35 quick mini-tips on how to write hard-hitting headlines

How to write better headlines that pull in the readers is not a hit-or-miss exercise: there’s a bit of science to it, whatever its business purpose.

HTWB headlines May-16

Here are some quick mini-tips that will help you write good headlines, whatever they’re for. (And below, you’ll find the answers to Tuesday’s grammar quiz … check it out and see how you did…)

What is a headline’s main job?

1.Your first and only chance to grab readers by the throat

2.Online, you only have nano-seconds

3.Headline will indicate what’s in it for the reader

4.You need to know what you want your reader to feel, and do

5.Lots of research and guidance available on writing headlines

6.But what matters is what your intentions are

7.People make the mistake of expecting headlines to do too much

8.Given how tiny people’s attention spans are, headlines can only do one thing

9.If you try to make them do more than that, it won’t work

Blog posts and articles

10.Here you’re not trying to make a sale

11.You need to capture attention and interest long enough to get them into your text

12.Much as many of us are fed up with the “formula” styles of headline, they are proven to work

13.List posts and number headlines work

14.Psychologists say it’s because we feel comfortable if our information is ordered

Why can’t we be more creative with headlines?

15.Speaking as a copywriter by trade I miss the chance to be creative

16.But people online now don’t have time to sit for half a second and think about a clever headline

17.They just want undiluted information. Fast.

18.Should we be more inventive, creative?

19.But what do you do in the face of your marketplace?

20.Do you say they should be as clever as you are?

21.Or do you write headlines with little creativity but benefits that smack you in the teeth?

Headlines for blogs can be expanded on be SEO

22.One good thing about blogging is that although your headline may need to be a bit basic, you have other options

23.I’m basing the next few comments on my own WordPress site but I imagine it’s the same everywhere

24.The URL of the post can use a long tail keyword

25.Your image tagging can be more specific about your post

26.The same with the custom document title

27.Plus with the Page Meta Description and the Page Meta Keywords

Now what about advertising headlines online?

30.Given you only have a few words you need to be very clear on what you want out of the ad

31.What you write depends a lot on where in the buying cycle you think your targets are

32.General consensus is, don’t try to be clever: just be clear

33.Focus on getting the click through, not a conversion or sale yet

34.Try to work in a bit of emotion if you can: people on Facebook are usually in a personal frame of mind

35.Don’t be blinded by SEO – communicate with humans here

Answers to Tuesday’s writing quiz (correct sentences in bold):

_____1.   I would have gone in his place, but he insisted that he was well enough for work.
_____2.   The report that I’ve wrote should be ready for our meeting tomorrow. “Wrote” is the past tense: here you want the past particle, “written.”
_____3.   We really shouldn’t of been so argumentative with that new supplier. Shouldn’t “have,” not shouldn’t “of.”
_____4.   Me and my manager drove to Bristol to see the HR team at Head Office. My manager and I.
_____5.   It looks like it’s down to you and I to sort out this delivery problem. You and me. In either case, leave out the other person – you’ll soon see whether to use “I” or “me.”
_____6.   The property comprises 3 bedrooms, a family bathroom, lounge/diner and kitchen. (Never “comprises of.”)

_____7.   He will be on leave next week, apparantly. “Apparently,” not “apparantly.”
_____8.   Here are some appropriate perimeters to use to judge the results. (“Perimeters” is usually what people mean when they write “parameters.”)
_____9.   Her car is in the workshop today to have its breaks done. “Brakes,” not “breaks.”
_____10. The CEO paid Maureen quite a nice compliment about her work today.
_____11. Irregardless of how late we need to stay on, we must complete this report today. Traditionally there is no such word as “irregardless.” It’s “regardless,” or “irrespective.”
_____12. Wow! Did you see that flash of lightening? “Lightning,” not “lightening.”

_____13. It’s only a matter of time before someone collides with the new fencing.
_____14. Womens’ and mens’ clothing are on the second floor. “Women” and “men” are already plural words, so it’s “women’s” and “men’s.”
_____15. We need to submit those figures to the Board in 3 day’s time. “There are 3 days, so it’s “3 days’.”
_____16.  The ladies’ room is just down the corridor to your right. “Ladies,” the plural word here, already has an “s” so the apostrophe goes after it.
_____17. We need to buy more staples, printer cartridges and copier paper. (In the USA people might insert an Oxford comma between “cartridges” and “and.”)
_____18. He looks very ill, we need to phone his wife and ask her to take him home. Should be a colon, not a comma, between the two clauses.

_____19. Speaking as a professional, I would suggest you consider a lawsuit.
_____20. After giving a rousing speech, the entire audience applauded the CEO. The audience didn’t give the speech. Should be “After his/her rousing speech…etc.”
_____21. Dressed smartly with stunning jewellery, the Chairman was pleased to escort her to lunch. From this we can’t tell who was wearing the smart jewellery. Turn it around.
_____22. Even though it was raining, he managed to walk between the buildings and stay dry.
_____23. The Chairman was accompanied by the Vice-Chairman holding the trophies and the CEO. Unless the Vice-Chair was very strong, we need a comma between “trophies” and “the.”
_____24. The HR Director towered over the President in very high heels. Who is wearing the high heels? It’s the HR Director, so put “, who was wearing very high heels,” after “Director.”

And for more on how to write good headlines and other key business writing criteria, have a browse around here.