Have you ever clicked on an interesting article, only to feel overwhelmed by the amount of text on the page? When writing for the web, you want to provide your readers with bite-sized chunks of digestible information, rather than confusing them with long-winded prose. Headlines should play an important role in your page structure, guiding your readers and keeping their attention. Feel stuck? Use the following five tips for creating effective headlines.
1. Tell a Story through Your Headlines
Web users rarely jump give a blog post their full attention. Instead, they’ll scan the page searching for relevant information. Your headlines should guide these readers through the content and serve as a storytelling tool. Summarize your paragraphs succinctly and progress through your post in a linear fashion to help readers find the information they’re seeking as quickly as possible.
2. Use Keywords When Possible
Like it or not, SEO plays a role in how effectively your blog posts reach a large audience. Search bots index your pages regularly, using headlines to determine what subject matter you’re covering. Place your top keywords within your headlines to boost your page rank.
Keywords also help your reader understand what you’re trying to communicate. If you notice your bounce rates are particularly high, poorly-optimized headlines likely shoulder some of the blame. Use keywords to clarify your message and keep your reader on the page.
3. Brainstorm, Brainstorm, Brainstorm
For many web writers, headlines are nothing more than an afterthought. Instead of focusing exclusively on the body of your post, however, take the time to carefully brainstorm headline ideas. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, you may even wish to A/B test headlines on your pages to see which text converts better.
4. Address Readers Directly
Treat your content as if you were engaging in a conversation with a potential customer. How would you highlight the benefits of your services or product line? Now, use your headlines as the opportunity to succinctly pitch your business.
Many successful bloggers use headlines to attack pain points for their readers. For example, “Are You Tired of Dining in Ho-Hum Chain Restaurants?” might be a great headline for a local bistro. This headline directly asks a question to the reader, explains what the content covers, and references a pain point many diners feel.
5. Keep Your Headlines Simple
Remember, your headlines should summarize the main ideas of your post, not compete for space. Try to limit your headlines to about 70 characters. Use vivid word imagery to interest your reader, but don’t cram too many vocabulary words into your headline.
Do you remember the “five Ws” from English class? Your headlines should answer these questions for readers: who, what, when, where, and why. Writing witty headlines isn’t necessarily wrong, but don’t get so caught up in the process that you lose track of the main idea.