12 Tips for Writing Headlines That Readers (and Search Engines) Can’t Resist

Writing headlines may feel like a small task. But stringing together that short set of words can have big implications. A headline could be the difference between your content being found and consumed or ignored and overlooked.

A great headline can attract and engage readers while sending signals to search engines that help rank content. Use these guidelines for writing headlines to craft titles that please both readers and search engines.

Great headlines attract and engage readers while sending signals to search engines that help rank content. Click To Tweet

12 Top Tips for Writing Headlines

1. Know Your Audience

Like all good marketing strategies, writing headlines starts with your audience. You have to know exactly who you’re talking to and trying to attract for your headline to be effective. So start your headline writing process by defining who your audience is. If you don’t already have a clear description of your target market segment or audience, use this buyer persona template to create one.

2. Clearly Show the Benefit of Reading

When you intimately know your audience, this next step is much easier. You can think about the reader, put yourself in their shoes, and begin writing headlines that directly connect with their wants and needs. Use your knowledge about the reader to write a headline that gives them a reason to click or read. Show them how they can benefit by explaining how the content:

  • Solves a problem
  • Answers a question
  • Makes life easier
  • Leads to a positive result

3. Speak Directly to the Audience

Headlines can catch the reader’s attention by calling them out. Rather than using the first person (“I” did something) or third person (“she” did something), use the second person (“you” did something) in your headline. Or, use phrasing that calls out the group you’re trying to reach. In this example, you can see how the headline clearly speaks to writers.

tips for writing headlines

4. Include Numbers or Data

Another way to quickly catch the attention of readers is by putting numbers or data in a headline. Writing headlines that include numbers and stats is a proven tactic for getting more readers to click on a headline. In fact, 36% of people in a Conductor study preferred numbers with headlines over any other type. Numbers indicate to readers there will be concrete takeaways.

5. Add an Emotional or Curious Angle

Good article headlines engage readers by appealing to emotions or curiosity. Write a basic headline and then see if you can adjust the language to appeal to a certain emotion: uncertainty, excitement, pride.. Alternatively, adjust the headline so that it alludes to an idea without giving it all away. Make the reader click so they can get the full story.

If you’re looking for an emotional angle to add to your article, consider looking at Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions to get some ideas. The core emotions on the wheel include:

  • Vigilance
  • Ecstasy
  • Admiration
  • Terror
  • Amazement
  • Grief
  • Loathing
  • Rage

Once you choose an emotion, find words that strongly convey that feeling using this resource of emotional words for powerful headlines. Here are a few examples:

  • Powerful
  • Unsurpassed
  • Guaranteed
  • Daring
  • Rare
  • Urgent
  • Revolutionary

6. Show Urgency and Appeal to FOMO

No one likes missing an opportunity or being left out. When writing headlines, keep this in mind
Click & Tweet!
. Craft headlines that evoke a sense of urgency or exclusivity. Appeal to readers’ innate need to be included by communicating what they will lose if they don’t click.

Related: Content Writing Tips from Experts

7. Get Inspiration From Competitors

One path toward writing headlines that capture attention is looking at other high-quality, shareable content. Look at top landing pages and blog posts that are generating social shares and likes, and study how those headlines and content are organized. By understanding what’s working for others, you can find ideas that may also work for you..

Pro Tip: Use BuzzSumo to search for content related to specific industries or keywords, and review the content with the most engagement to find inspiration for your headlines.

search for the best headline examples

Screenshot from BuzzSumo’s Content Analyzer

8. Don’t Be Clever

It can be very tempting when writing headlines to craft clever headlines using puns and play on words. While this might impress you or your marketing team, it will likely confuse readers. The best headlines are simple and straightforward so the reader knows exactly what the article is about. Don’t make readers work to understand or decipher your headline. An informational headline that is clearly connected to what the content is about improves engagement and also the overall user experience.

9. Leverage the 5 W (and 1 H) Questions

Readers want to know what they will gain or learn from a piece of content. Clearly show them what they will get from the blog post or landing page by using a headline that answers one of the five W (and 1 H) questions. Write headlines that ask what, who, when, where, why, or how to show readers what answers they will find in the content.

10. Include a Valuable Target Keyword

The best landing page headlines serve two purposes: They draw in readers and attract search engines. To make sure your headline serves readers as well as search engines, include a valuable target keyword that readers are regularly searching for and properly use it in your headline to boost the SEO value of your content.

The best landing page headlines serve two purposes: They draw in readers and attract search engines. Click To Tweet

To find the best keywords, use Alexa’s Keyword Difficulty tool to uncover popular, low-competition search phrases.

use a target keyword when writing headlines

11. Optimize for the Target Keyword

Once you chose a popular, low-competition keyword to target for your post, use keyword optimization best practices to appeal to search crawlers.

To optimize your headline for the target keyword:

  • Use the target keyword near the beginning of your headline
  • Add a unique page title that includes the keyword for good meta tag SEO.
  • Place the keyword near the beginning of the title and keep it under 55 characters

Use Alexa’s On-Page SEO Checker as an SEO headline checker to make sure you use the keyword in ways that will best attract search crawlers.

Alexa's SEO headline checker

12. Write Multiple Versions of Your Headline

One of the most important headline writing rules is that your work isn’t done after you jot down the first version of a page title. Don’t settle on the first headline that comes to your mind. Go back through these principles of headline writing and use them to write and rewrite until you’ve created about 10 different versions of your headline. Then, choose the best headline.

Get Help With Writing Headlines for Readers and SEO

Writing headlines shouldn’t be a last-minute task right before you publish a landing page or post. Give yourself plenty of time to write headlines as a part of your checklist for writing, and use these tips to write compelling page titles that pull in readers and attract search engines.

Then, make sure your headlines (and the rest of your SEO content) are fully optimized for search engines. Sign up for a free trial of Alexa’s Advanced Plan today to use our SEO checker to scan your page for any SEO errors or optimization opportunities.

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