Everyone is familiar with the saying “You can’t judge a book by its cover”. Well, that expression is fading with the decline of books and the rise of blogs. Nielsen/Mckinsey company reported an increase from 36 million blogs in 2006 to over 181 million blogs by the beginning of 2012. Forbes.com also reports that, with today’s technology, the average person is bombarded with almost 30,000 messages today. So, if you are a blogger looking to catch the attention of readers you might want to get familiar with a new expression: “You always judge an article by its headline.”
Why Are Headlines So Important?
You could have the best article in the world, but if you do not have a good headline it is not going to reach its full potential. The main reasons a headline is so important is that it
- Gives the reader a good idea about the content in the article
- Is the first (possibly last) thing people see about the article
- Usually is one of the few elements visible on social sharing sites
- Is the best opportunity to market the article
An effective headline will be able to grab the reader’s attention and lure them into reading the article. A good headline may even be able to generate social sharing with little to no reading of the actual content.
Let’s take a look at a list of good headlines and what makes them effective.
1. T-Mobile CEO: Porn Could Kill Shared Data Plans
- Summarize a topic in the article: especially one that will catch the reader’s eye.
2. “Vimensio Gives 3D the Bird”
- As long as the article is not a sensitive/serious topic you can be clever or use puns.
3. “Alien Life May Exist on Exoplanet Moons”
- Chose a topic that people are interested to learn about.
4. “10 Things You Can Learn From the Apple Store”
- Numbers give the reader a definite outline of what to expect.
5. “Suicide of a hacker”
- Be Current: Articles on recent events are going to generate interest.
6. “How You Can Learn a Language in only 10 Days”
- What is in it for the reader? Tell the readers how they will benefit from your article.
7. “Welcome to the New Civil War”
- Use analogies to give the reader a comparative background of the article’s content.
8. “Can a website help you beat jet lag?”
- Generate curiosity, but be careful not to sound “too good to be true”.
9. “7 Practices That Make You Look Like a Rookie Blogger”
- Know your audience: This headline effectively targets bloggers.
10. “Why Facebook is Making Life Hard”
- Use an active voice to compel the reader.
11. “Do media vultures perpetuate mass shootings?”
- Pose an interesting/controversial argument or stand”
12. “How to Publish a Book”
- “How to” headlines are effective because they target a certain niche. They can also reach people who had never thought about learning a skill before. “ I have never really thought about writing a book before”
13. “7 free Apps That Can Make Planning Your Next Vacation Easy”
- Use key words that emphasize benefits to the reader (i.e. free, easy)
14. “Fushigi Ball Poised to be Bigger than Snuggies, XBox” -
- Known brands can give readers measurable comparisons. Be sure you can support the claims with the content or you will lose credibility.
15. “Top U.S. Cities for Bedbug Infestations”
- When done properly, fear can generate intrigue in readers. “Is my city the top of the list?”
16. “Watch Obama’s Inauguration on Your Phone With New App”
- Can you teach the reader to do something they did not previously know how to do? …Then tell them!
17. “Can Twitter Predict the Future? Pentagon says Maybe”
- People love sensationalism, especially when it has to do with a credible source.
18. “Top 10 Wal-Mart Pictures of the Week”
- Lists or “Top #’s” are excellent ways to attract readers: We are compelled to see winners; it may have something to do with our innate competitive nature.
19. “How Everyday Tools Can Help You Lose Weight”
- People are infatuated with making themselves better. Tie it into your headline and you will generate readers.
Now let’s look at some ineffective, inappropriate, and downright weird headlines.
20. “Republicans turned off by size of Obama’s Package”
- It is pretty tough to gain credibility with sexual innuendos.
21. “Statistics show that teen pregnancy drops off significantly after age 25”
- Really? I’d venture to say it drops off even more after 19.
22. Love-rat Dad of Nine Children to Eight Women Who Headbutted ex-girlfriend in Row Over Cheese Toastie Jailed for Just 20 Days
- I don’t even know where to begin with this one.
23. “Homicide Victims Rarely Talk to Police”
- Would be more interested to read about the times they do talk.
24. “The Princess Bride’s Cary Elwes Sued for Credit Card Debt”
- Lost me at Princess Bride.
25. “Woman Stabbed by Central Park”
- Could you point Central Park out of a lineup?
26. Al Roker Didn’t Poop Here; Top Washington DC Tourist Attractions Where He Hasn’t Crapped His Pants”
- Crudeness isn’t the best way to generate curiosity
27. “Cloak and Shag Her”
- This play on words would only work for Austin Powers
28. “Two Golfers in One Threesome Ace Same Hole”
- Don’t be too clever for your own good.
29. “With a Why No Closer, 2 Boys, 6, and 2 Burials”
- Confusing and horrible use of numbers.
30. “How to Find Porn on the Internet”
- A “how not to” guide would be more useful for this.
31. “Overweight Teens Typically Eat”
- I have a feeling this article may lack depth.
32. “Monkeys Hate Flying Squirrels, Report Monkey-annoyances Experts”
- Hopefully these monkey-annoyance experts have seen King-Kong and Planet of the Apes
33. “Teen Orgy Teacher Given Hard Time”
- Think we are getting the picture with these sex puns
34. “Dennis Rodman to Pen Children’s Book”
- Sometimes the content is too much for any headline to salvage.
Headlines are an integral part of an article. It is the first thing readers see and will either compel them to click through or move on. There are effective ways to market your article and several examples of good headlines are listed above. However, as also listed, there are many ways to kill your article before the first word is ever read. Yes, some of the headlines are funny, but that is simply face value and will not intrigue the reader to indulge in your content, unless you know how to utilize the different social platforms where humor converts well.
What are the worst or best headlines you’ve read lately?