5 Most Useful Headline Writing Tips

I was having a good time scrolling through Reddit the other day when I saw a post linking to a YouTube video. The headline was a description of the video itself though.

Being the innocent little helper that I am, I decided to try and help this person with their titling needs.

I wrote up a pretty long explanation of how titling the post as a description of the main point of the video made me not click the link to the video. There was no point to watching the video if I already have the information.

The response I gave wasn’t rude or condescending, but all the reactions to what I said were.

There were at least 5 responses all complaining about me. And how my titling techniques were the “dredge of the Internet.” Telling me not to give such “click-baity” titles. I’m the reason people hate reading articles online.

I didn’t respond, mainly because I couldn’t think of nice way to tell these people to not be idiots and that they probably didn’t click the link for the exact reasons I gave.

Instead of fueling their fire on Reddit, I decided, like a good blogger, to write a post and hopefully educate them.

Honestly though, I’ve seen some seriously terrible headlines, and I wanted to offer a solution instead of just complain with the rest of the people.

So, here are 5 of the most useful headlining tips.

Avoid Clickbait

A mouse clicking.

Buzzfeed is one of the most visited websites in the world.

They are incredibly good at getting your attention and dragging out a story that really has no substance.

They are guilty of writing headlines that are the absolute most clickbaity nonsense ever.

I’ll define ‘clickbait’ here for you though. Clickbait is when a title creates a lot of intrigue, but it’s written as a huge cliffhanger. It doesn’t really set you up for a very informative article. It’s usually a clever (kind of) way to grab attention without substance.

They use a lot of techniques I suggest in this article, but they ignore this one.

Buzzfeed used this recent gem “36 Things Under $20 That Every Single Adult Honestly Needs.”

The article’s got some stuff in it that I was mildly interested in, but there just wasn’t any substance behind any of these items.

Plus, there was too many listed, which I get to later in this article.

Buzzfeed is notorious for the whole “you won’t believe what happened next” article titles too.

On a Facebook viral video, you will often see them offering a title similar to “This man finds a dog in a lake. You won’t believe what he does.”

The dog gets pulled out of the water, as any good human would do if they had the resources. This is an example a headline with little substance behind it.

Create Intrigue

A curious kitten

Curiosity killed the cat, but it intrigued the reader.

A good headline piques intrigue.

It makes you curious what is in the body.

This is the exact point for why clickbait works. It’s annoying, but headlines that are Buzzfeed worthy produce results.

A good headline will tell you what the article, movie, video or song is about without giving too much of it away.

A good headline can be found in Time magazine. “These 6 Tech Tools Will Actually Help You Keep Your 2020 New Year’s Resolution

This headline really makes you wonder what resolution is being talked about and how can technology help. It also wants to know what the 6 tools are.

When crafting your own headline, you want it to create intrigue in this way. Make the reader see it and think a clickbaity response.

You read this headline from Time magazine and legitimately have questions about what is in the article. It also seems to be offering some value to the reader, so it’s relevant to the reader.

Use Numbers

numerical representation of pi

I love number articles, but I despise the clickthrough listicle bullcrap.

Numbered articles work for an article in 2 major ways.

First off, they help with SEO.

SEO is an extremely complex topic. There are countless books and blogs focusing on SEO specifically.

SEO must be kept in mind when doing any internet writing. It helps things like Google find you online and set you apart.

The second reason numbers are so valuable is because of the reader.

You, as a content creator in any capacity, must care about your readers.

We live in an extremely fast paced society.

By using numbers, a reader will know about how long the article is. This is generally speaking of course and will vary between writers. But it is safe to say people don’t really like to spend all day reading an article that is just a bunch of crap.

That’s why I advocate to max out at 12 in a list.

I think that anymore and gets to be excessive and boring. The article I linked to earlier about the 36 things people need, that is way too long.

There has been a trend of longer lists like this. I love lists. They’re very organized and pleasing to look at.

To their detriment, they have used as slideshows, which drive me crazy, and gotten seriously overkilled by offering huge numbers like 36 or 50+.

The gist is to use numbers for SEO and reader advantage. Online articles are really scan rather than read, so write actionably.

Be Original

The seal of an original document

People love originality.

Sadly, the whole numbering thing has been taken to an unnecessary level, so people use different numbers to be original.

Originality helps a lot with SEO.

It’s easy to find someone when they produce severely unique content.

Buzzfeed and Time magazine both do this well. They are so successful and have had lasting power because nobody does what they do better. They were among the first in their space and stayed there.

When you are producing your own content, you should search for you own planned headline. That way you know if there are other articles with the same title.

Sometimes changing the title is a good idea. Other times, it’s better to just go with it and create a better article than the previous one with the same headline.

At this point in life, everything has been done before.

Also, at this point in life, you haven’t offered your perspective on it.

Everyone is an original. So, all your content needs to be original.

Don’t copy others but get inspiration from them.

Give Value

giving digital value

Give as much as you can. This is most important concept you can get from this whole article.

There are a lot of sources of information out there, but you have to give the most value.

I’m a fan of consuming information. But you I like the 3 by 5 method of consumption. Consume 3 times and produce 5 times.

When you consume, you learn. When you create, you learn better.

The more you create, the more you will learn, the more value you can create, the more value you give.

This goes back to knowing the best way to speak to your audience.

If you are trying to create a larger, more diverse audience, then you have to create more content on multiple platforms.

I talked bad about the Buzzfeed article and I praised the Time magazine article, but both articles gave value.

The person who gives the most will come out on top. This is something that is found in every major religion. It’s something found all over the place in spiritual growth. That means there has to be some truth to it.

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