Headline Writing Rules to Ignore at Your Own Peril

How To Get Up to 500% More Traffic to Your Content


Why Headline Writing Rules Matter

Content is king.  But much of the content you build is first viewed ONLY as a headline and featured image, as in a social post, e-mail newsletter link, or even organic search results.  So headline writing rules matter because 8 out of 10 people will read our headline, but only 2 of those 8 will actually click.  And that’s the average…

Better Headlines Translate Into More Readers & Better ROI

Let’s face it.  Creating quality content consumes a lot of time, money, and expertise within your marketing plan.  So why waste that by throwing a lame headline on it at the last minute?

Prioritizing headlines, and following some basic headline writing rules can help get your content viewed by more readers and improve the ROI.

In fact, it’s estimated that a high-performing headline can increase readership by as much as 5 times over a lesser one.

Follow A Few Basic Headline Guidelines

Headlines are getting longer.  For a while, the trend was to keep them within 68 characters because that’s as far as Google was reading.  There were other reasons to make that the lowest common denominator, too.

But now, the pendulum is swinging back the other direction.  How long is too long?  Experiment.  You’ll find the limits that are acceptable to you.

One common theme we find universally applies is FOMO.  Fear Of Missing Out.

Credit to John Youshaei with whom I am very impressed, who turned me on to Neville Medhora, who originally shared these templates:


Test Your Copy

As you consider headline options for your content, just start testing them.  My favorite headline testing tool is a free product called sharethrough.  Just type in your headline.  It gives you a score.  It also gives you recommended improvements.

When your score is above 70, you’ve got a headline that should out-perform others.  How hard should you work?  How much time should you spend?  Generally, the more evergreen the content, the more time we spend.  The more perishable the content, the less time we invest.

The Modern Approach May Seem Unconventional

It’s amazing what people will click.  Just look at any viral video or other viral content!

If you’re classically trained in a journalism style, a lot of modern headline best practices may seem unorthodox.  It’s OK.  Just realize that content marketing isn’t intended to be, nor is it fair to compare it to journalism, per se.

Different goals  Different disciplines.

For more about our approach to content marketing, just click here.

The Combination of Headline and Featured Image Deserves as Much Time in Your Content Marketing Strategy as the Content Itself

We talk more about choosing featured images in another post, which makes a great companion read to this one.

Many readers of your content will arrive via organic search results, a social post, or even an image/headline summary in a content grid or e-mail newsletter you send out.  In fact, for most of us at least 2/3 of the audience arrive via these channels.

So why wouldn’t you put as much effort into headline and featured image choices as the content itself.  Otherwise, you’ve built a beautiful car and you haven’t given anyone the keys…

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After 3 decades as a professional marketer, serial entrepreneur and business consultant Steven Ludwig shares his best practices for small business marketing for owners, managers, and marketers with limited time, money, and expertise. Steven started his professional marketing career in broadcasting in the early ‘90s in Chicago after attending Valparaiso University. After a brief stint at an advertising agency specializing in entertainment and sports marketing where he worked with radio and television stations, movie theatre companies, record labels, musicians, and professional sports teams, he moved to Nashville to form The Marketing Group with his long-time business partner, Jim Wood. Having worked with some of the largest brands in the world, in 2010 he returned to local marketing primarily out of an interest and excitement for working with small business owners to build stronger companies. That desire comes out of early days in radio, where he worked closely with everything from car dealerships to restaurants, insurance and real estate agents, banks, home services companies, and specialty retailers of all kinds. Over the past decade, he has been on the bleeding edge of digital marketing technology, constantly seeking to understand complex strategies employed by giant corporations and then translate those capabilities into tactics small businesses can execute at a local level. Today, in addition to other business ventures with his wife and other long-time business partners, he still lives outside Nashville in Franklin, Tennessee and currently serves as Executive Chairman of EmpowerLocal, a digital marketing company building a nationwide network of digital, hyperlocal news and lifestyle publishers to provide efficient advertising opportunities for local, regional, and national brands.


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