19 Rules For Writing Killer Headlines


 19 Rules For Writing Killer Headlines

Today, more than ever, those who get in front of the news cycle are the ones that help shape public opinion. Statistics show that online news consumption has increased by 500% over the last 10 years, and a whopping 97% of people say they trust information from an organization with a high reputation for accuracy.

This means you need to have your headlines on lock. Think about it: if you're trying to sell something or promote yourself, this is your number-one priority. Knowing how to make a headline click-worthy is one of the most vital skills any entrepreneur can possess, and not just because it helps reel in those coveted clicks - but because it makes all other marketing efforts more effective.

And with a 92% endorsement from respondents, here are 19 Rules for Writing Killer Headlines.

1 · Never use passive voice. This is probably one of the most common mistakes I see in media, and why so many don't get the attention they deserve. If you write a headline that reads "Congressman To Step Down," then that's what you'll see most people writing about. But if you write "Congressman To Resign Over Sexual Harassment Allegations," then something quite different will be happening.

2 · Keep your headlines short and snappy - no more than 20 words at a time. The time when your headlines are under the most strain is the time when they're supposed to draw in the attention of your audience. So make them count!

3 · Always use a question at the end of each headline. Sometimes I'll see headlines that read "NYPD Chief To Resign Over Shooting" or "Woman Dies After Being Hit By Police Car." That just screams 'click bait' right there in plain sight. Let's keep it real and avoid cheap tactics such as those by using questions instead of statements like: "Will NYPD Chief Step Down?" That's much more intriguing and eye-catching for readers.

4 · Don't use exclamation points. I get it - sometimes your headline needs to be more in the forefront than something like "New iPhone Launched" or "Steve Jobs Dies." But cable news loves headlines that say "Boehner's Must Resign!" because it makes for great tv - and that's a deliberate tactic. If you're writing a blog post for your website, though, don't overuse exclamation points. They generally look bad and the less you use them, the better.

5 · Make sure that every headline is unique and interesting. One of the greatest ways to do this is by utilizing a well-placed link at the end of your headline. If you were writing "The Hippie Papers Launch June 1st," then that might be a little too predictable, so try linking out to another new paper that will come out on June 1st called "The Criminal Justice Papers." Something like that and your headlines will actually start getting shared in social media as well as in search results online.

6 · Include numbers in your headlines - but not too many. Keep it simple by using no more than three numbers per headline. Don't make it too complicated for readers, and make sure each one makes sense together with your headline itself. Don't write "Earthquake Sets Christmas Fire" because that's ridiculous. Stick with "Christmas Fire Started By Earthquake," and you'll find that media outlets will pick up on that title more often than not.

7 · Make sure your headlines are worded properly. It has been previously reported by Hubspot that the top two reasons people blog is in an attempt to improve their search engine rankings – so use your headlines to draw in the readers who can help you get on top of Google's search results. By using your headlines to express a call-to-action – such as "Submit Your Story To The Hippie Papers" or "Add Your Own Hippie Story" – you're essentially inviting readers to help build your brand by spreading the word about it.

8 · Don't forget to use different types of headlines for each post. I see this a lot in the news industry. Remember that it's not just search engines you're after, but new human readers as well! So make sure your titles are varied and interesting. For example, one blog post might read "New York To Get Free Wi-Fi," while another could be titled "New York To Get 3D Printed Food.

9 · Use keywords to draw in the right kind of audience. Every time you use a keyword-rich headline in your blog post, you're essentially saying something like "I know this is boring for most people, but if you notice there's no headline here, then please check out my article." So what makes a good headline? Try searching Google for keywords that relate to the topic on which you're writing. And if it turns out your title doesn't contain any of those targeted keywords - then consider changing it!

10 · Cross-promote with other blogs. What is a blog post? It's not just a Facebook status update, but an online post that usually takes the form of an article or a series of articles. So when you're writing one, make sure you also link out to your blog and other social media platforms regularly so that you can cross-promote your content and boost your traffic the right way.

11 · Make sure your headlines are pretty much guaranteed to get clicked on. This takes trial and error - although I've had some pretty good results so far. One of the best suggestions I have for writing clickable headlines is to use the 'curiosity gap' method. Simply put, this is a headline that leaves out a very important piece of the pie. For example: "The Mayor Who Killed School Kids" or "A Teacher Who Made Over $1 Million During Summer Break." These headlines are left open-ended for a reason. You want to keep your readers guessing as to what really happened, which is what will get them interested in reading it.

12 · Don't make people read too much in your headlines. Sure, you want to get your message across in a nice and clear way for readers to understand what you're talking about. But if your headline itself is too long or wordy, then it's almost guaranteed that people won't read it all the way through. That's why headlines should be short and simple – no more than 15 words at a time.

13 · Avoid clichés. It's been proven time and time again that people don't like reading clichés in their headlines.


If you want to succeed in writing good headlines, it's not going to be easy. The best way to do this is by preparing yourself beforehand and doing some research regarding the topic you're writing about. Doing this will help you find out what works and what doesn't, which will help you come up with killer headlines that your readers will absolutely love!

(Photo courtesy of Flickr)

Editor’s Note: This post was written by guest author Maria Gruszczynska for HubSpot Content Marketing Company. It originally appeared here.

This post is sponsored, however all opinions expressed are my own.

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