Head rush

Do you have a case of the Wednesdays? Here’s some homework: Glance through this somewhat outdated but somewhat useful slideshow on writing headlines for the Web.

Most newspaper refugees know, by now, that Web headlines must differ from print headlines. Avoid puns, mysterious hooks and labels. Use words and phrases that are key to the story, ask questions, and foreshadow lists, bullet points and calls to action.

The presentation’s main weakness? This sentence: “A headline is potentially more important than the article.” Wrong. The headline is always more important. And it rarely gets the attention it deserves.

Read the rest, and you’ll see tips engineered not for seasoned headline writers but for online marketing pros who are trying to cultivate headline-writing skills. Which is great, but I will always advocate for the hiring of seasoned writers who simply need to learn online marketing. Think of the net gains, folks.

Finally, SEO has boiled down creation of search-engine-friendly content to such an exact formula that I fear a future of entirely canned Web headlines that repel not only readers but also the overlords at Google, who change their minds about what makes for good content about every five minutes.

I propose a balance between great traditional print-type headlines and the best of Web headlines, which are snappy and packed with information. Don’t be afraid to pair an h1 and an h2 at the top of the page. Make sure your meta offers more context. Take some chances. Test a few different versions of a headline to see what sticks. The results may surprise you.



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