Creating a Headline: What Can We Learn From the News?

The web is a noisy place.

Social media consultant, speaker and acclaimed author Mark Schaeffer coined the phrase “content shock” to describe the recent intense proliferation in content, and the limited hours in the day to actually consume. With that in mind, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the prospect of creating something that will actually succeed in catching an audience’s attention.

Just as with email subject leads, a powerful headline can be the difference between whether your content gets read or not. Best practices and psychological principles can be applied from news media, as many famous outlets continue their transition to an online presence. As a headline can be the difference between content consumption and an article being completely ignored, it can be just as important, if not more important than the body of the article, itself.

So what are some of the best practices for creating a headline with regards to what we can learn from the news?

Here are a few useful tips:

Headlines and Advertising

NewsThink about the way you, or someone you know, consumes the news. Whether you have a physical paper in your hand or are scrolling through a news website, what catches your attention? It’s unlikely that you’ll be reading an article that doesn’t strike your interest upon first glance. After all, we have a limited capacity and time to devote to reading and learning, so articles have a limited opportunity to catch our interest.

Content strategy is more complicated than many give it credit for. An interesting picture may draw you in, but oftentimes it’s the headline that makes you want to read more. The same principle is true for blog posts and other online content.

Seeking Attention

For how important headlines truly are, they often are created as an afterthought. Most people put all their blog creation effort into the body of the post, then later scramble to throw together images and other finishing touches, like the perfect headline.

But creating a headline is every bit as important as writing the bulk of your content. Writing headlines deserves as much of your attention, if not more! The point of a headline is not only to summarize what a reader can expect when reading your content, but should also serve as an advertisement to interest them in clicking through. A catchy headline is the best chance you have at getting people to read your blog.

shutterstock_334376453Here are some exercises that can help you create the perfect headline:

All of these tools will help you test your headline against different factors to see if it’s the best it can be, before your article goes live.

Another option for seeking attention and creating a great headline? Try getting your audience involved! Share the subject of your blog post on social media and give people the chance to vote on their favorite headlines. This will also help create anticipation for the finished product.

What Makes a Catchy Headline?

NewsSo far, we’ve shared why headlines are important and how to analyze whether the one you have is a good one. But what exactly makes a catchy headline? Here are a few different factors that you can implement to make your headline more interesting:

Many blog content creators also have their own specific formulas to create winning headlines.

For examples, Jeff Goins combines the elements: Number or trigger word + Adjective + Keyword + Promise for creating a headline that get readers to click through.

It’s All About Effort

Ultimately, creating a headline is half art, half science, and all effort. It’s easy to be apathetic after spending a lot of time on the bulk of writing in a post, but don’t fall into the trap of slapping a lackluster headline onto your finished work and calling it a day.

A great blog post deserves a great headline. Being “bad” at writing headlines is no excuse when there are so many tools to help you generate and test ideas out.

And remember, once you’ve got the click, your blog, your job isn’t done! There are still many things you must do to convert your traffic according to specific goals.