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Is There a Formula for the Perfect Headline?

In the world of print media sub-editors often hone their skills for years coming up with a snappy, witty and succinct headline that perfectly captures the article and fits in to the space available on the page. But when it comes to writing for the web not everyone has the same level of training and experience, and the restrictions and rules are very different.

When you publish a piece of content online, whether it is a breaking news story, a blog post, opinion article or how-to or advice guide, there are many conventions that will apply. Many more people will read your headline than go on to actually read the entire piece, and this is often down to a poorly written, uninspiring, convoluted or even boring headline.

So how can you encourage people to read your entire article with a few key words at the top? Read on for our top tips for great web headlines.

  • Don’t rush headline writing – it is really important to take your time and get it right. If at first it doesn’t work, come back to it and rewrite.
  • Keep it short and sweet – 65 characters should be the maximum length to ensure the full headline shows up in search engine results.
  • Don’t ramble – six words is the optimum number for a headline as people tend to scan it rather than truly focus on it.
  • Choose your words wisely – attention-grabbing adjectives that are exciting are ideal.
  • Speak directly to the reader – offer them advice, solve a problem, make them laugh, teach them something new.
  • Court controversy – don’t be afraid to tap into people’s insecurities by using a negative, shocking or thought-provoking headline.
  • Develop your headline – start with something very simple that sums up the article, then expand on it to make it more exiting and provoke a reaction by adding a couple of carefully selected words.
  • Avoid ambiguity – think carefully about the words you use and how you structure the headline – people should not have to read it more than once to understand what you are saying.

If you are writing regular articles for your site, particularly a series of blogs that will help, advice or solve problems for your readers, there are several formulaic headlines you can utilise that are great for getting attention in a quick and clear way.

  • Do You Want More [blank]?
  • The Secret of [blank]
  • How to Make [blank] Work For You
  • Surprising/Quick and Easy/Cheap Ways to [blank]
  • Banish [problem] Once and For All
  • Now You Too Can Have [blank]
  • What You Need to Know About [blank]

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