Headlines: Have You Been Writing Them Wrong All Along?

Anyone to everyone that is involved in content marketing has at one time or another wondered about what they could do better. There are a number of ways through which your content strategy can become more effective. But, the first thing that can be improved in articles, blog posts, press releases, or any marketing collateral is the headline you use.

Headlines are, after all, what influences potential readers to read.

Paint a Picture through Headlines

Here’s the bitter truth. Most people that visit your website or blog won’t read all the great content you meticulously put together.

paint-a-pictureThat’s okay though.

The visitors of your website don’t have to read every single word on there to agree with you or to buy the products you sell or the services you render.

However, here’s the tricky part. You need to make sure that the visitors are able to extract the information you want to convey through the headlines.

Let’s take this blog as an example. Through the main heading, a potential reader would be able to gather that that there are both good and bad practices when it comes to writing a headline. Pretty self-explanatory stuff. Additionally, the first subheading suggests that good headlines need to channel core ideas without beating around the bush.

Bad News Sells

It’s a sad thought, but the truth of the matter is that negative news is circulated more than positive news. As someone that’s responsible for the brand image of your organization, your gut instinct would be to share positivity because you’re working under the pretense that good news equates to a good brand image.

That’s true to some extent, but look at it this way…

bad-newsThe title of this post could have been 4 Tips to Improve Headlines. Do it, scroll back and see how much better the current headline is.

You don’t have to go all Negative Nancy with the headlines. Explore different options. Settle for one that would compel you to read through.

Increase the Length of the Headlines

Three amazing sites, with fantastic content are Business Insider, Buzzfeed, and Upworthy. Guess what they all have in common? That’s right, they all use long headlines.

If you’re going to paint a picture through your headline and if it’s going to be spun in a negative direction, then you’re going to have to use a wordy title.

But how many words are too much?

According to a study by Sharethrough, 21-28 words is the range through which you’re bound to get maximum engagement and impact.

To us, that’s a bit much. Especially considering most users read on their mobile devices. However, if you were to use the range that the aforementioned sites use, then you should use around 10-15 words per title.

Use Power Words

When choosing a headline, try to incorporate words that imply that action needs to be taken. Words like:

  • Improve
  • Enhance
  • Kickass
  • Breakthrough

Also, you want to create a sense of urgency through words like:

  • Now
  • Hurry
  • Latest
  • Last Chance
  • Today

Last, but not least, use superlatives.

  • Amazing
  • Best
  • Excellent
  • Free
  • Latest


Pass Up on Passive Voice

There is a certain level of animosity against passive voice at large. That shouldn’t really be the case. In some cases, the use of passive voice is actually better than the alternative. However, in headlines, you should always try to use active voice. Here’s an example:

Passive: The revolutionary iPhone was introduced by Steve Jobs in 2007

Active: Steve Jobs introduced the revolutionary iPhone in 2007

Neither of these are great titles. But we don’t need a great title here to prove a point.

In both sentences, there’s an action word (introduced). Notice the placement of the action word in both sentences. In active voice, the action word is placed earlier in the title. You should always aim to place the action word as early as you can.

Second point you need to understand is the placement of the brand or the celebrity.

For the sake of argument, we’ll assume that the focus of this title is Steve Jobs. Let’s replace his name with your business’ name.

Passive: The revolutionary iPhone was introduced by YourCompany in 2007

Active: YourCompany introduced the revolutionary iPhone in 2007

Which one do you like better from a branding perspective? Ditch passive voice. Go active!

Test a Few before Selecting the One You Like

There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to choosing a headline for the title of your content. Sometimes you might benefit from not revealing core ideas in the title, at other times, it may be advantageous for you to use a short, crisp headline.

It’s advised that you try out at least a couple of titles before you select one. Ask yourself whether or not you would want to read on based off what the title is. If you don’t like it, not many would.

It takes years and years of experience before someone is able to master content writing. There are so many different things to factor in before you publish anything. As professional writers, we encourage everyone to learn as much as they can about the trade. But, it’s always best to leave your content needs to the professionals. Especially if your organization’s reputation is at stake.



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