Associations may not be newspapers, but like publications and other media, they have to write many headlines, whether for blog posts, emails, white papers, or other communications. Here are some headline writing tips to help you engage your audience and move the needle on your message.
Focus on the power of SEO
Copywriters and search engine optimization don’t always go hand in hand, but the fact is that many people will find your articles through methods like search engines. If your headlines are written to be cute or funny rather than relevant, it could threaten the reach of the stories you write.
Like Pointer Note that it’s important to embrace things that in an earlier era of headline writing would be considered a no-no, such as using the full names of the people and organizations you’re writing about.
“Users looking for information about a person are more likely to use both first and last names in their searches, but print titles have traditionally used only last names,” writes the author. author Vicki Krueger. “An SEO-optimized title will use both names.”
The Substack Newsletter WTF is SEO?, which highlights search engine considerations for media in particular, indicates that length (less than 70 characters) is also an important consideration. Another factor? Where the keywords end. As authors Jessie Willms and Shelby Blackley write, it helps to think about the placement of your keywords in titles.
“When readers browse your homepage or search results, they’re often only reading part of a headline. So you want to get the most out of the first few words,” Willms and Blackley said. “Are you on getting the take-out key up front.”
Consider your target audience
Not every element of your content strategy will be targeted to your members or even within your organization. He can aim for the outside world, and the wrong aim could dull his impact.
A few years ago, the National Association of Realtors did something about this by changing its content strategy when sending out press releases on PR Newswire.
Mixing topical and targeted news, the organization has emphasized headlines that give relevant details, with a data point often at the top. As NAR often deals with data-rich reports, this gave the press releases extra relevance.
“One of our key takeaways was to take a closer look at the title of our releases,” said Sara Wiskerchen, the association’s former executive director of media communications. “They weren’t as concise or as compelling as they could be.”
Improve your click-through rate (CTR) with curiosity
You’ve seen one Upworthy title, you’ve seen them all, right? Sure, these click-too-friendly titles might seem like a bit of a meme, but they have their place.
CoSchedule, a company that produces a useful free headline analyzer, says creating a curiosity gap can be an important way to engage readers.
The company’s Peyton Muldoon said it was all about playing with psychology. “If you have something that makes your audience question their knowledge on a topic or want to know more, they’re bound to click through for answers,” she wrote.
Consider A/B testing, but don’t let it define you
One thing many organizations do, whether for email or on websites, is A/B test different headlines to see what works most effectively with their audience. This can be a great way to learn about different tactics that might work with a particular audience or piece of content.
But this approach has its limits. Last year, researchers from the Computational Journalism Lab at Northwestern University conducted a study on the impact of A/B testing on major newspaper headlines and found that trying to extract broader lessons from an A/B success was inconclusive.
“Our results suggest that interpreting and extrapolating A/B test results like this is cumbersome and could even lead to the wrong recommendations,” researchers Nick Hagar and Nick Diakopoulos explained in an article for the Nieman. Harvard University Lab. “So-called ‘best practices’ can spread without any basis in real public preferences. Headline writing is only a small part of what predicts a winning headline. »
Don’t be too smart with your phrasing
If you’re a former print magazine publisher, chances are you know a thing or two about clever puns in headlines, which are often considered effective ways to attract people. But in the online age, these titles may prove a bit too smart in a world of aggregation.
An NPR training guide for writing headlines recommends emphasizing the spirit of the subject rather than a clever approach. There is room for fun, notes public radio, but it has its limits.
“A title with a pun or cultural reference is fun to write, but is it necessary? Will people get it? Or will people spend too much time trying to “get” your joke? Again – creative and unique and full of life, but not also smart,” wrote guide authors Colin Dwyer and Stephanie Federico.
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