Write a headline that someone will click on

printing press. the old way
Headlines have moved on since the printing press

You could spend a week writing the best thousand-word article you’ve ever written. Made up of weeks of interviews, research and all the rest of it.

The sad fact is is that in this day and age many people don’t even go beyond the headline.

So you’ve got to get it right.

But headlines are a rather contentious element. Everybody knows about to clickbait. Yet even those who openly criticises try to make their own content use the same model. The fact they moan means clickbait works.

So how do you make your headlines more clickbaity?

What is a headline?

Well, the Washington Post says that only around 40% of its articles are read beyond the headline. However, there are some estimates that this may be as low as 20% across-the-board.

So in some ways the headline has become more important than the article itself.

In the old days headline was simply a large title that was kept within a small space. Editors were pushed to the limits in terms of finding relevant words that pull people in and fit.

But thanks to the web, headlines are now far longer than what they used to be. There are almost intros in their own right.

Fact is that headlines are often turned left to last. You wrote the article and then see what you can title it.

But now people really have to think about things when they come to writing a headline and the story too.

There is a feeling that you should write the headline first and let everything else follow.

How long should it be?

There are some that say you can get away with as few as three words for a web headline. Personally, this seems to be way too short.

The headline should convey the meaning of the story but fall short of delivering the punchline. Three words is not enough for this and if it is you should be looking at your story.

We reckon it is best to have around 10 words for a headline.

You may want a character count for this. Maybe around 25 characters spaces would do. But it really depends on how readable the headline is. You need to read it first time or else it has failed.

So what does need to look like?

Law number one: if the headline cannot be read first time then start again.

You might have plenty of time to look at that clever quip . But the reader doesn’t have that much time. And frankly the reader doesn’t care.

The headline needs to be succinct and snappy. It needs to be compelling and it needs to get somebody to click on it.

To do this it book needs to create some sort of emotion. That could be humour or anger it doesn’t matter, it just needs to have some sort of impact. Emotion creates interaction, i.e. views and shares.

Blandness will fade into the background.

Keywords for function

There’s nothing wrong with using phrases such as tips for how to. It helps frame your article and tell the reader what they are likely to get out of it.

Likewise it is handy to add keywords into the headline. This is not just for SEO but to focus your mind on what the reader is looking for. There is a contract of sorts and by using that keyword you make a promise to the reader.

Lastly, do not be afraid to sensationalise your story. You should be bold about it. There are enough bland things about there. And at the end of the day if the story does not have a sensational angle then why are you writing it to begin with?

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