rachelle Smerhy

Day 9: How to Write Great Headlines for Your Content

Today's Mission: Understanding Headlines

To a certain extent, a great headline is the most important part of your content.

That may sound weird, but it makes sense.


Why?

Because on the internet, readers tend to do a lot of scanning. And when a reader is scanning your content, you've got mere seconds to grab their interest. If you can't do it, they'll head out within 3-5 seconds.


So this is where good headlines come in. A good headline will attract readers and make your content seem worth reading.

A bad headline? Not so much.

Bad headlines can distract your readers, or even have them leave your site altogether.

Ouch.

So how can you craft a good headline? Here are some tips to get you started:


· Keep it Simple


Complicated headlines are the worst. Keeping headlines simple and direct means readers needn't to think too hard. They're very likely on your site to get information. Which means if all they need to do is click and read, that's ideal.


Using bold and descriptive words will make your content much more appealing.


· Don’t Get too Clever


It's important your headline should match the content of your article. Otherwise, readers who click may not get past the first paragraph. Often, tricky headlines or cute little puns just don't make sense in the context of the article.


Keeping your headlines straightforward means your readers know what they're getting into. And since you're developing content to help them out, clarity is a good thing.

· Use an Active Voice


We live in an action-packed society where we're bombarded by eye-catching stuff all day long. Passive is boring, it's not what we've come to expect, especially in our online lives.

Which is why when writing headlines, it's good to use an active voice. Active voice makes readers feel active, it encourages them to take action.


Which means more engagement for you.


Use verbs to energize your headlines (not too many though!) and get your readers to click through and read.


· Watch your Capitalization


When it comes to headlines, capitalization can be an intimidating thing. So many people get confused about what words to capitalize vs. what words not to.


So what are the rules?


First off, proper nouns should always have capitals. So to go back to basic grammar, any person, place or thing. Second, don't capitalize everything; leaving some small-case letters helps break things up. · Use your Numbers


Don't spell out your numbers in headlines; using numeric symbols breaks things up. So instead of writing, 'Ten Ways to Get More Sleep,' make it, '10 Ways to Get More Sleep.'

Whenever possible, put the number first in the headline, and then go on to describe the rest of what's inside.


· Mind your Length


When thinking about headline length, be sure to think about where the headline will go. For example, if you're sending out an email, will it be too long for readers to see?

If it's going to appear in search results, is it clear and succinct or does it drone on? Will it be awkward to share?


Buffer.com wrote a good article, The Ideal Length of Everything Online, Backed by Research. In it, they cite Kissmetrics research that states the ideal headline length is 6 words.


This article is a great read, and not only for the headline research. There's a wealth of information there.

· Tell Readers what's Inside

Use your headline to let readers know what's in the article. Whether it's a list, tips, lessons, facts, reasons or recommendations, let them know.

This not only makes your headline super productive, it gives readers what they expect. After all, they're busy like you, and they'll love it if you respect their time.


Writing headlines can be fun, but they can also be a little stressful. As Copyblogger points out, 8 out of 10 people will read your headline, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest of the article. So no pressure!


Your mission for today is to read through the Buffer article on content length. And, it's ideal if you can click the Kissmetrics link or click here to read Neil Patel's (who owns Kissmetrics) guide on writing a headline.

Once you're done that, take a bit of time to scroll through your inbox and check out different headlines. Take note of the headlines that make you want to click through and the ones that make you want to hit 'delete', or even unsubscribe. Browse through your favorite blogs and do the same thing; which headlines make you want to know more, and which make you click away?

Have fun with it, and we'll see you back here for Day 10 of the challenge! You're doing great so far!