When I did the free writers’ blog review day a few weeks back, one thing really jumped out as I went from blog to blog: The headlines.
In the main, they sucked.
Most weren’t grabbing me and making me feel compelled to read the posts under them. Many didn’t have any key words in them that would help relevant readers find and take an interest in them. Quite a few didn’t even give me a clear idea what the posts were about.
This upset me.
Headlines are just insanely important in our Internet-media era.
I’m not usually this bossy, but I want everyone reading this to stop what they’re doing right now and learn how to write great headlines.
It will be well worth your time, because writing truly outstanding headlines will change your life. Compelling headlines can rocket your writing career forward, whether you’re trying to monetize your blog or get an article assigned by a major magazine.
Hope you’re with me now.
I know that in the past, editors wrote headlines for many of us. Some still do, but in the main the days are over when you could write a general topic slug at the top of your article and that would cut it.
Understand that headlines work differently online, and in our current short-attention-span culture, than they worked in a newspaper 100 years ago.
To sum up, headlines are everything. If you don’t have a good headline, you will not be noticed, assigned, read, retweeted, clicked on, or “liked.”
It’s important to know how headlines work now and to master modern headline writing, because when you do, you will earn more from your writing. It’s just that simple. Many new doors will fling open and you will have more great-paying writing opportunities once you rock your headlines.
7 reasons why killer headlines will change your life:
- More readers. When your headline is irresistible and has good key words, you will attract readers and build your reputation.
- More assignments. If you can write strong headlines in your article queries, you will get to write more and better-paying articles.
- More subscribers. Your blog lives or dies by its headline in your subscriber emails and RSS feeds. The headline is often all they can see! If it’s not interesting, they move on. If that happens enough, they unsubscribe.
- Better writing. When you write a strong headline, your post organizes itself quickly and is easier to write.
- Faster writing. A good headline practically outlines your story for you, which means you write faster. Faster writers can write more each year, so they earn more.
- Better subheads. Once you get the hang of headlines, you’ll also start writing stronger subheads. And these days, your articles and blog posts need to be scannable. Strong subheads will help you with this.
- You stand out. The vast majority of bloggers and writers don’t really understand headlines, and don’t write strong headlines. Learn how to do it, and you immediately look more savvy and professional than the average scribe.
I was very fortunate in that at my first staff-writing job, we were forbidden to turn in stories without proposed headlines. They would not be accepted. I was forced to learn to write headlines.
Over the years, I got better at it. Now, I often find my headlines are used by the editor (which is a real feat since many editors feel they must rewrite your headline to justify their jobs).
But I get the sense many others have not had the benefit of years of headline-writing experience. So here is a crash course:
Learn headline basics. In mentoring other writers, I sometimes review query letters. I often see queries like this: “I’d like to write about Healthy Living.” That’s not a headline, that’s a topic. A vague, ill-defined topic. As opposed to: 10 Tips for Healthy Living on the Road. Or maybe, Is Your Community Encouraging These Healthy-Living Habits? See how you can tell exactly what these articles or blog posts will be about? That’s what you want in a headline.
Understand the psychology. What makes humans click on a post? Figure this out, and your headlines will drive you some monster traffic. One thing that apparently drives our wee brains nuts is questions. One is a vagueness that can’t be answered without reading the post, as in a headline such as “Does your blog make these four key mistakes?” For more about this, read Why Do Some Headlines Fail?
Think brevity. Don’t make your blog headline go on for three lines. Think short and punchy. Delete any extraneous words.
Spend time on your headline. A headline shouldn’t be the first dashed-off thought you have. This is make-or-break up here on line one. Spend some time crafting and refining your headline. Write several and then think about which one works best.
Study great blog headlines. Many of my favorites are on Copyblogger. Scanning their popular posts bar is like a free course in headline writing.
What’s your favorite recent headline? Let’s share some great headlines in the comments to provide additional headline-writing inspiration. Personally, I thought there were some great ones in the last Top 10 Articles for Writers post I did.
Photo via stock.xchng user somadjinn