The A-to-Z Guide to Writing Headlines for Online Content

As a content marketer, you fight for attention.
You battle to earn readers.

You win the battle by making the all-important headline engaging and irresistible.

Write a dull headline and it’s the only line that gets read. You don’t want that. So let’s make our way through the alphabet and spell out 26 tactics bound to help you improve your headline writing chops.

 

Ask

Posing a question, one of the oldest tricks in the book, remains one of the best ways to engage a reader.

  • Thinking of Creating Original Research? 8 Things to Consider
    (Content Marketing Institute)
  • Is Retirement the Only Way to Live the Live You Want?
    (Further.net)

Benefits

Features tend to bore readers. Make an emotional appeal by putting benefits in your headline. An effective shortcut is to fill in the blank: How to [Blank]. Features won’t work there.

  • How to Make an FAQ Page That Generates Sales
    (Marketing Words)
  • A Lead Magnet Promotion Checklist to Build Your Email List Faster
    (Feldman Creative)

Colons

A proven headline approach (which can be especially effective for search) is to begin with a topical keyword phrase, followed by a colon—or dash—followed by a statement or question.  

  • Social Trust Factor: 10 Tips to Establish Trust and Credibility for Your Brand
    (Social Media Today)
  • Quora Marketing: Tips, Tactics and Best Practices
    (Orbit Media Studios)

Do’s and Dont’s

What to do? What not to do? Write a “do or don’t” headline to indicate your content is going to deliver a tactic or list that does or doesn’t t work for a task your audience needs to accomplish.

  • The 12 Do’s and Don’ts of Web Design
    (Adobe)
  • Don’t Make These 7 Facebook Advertising Mistakes (Lessons We Learned from 50+ Facebook Audits)
     (Bamboo)

Emotion

Decisions—be they to buy a product or “bite” at a headline—are based on emotions. Capitalize on the power of emotion by aiming for a feeling or describing one.

  • 8 Very Real Reasons People Hate Monday
    (Inc.)
  • 5 Reasons Why Fashionistas Will Swoon Over Apple Watch
    (InStyle)

Facts

In the world of non-fiction, we all hunger for facts. A well-timed, topical, or provocative fact (or list of them) can be the ultimate hook for your story.

  • Six Social Media Facts You Need to Know
    (Entrepreneur)
  • 28 Surprising Stats About Prospecting in 2018
    (HubSpot)

Greats

No matter what you’re writing about there are “greats” you might attach your story to: great accomplishments, great leaders, great landmarks in time, etc.

  • How to Speak Like MLK Jr.
    (Big Think)
  • This is How Bill Gates and Elon Musk Tackle Their Busy Days
    (WeForum.org)

Help

Help is a universal foundation of content marketing, non-fiction, and so many forms of publishing. As headline writer, you can always fall back on the simple strategy to highlight how your piece will be helpful.

  • The Beginner’s Guide to Instagram Influencer Marketing
    (Fomo)
  • 41 Must-Have Digital Marketing Tools to Help You Grow
    (Sprout Social)

 

Inspiration

Online content should be inspiring. It tends to guide you into new territory. A great headline may focus on the basic idea “you can do this.”

  • 10 Skills You Need to Thrive Tomorrow – and the Universities that will Help You Get Them
    (World Economic Forum)
  • 6 Steps to Awesome Canvas Art Even If You Suck at Painting
    (Trust the Vision Décor)

Jack an Article

Jack something, as in “steal” (or borrow). Writers often turn to “newsjacking” to borrow interest from a trending story or famous figure.  

  • The Ice Bucket Challenge: A Case in Viral Marketing Gold
    (Digiday)
  • Lessons Your Kids Can Learn from Black Panther
    (Parent24)


Keywords

Headline writers have always searched to use words that were key to the story, but in the age of search “keywords” has new meaning. The challenge is to include words people use when searching.

  • How to Upload a Video to YouTube from Start to Finish
    (Constant Contact)
  • How to Hide a Pimple—Keep A Zit Covered for Hours
    (Cosmopolitan)

Lists

Lists are the most popular approach for writing headlines for online content because they work. Readers instantly know what they’re getting and appreciate how lists bring order to their lives.  

  • 32 Ways Your Ecommerce Company Can Boost Engagement and Sales
    (Kissmetrics)
  • 26 Things You Need to Know to Build Credit
    (Go Banking Rates)

Mistakes

Mistakes, misconceptions, myths… Don’t fear flipping the sunny side down. Experienced pros embrace negative headlines that beginners fear because they have tremendous pulling power.

  • 7 Mistakes Leaders Make That Make Everyone Miserable
    (TalentSmart)
  • Common Dog Training Myths to Ignore
    (Reader’s Digest)

Also Read: Why kissing frogs is soooo important … A cliché revisited

Numbers

Using a number in your headline is powerhouse tactic. Beside the obvious use of numbers in list posts, you add intrigue to your headlines by citing results, timeframes, measurements, or anything that can be enumerated.

  • How to Start a Blog That Generates $3817 a Month
    (Neil Patel)
  • How the Curiosity Gap Brought in a 927% Lift
    (Copy Hackers)

Opinions

Write a headline that indicates you’re going to express your opinion—or that of another expert—and you’re likely woo many readers.

  • Why Colleges Suck At Making Programmers
    (Codeup)
  • Why I Don’t Believe in Unicorns
    (The Bullet)

Power words

Most headlines can be improved with power words. Revisit your headline looking for soft or vague words that can be replaced with more energetic, emotional or descriptive words.

  • 21 Campaigns that Captivated and Converted Consumers
    (Stackla)
  • 10 Tantalizing Ways to Boost Freelancer Productivity
    (Jeff Bullas)

Quotes

Pull a quote from a speech, interview, research report, song, play, movie or anything you believe makes for a tasty appetizer for the content soon to be served. Or simply create a post based on quotes.

  • 25 Inspirational Steve Jobs Quotes That’ll Help You Reach Your Goals
    (The Muse)
  • Did Michael Jordan Really Say “Republicans buy sneakers, too”?

Roundups

Roundup articles generally present the insights of a number of experts or sources. Headlines for roundups almost write themselves. How many experts? What will they share? Done.

  • 21 Experts Share Their Single Best Piece Of SEO Advice
    (Search Engine Journal)
  • 11 Brilliant Toys Recommended by Child Development Specialists
    (Romper)

Starting

Understand getting started tends to be the hardest part of any task. A smart headline technique is to indicate your content presents the reader with an effective way to begin.

  • The Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Social Media Marketing
    (Feldman Creative)
  • Guitar Basics: Getting Started with Open Chords
    (Music Radar)

Teasers

The “curiosity gap” is an age-old and proven headline technique. Simply write a headline that teases the reader into a state of “I must know where this is going.”

  • Women Are Freaking Out Over This Easy Hack To Make A Beauty Blender Like New
    (BuzzFeed)
  • Science Says the Most Successful Kids Have Parents Who Do These 9 Things
    (Inc.)

Uses

Here’s a simple technique, a derivative of the “How to.” Write a headline revealing how X can produce Y. Maybe… How the alphabet provides 26 headline writing tips.

  • 5 Ways to Use Social Media In Your Job Search
    (Social Media Today)
  • 10 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do with Eggs
    (Food Network)

Verbs

Does your headline have a verb? Could it start with a verb? Can you make the verb urgent and interesting? Inject action into your headlines with interesting verbs.

  • Command the Crowd: 3 Tips to Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking
    (Elite Daily)
  • Love Your Body and Yourself By Trashing Your Insecurities
    (Odyssey)

Who, what, when, where, why

Whether your headline is a question or a statement, these five “W” words can help you shape an interesting one.

  • Why Content Marketers Need to Start Thinking Like TV Advertising Execs
    (Taboola)
  • What Twitter’s New Rules Mean for Social Media Scheduling
    (MeetEdgar)

eXamples

eXamples can give you an eXciting way to tee-up your content. Showcase a person, group, companies, accomplishments, or any type of relevant example.

  • How Did Oprah Make All of Her Money? 10 Surprising Stories
    (Time)
  • 5 Clever Social Media Marketing Campaigns that Went Viral
    (Jeff Bullas)

You

Your headline isn’t going to callout the reader by name, but the word “you” is the next best thing.

  • The Most Valuable Thing You Can Do For Your Kids
    (Huffington Post)
  • 11 Things You Should Never, Ever Tell Your Boss, Even If It Seems Like a Good Idea
    (Bustle)

Zingers

A zinger is writer-speak for a quip or phrase that comes last. In the case of headline it gets tagged on as if it were an afterthought. You can do add zing with a second sentence (or place a thought in parentheses).

  • This is the No. 1 Reason Why People Fail at Switching Jobs (and What to Do About It)
    (Inc.)
  • The Ethical Way to Earn Money Online (Even if You Have Nothing to Sell)
    (SmartBlogger)

 

Barry Feldman

https://www.relevance.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/643929_386498668095751_272843507_n-150x150.jpgBarry Feldman is the author of three books including the highly praised personal branding manual, The Road to Recognition. Barry operates Feldman Creative and provides content marketing consulting, copywriting, and creative direction services. He contributes to top marketing sites and was named one of 25 Social Media Marketing Experts You Need to Know by LinkedIn. To get a piece of his mind, visit his blog, The Point.

  • 3.1K
  • 04/20

Champion Sponsors

Relevance is proud to present our Champion Sponsors that help make our site possible.