Headline Creation Quick Tips
Headlines are tricky – especially when writing for the Web. You want to be search engine friendly, but at the same time, you don’t want to readers (or potential readers) to skim over the headline like it’s part of a technical manual.
The point of a headline is to get everybody’s attention: crawlers and people alike. While crawlers are easy to predict – the structure and timing are quite mechanical – people are in tons of different places with tons of different motivations.
Searchers are looking for something different in a title or headline than regular website visitors, who are browsing differently than the social network audience.
Writing for a spider is easy: Google Crawls Webpages
Simple, direct, clean. Subject, object, verb. Robots aren’t impressed with your cleverness.
Muhammed Saleem over at CopyBlogger says you need to write three different kinds of headlines, one for search engines, one for regular readers, and one for socially driven sites. Writing for all three is difficult.
He gives some good tips for how to that. If you’re especially good, though, you can write for all three simultaneously, though some might say it’s a bad idea to try. There is a bit of craft to it, and you’ll need an extra boost of creativity.
But as a guide:
1. Weight the front. In English, we scan from right to left, but the important keywords first to make the instant connection with whomever is reading – whether they’re reading from the search results, on your site, or on Digg.com.
2. No inside jokes. The headline is funny to you because you know the whole story. If you crack a joke in the headline, make sure it’s readily laughable on its own, or is enticing enough on its own to click.
3. Announce the topic. No busy searcher is going to guess at what you’ve written about.
4. Revisit cranky ol’ William Strunk: Omit needless words.