10 Tips for Writing Snappy Headlines

snappy headlines

The goal for any headline is to get people to read the next line, and then the next, and then hopefully the whole post. That conversion between the headline and the post is where you’ll find success in attracting readers.

According to Copyblogger, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy only, and the remaining two will read the full blog or article.

How do you attract Googlers to your blog with just your headlines? Here’s 10 tips and tools on how to convert headline skimmers into blog readers.

1. Keep it short and specific.

Make sure your headline is your central message. That’s how a journalist convinces you to read their article in the newspaper. A short headline will tell readers what the article or blog is about, and entice them to read more.

If you wrote your headline to be “2015 is the best year yet,” readers are going to skip it because its not specific. Because that headline is so general, they’ll move on, unless you write something like, “2015 is the best year for beagles.”

That’s specific and short.

2. Headline Formulas

If you’re still unsure about writing headlines, don’t worry, there are tools to help.

Buffer compiled a list of formulas for Tweets, blogs, articles, emails and more. This way you can have a blueprint on the best headlines in order to create your own.

According to a Kissmetrics study, readers will absorb the first three words and the last three words of a headline. So basically a six-word headline is ideal, right? I don’t know about you, but I don’t write six-word headlines very often. (you did on this post!)

Headline formulas are great to use as a guideline, but make sure they don’t make you sound robotic. Robots are the worst.

3. Emotional Headline Analyzer

Magnolia Media Network recommends using the Emotional Headline Analyzer. Type in a headline and it will determine if it will reach your customers in a deep emotional way.

The headline on this blog scored a measly 16.67%. Welp, back to the drawing board.

4. Avoid brag words.

Don’t put words like awesome, or magnificent in your headline. It will make it seem more like a sales pitch, and get ignored. That’s definitely not what you want.

5. Journalist writing imperatives.

-Must be correct (in fact and implication)
-Must connect to ordinary readers (be easily understood)
-Must attract attention (using interesting, active words)
-Must set (or match) the tone of the article

In the Columbia University School of Journalism, they give students this guideline and stress that headlines are the entry point for readers.

By using the aforementioned guideline, you’ll provide your readers with accurate headlines that convey the exact information you want them to have.

6. Think about media types.

You’ll have different character lengths depending on the media in which the post is shared. For example email subject lines that perform well are usually between 28-39 characters – that’s if you’re emailing your blog out to readers.

The Buffer Social blog researched the ideal character length of tweets, Google+ posts, Facebook posts, and a variety of other mediums. This way you’ll know what’s most effective to engage readers.

7. Use interesting data.

This might seem to contradict six, but if you have interesting data to share, use that.

Example: Canada claims moose as a pet.

That headline is a little boring, and will easily be glossed over. Try this one instead:

Example: 2,578 moose have been domesticated in Canada.

Doesn’t that make you want to know more? Both of those headlines are false, so don’t make a run for Canada to get your very own moose.

8. Does it work out of context?

Those that encounter your headline, might not have any idea what your organization does. So make sure that the headline you wrote doesn’t refer to acronyms, or language someone outside of your industry won’t know.

9. Consider word choice.

The more complex a headline, the higher the difficulty readers will have trying to discern it. They’ll go read something else. Forget using those $10 words. Do they really make your headline better? No, actually they probably confuse your readers.

If your reader can’t determine what the blog post is about just through the headline, you should probably consider a rewrite.

10. Make it useful.

Make sure your headline conveys the benefit of your blog or article. You want your blog post to add value to the reader. So when writing a headline think of this phrase in the shoes of your reader: What’s in it for me?

The other way to think about this is: WIIFY. What’s in it for you? This is an acronym one of my professors instilled in us in my PR and journalism courses. These headlines will convert skimmers into readers because there’s a benefit in the blog that will add value to what the reader wants to know.

Headlines aren’t easy to write. They need to convey a vast amount of information in very little. And that’s not a simple task, even for the best copywriters. Its okay to create multiple versions of a headline before you find the winner. Upworthy writes upwards of 25 different headlines until they can narrow it down based on many of these tips.

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About Aubrey

Aubrey left her Seattle home to find her Great Perhaps, which has so far led her to Southern New Hampshire University as a double-major in Creative Writing and Communication. She’s passionate about social media and has a love for coffee and waffles.