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Write headlines that work for digital audiences

Ten tips from a leading search publication on how to write headlines that help attract audiences to the journalism you’ve worked so hard to create.

A good headline is arguably more important on the web than it is in print, given that it’s often the only part of an article people see before deciding whether to click. So putting forth extra effort to get it right is time well spent. Search Engine Watch offers several tips to ensure your headlines have the desired effect. Among them:

  • Headlines need to work out of context, so they should be clear, concise and descriptive, not oblique or punny.
  • Clickbait-y headlines are not a good long-term strategy. Make sure your article delivers what the headline promises.
  • Optimal headline length for search result pages is about 55 characters, but there are exceptions.
  • Unlike print, web headlines can change, so you can see what works and adjust. (Not mentioned: A/B testing tools offer a good way to do this)
  • Front-loading key terms helps stories rank in search results.
  • List headlines (e.g., “10 tips for writing effective headlines”) are the subject of some scorn among journalists, but they can be quite effective.
  • Working with others to write a headline can be helpful. (Some news organizations have created headline collaboration channels in Slack for this purpose.)