First impressions count – The importance of a good Headline

A headline for an article or blog post is a reader’s first impression. Getting the headline right can take time, but if you have a catchy and interesting headline, you can ensure that your readers are drawn in to the rest of the article. Get it wrong and you may find your work isn’t getting the exposure it should.

The main functions of a headline are to grab the reader’s attention and deliver a message.  The headline should draw the reader in.  Most people skim read so the headline needs to capture the reader’s attention.  You should try to connect with the reader’s self-interest by using emotive language.  This could include fear, desire, curiosity or a gripping question.

A good headline catches the eye and holds a readers attention.    If possible try and deliver your message but keep it simple.  Do not use abbreviations or technical jargon.  If practical it sometimes helps to address the reader in the headline.  You could also consider using numbers if possible as numbers stand out in a line of text.   This can help spike interest.  Try to target the specific audience in your headline.  Do not try to reach everyone, you will run the risk of seeming vague.  This will not impress anyone.

Another important point is to be precise.  Make sure the headline reveals what it is you are writing about.  A good headline tells the reader exactly what is being offered or reported on.  Headlines containing more than 10 words with facts or newsworthy information out sell short headlines.  “The more you tell, the more you sell” is true in headlines and hard copy.

Engage as many senses as possible.  This will engage the reader’s imagination.  Collect as much information as possible about the product or subject.  The best headline is often discovered while working through all the information in the creation of an article.

When creating a headline look up every word to see if there are any words that are even better for your needs.  Re-work the headline and write several versions to try and tweak and improve on it.  Then select the best one.  Make sure you spell it right, as the only impression you’ll create with a misspelled headline is derision.  Avoid using unnecessary punctuation as you do not want to stop the readers flow.  Try to find a new angle or twist looking at your subject from the reader’s perspective.  It is important to ensure the headline engages the reader.

Another important point is incentives.  Give the reader a reason to read this.  If practical you can offer a reward in a headline either by something they could receive or knowledge they could use.  This may also spark interest in the article.

You should also try and consider whether your headline will be search friendly for internet use.    Be sure to include proper keywords within the headline in order to maintain high Search Engine rates.

A great headline can sometimes take longer to compile than the entire article.  It is the author’s one and only chance to reach the target audience.  This is why it is so important to make sure you create the most effective headline and capture the correct audience.

 Jo Jeffries is a mum of three and the founder of Writemums – Providing copywriting, design and admin services to businesses, whilst helping professional women work around their children.

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About the Author

Alex McCann

Alex McCann runs Altrincham HQ - a Social Media Marketing company with 100+ recommendations on Linkedin and ranked Number 1 for Social Media Marketing in the UK on Freeindex

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