Making your headlines work for you and for your readers

I’ve written about this before but I think it can be said over and over again:

Make your post or article headlines clear and to the point. Use them to tell your readers what they can expect to find if they continue reading. Make your headlines work for you by bringing in new readers. Make them work for your readers by helping them understand what your articles are about.

I’ve been really bad at this in the past. I’d write an article and then come up with a cute headline that only a few people would understand. These days I try to follow my own advice and avoid clever phrasing and insider jokes. Of course there are times when I deviate from this, and there’s still plenty of room for me to improve my headline writing skills.

For further reading on headline writing I suggest visiting Copyblogger and reading Brian Clark’s articles Writing Headlines That Get Results and How to Write Headlines That Work.

Posted on April 27, 2006 in Quicklinks, Writing


  1. A rule of thumb I use it to create my title after writing my piece. That way you don’t feel ties to a title while putting together your article.

  2. The follow up to this article is having a lead that works properly. Now the rules have changed but it’s still important to have a good headline and lead.

  3. I disagree, I’d start with a title because it keeps your article focused and to the point. Otherwise you can find that you may stray off-topic…

  4. I think both ways can work, but I (and most people who are seriously into copywriting) always start with the headline. Your headline (or post title) has to make a promise to the reader that is fulfilled in the body content. It’s always been easier for me to start with that promise.

  5. “Make your post or article headlines clear and to the point. Use them to tell your readers what they can expect to find if they continue reading.”

    Well, that is unless your name is Greg, and you run a site called Airbag. :)

  6. April 28, 2006 by Matt

    I sure hope Anne van Kesteren is reading this blog entry.

  7. … and ensure that the title of the post is marked up with the tag for good SEO ranking, even if this means playing with your blog template to get it to work (the default WordPress templates have the blog header in the H1 tag).

  8. But clever phrases and inside jokes are so much more fun.

    All work and no play makes Roger a dull boy.

  9. A former journalist and friend recommended the following to me for creating the punchiest and easiest to read headlines:

    • keep capitalization to a miminum (I only capitalize the first word and proper nouns)
    • use a strong verb in the present tense (don’t use “is”…)

    I found these suggestions very useful. Cheers!

  10. April 30, 2006 by Roger Johansson (Author comment)

    I always try to start with the headline. Sometimes I know what I’m going to write anyway, and use a “draft” headline until the writing is done and then go back and work on the headline some more.

    Kal: More fun, absolutely. But usable and effective? Most of the time, no (though there are exceptions).

Comments are disabled for this post (read why), but if you have spotted an error or have additional info that you think should be in this post, feel free to contact me.