Five Tips for Writing Great Online News Headlines

Five Tips for Writing Great Online News Headlines image tips writing headlinesFive Tips for Writing Great Online News HeadlinesThe headline is often referred to as the most important part of a news story or feature. It’s almost always the first part of an article that a reader will see and research shows that four out of five readers will skip the copy if the headline doesn’t excite them.

A well-written headline is arguably even more important online – because it’s likely to be all a reader sees before deciding whether or not to click through to a news website or not.

Writing online news headlines is a lot different to writing one for a magazine or a newspaper though. Here are five tips to ensure that your headlines entice as many readers to your website as possible.

1. Use keywords

A well-optimised title can make the world of difference to how high a news story ranks in search engines. Ideally, your news story will feature at least one of your hero keywords. That will help attract web users who are interested in your product discover your website. If you’re writing about an event or a big story, it might pay to stick a keyword right at the front of the headline. Make sure that all proper nouns are written in full.

GOOD HEADLINE

AUSTRALIAN OPEN 2013: Novak Djokovic beats Andy Murray in thrilling final

BAD HEADLINE

Djoko does it again

GOOD HEADLINE

Content marketing named best way to gain online customers

BAD HEADLINE

Want customers? The only way is content

In both of these examples, there are strong keywords right at the start of the headline

2. Don’t tell the whole story

It’s a well-known rule that a good headline will tell the reader what happened without them having to read the actual article. Yet, online it’s often a good idea to leave the audience needing to know a bit more.

Remember that we’re trying to entice people to click through to our website, so try and leave out a key piece of information

GOOD HEADLINE

Manchester United signs Japanese midfielder

BAD HEADLINE

United signs Japanese midfielder Shinji Kagawa for £17 million from Borussia Dortmund

GOOD HEADLINE

Two Surrey schools to benefit from £15 million council grant

BAD HEADLINE

Weydon Academy and De Stafford School to receive £15 million grant from council

Both of these titles should encourage those who are interested in the topic to click through to find out more.

3. Focus on the most exciting part of the story for your audience

This tip is especially important when writing for a niche audience. It’s important to remember that certain demographics may be more interested in a certain element of a story than the mainstream reader. Let’s use the recent story of Washington Wizards basketball player Jason Collins, the first N.B.A player to admit he is gay, as an example.

For a website that regularly covers the Wizards, a good headline might be:

Jason Collins becomes first NBA player to admit he is gay

Yet, UK-based websites, which are less likely to be familiar with Collins himself, might instead go with:

First gay NBA player comes out of the closet

4. Keep it short

Shorter headlines are better for a number of reasons.

For starters, they are snappier and, therefore, more likely to stand out on news and social media websites, which are typically quite noisy and normally have character limits for off-page links.

Secondly, Google places more prominence on the first keywords in a title, so it’s best to squeeze them all in the front. Finally, it’s always handy to have headlines which can fit easily into a tweet.

5. Don’t be too clever

Some of the most famous news headlines in the world like ‘GOTCHA!’, ‘HARRY THE NAZI’, ‘How do you solve a problem like KOREA’ wouldn’t have worked online.

They would have had little-to-no SEO value at the time and, standing alone, they do little to explain the severity of the news stories attached to them. Unfortunately, puns are best left in the offline world.

The best way to write a winning news headline in the online world is to ask yourself what you would type into Google if you were looking for information about the story. Those who follow this strategy won’t go far wrong when it comes to attracting news junkies to their website.

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