A Daily Marketing Experience

November 13, 2009

The Importance of Headlines

Filed under: Marketing — Ricardo @ 9:28 am
Tags: ,

This is a re-post of a blog post by Geoff Livingston that clearly talks about the importance of headlines to drive traffic and interest.

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Headline writing drives traffic

A writer’s opening salvo must burst with interest—here’s why and how

From Twitter and e-mail to document and blog post titles, your ability to write great headlines (or 140-character writing) matters more than ever. Great headlines drive traffic and interest.

Attention spans have shrunk, and if you can’t interest someone right off the bat with a great, witty headline, then you’re out.

Here are five basic tips on writing headlines:

1) Active versus passive: It drives me crazy when I see one of my post titles using a passive verb. People want exciting, fun titles. Active headlines inspire emotive responses, while passive ones invite the reader to visit someone else’s feed! Passive headline writing means I’m sloppy and didn’t care enough to review my work thoroughly.

2) Get sassy. Throw some edge into it. You can call it tabloid; I call it interesting. Who wants to read business writing anymore? How exciting are all of these press releases? No, thanks.

That doesn’t mean you should write sexual entendres into every communication. Great writers infuse edginess and excitement into their writing without resorting to juvenile tactics (at least most of the time). This is a great segue for…

3) Genuine headlines: Your headline serves as a preview. It should be genuine in describing the actual content, as opposed to teasing readers into a false experience. Consider this: You want them to come back, right? So write authentic headlines that relate to your copy. Back the headline up right away in the first paragraph with a great thesis statement.

4) Less (Fewer) words: My dad used to be managing editor of the Philadelphia Daily News. Growing up with him editing my documents was a Dantean experience at times. His mantra: Cut the fat! What can you cut? How can you say a six-word headline in four? What words can you replace with a new, singular word. Take the time to relentlessly review, and cut the fat.

5) Intentionally incomplete: Sometimes I’ll just drop a phrase or even one word as the headline. It accurately depicts a part of the story, but the open-ended nature teases readers. The post or document must be well described by such a phrase so the headline’s abstract depiction still resonates.

What would you add to these tips?

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*6) Know your reader: this is always my first rule in Marketing Communications. Don’t try to write “one for all”. Understand who is going to be the primary reader or audience of the article and adjust accordingly. Subtle changes in headlines (that express the same thing) will give you different response rates.

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