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The Best Guide To Writing Headlines
The headline that you use for an article has a massive impact on its
performance. We ve seen traffic double, triple, and even quintuple just by
changing the title of an article. Also, it s almost impossible to predict
which headlines are going to be successful. As a result, we test a multitude of
different titles for every piece of content that we write using a proprietary
testing system.
The primary purpose of these titles is to get users to click. Whether the user
sees the headline on our homepage or on social media, we want them to read the
article and that only happens if they click the headline.
Part of your job as an associate editor is to write a number of different
headlines from varying angles so that we can test them in our system. It s
important that the headlines approach the article from different angles,
different frames, and different points of emphasis. Small variations in
adjective choice don t have a very big effect, but different ways of looking
at the same story have a huge effect on clicks and performance.
The 5 Rules of Writing Headlines
1. Speak With a Strong Voice
2. Speak With Emotion
3. Create a Curiosity Gap (Not Curiosity Cliff)
4. Approach The Article From Different Angles
5. All Headlines Must Be Written In Title Case
1. Speak With A Strong Voice
Our content is powerful. We want readers to know that so they want to check it
out.
Example:
"An Open Letter to the ***hole Who Abandoned This Amazing Cat" is STRONG
"An Open Letter To A Poor Cat Owner" is WEAK
Example:
"Many Dads Would Ignore Their Kid s Drawings, But This Father Made Them
Unbelievable." is STRONG
"This Father Made His Kid's Drawings Look Even Better" is WEAK
2. Speak With Emotion
Our content connects with people on an emotional level. Sometimes it's
uplifting, humorous, or awe-inspiring. Our titles should reflect that.
Example:
"No Words Describe What This Cat s Owners Did. They Are The REAL Animals
Here." This title clearly lets the readers know that you are angry at the
behavior of the owners. While there are no obvious keywords to convey the
central emotion, the comparison of the owners to animals is a clear metaphor
that most readers will understand.
"This Cat s Owners Really Did It This Time" This has a strong voice, but as a
reader I have no idea what emotional connection I'm going to make with this
title. Did they dress the dog up in a ridiculous costume? Did they treat the
puppy poorly? Having the reader guessing some of the details of the content is a
good strategy to employ and can get people to click. But leaving people confused
about the nature of what they're going to see just makes people move on to the
next title.
3. Create a Curiosity Gap, Not a Curiosity Cliff
The curiosity gap is one of the oldest tactics of headline writers: tell the
reader some, but not all, of what they re going to get in the article. Then,
the reader will click through in order to fill that curiosity gap. Use the
curiosity gap judiciously, but be sure not to create a curiosity cliff that will
cause readers to just move on to the next piece of content.
Example:
"No Words Describe What This Cat s Owners Did. They Are The REAL Animals Here"
Revisiting the previous example, this headline creates a great gap. You know
that the owners did something bad, and the strong, emotional language in the
headline leaves you curious to know exactly what they did.
"This Cat's Owners Really Did It This Time" After reading this headline, I know
that the owners did… something. This is a curiosity cliff you re asking
readers to jump without letting them know what s on the other side. More often
than not, readers will just move on to something else.
Example:
 19 Celebrities That Prove Everyone Looks Ugly When They Cry… Even Selena
Gomez  There are a lot of elements here that work to create curiosity in a
reader. Asserting a fact (everyone looks ugly when they cry), combined with the
claim that the list somehow  proves  the fact, creates a powerful desire in
the reader to see the proof. Naming a small, specific example furthers that
desire, and also creates an expectation as to what kinds of celebrities you re
going to see.
 19 Celebs That Are Having A Worse Day Than You 
This, again, is a vague and listless title. What celebs? Why are they having a
worse day than me, and why do I care? Instead of provoking curiosity, this title
just creates indifference and indifference is the worst emotion someone can
feel when it comes to your titles.
4. Approach the article from different angles
Imagine you are buying a new car. Which is the most important selling point for
you? The Gas Mileage? The Reliability? The Acceleration? The Price? You are
unique and what appeals to you about this car might be different than what
appeals to your boss, your neighbor, or your friend. We need to find the angle
to the story that we will use in our title to "sell" the story to the most
people. The best way to do this is to try LOTS of different angles. Sometimes,
those angles involve breaking some of the previous guidelines.
Let s say we had a piece of content showing what Disney Princesses would look
like on the cover of Vogue. Here are a few different approaches you could try in
writing a title for it:
1. If the Little Mermaid Were a Person, THIS Is What Her Vogue Cover Would Look
Like
2. 11 Disney Characters On The Cover of Vogue. Some of These Are Not PG
3. Disney Princesses Get Made Over For Their Vogue Cover. Jasmine Looks Like A
Kardashian
4. Disney And High Fashion Is The Best Thing That's Ever Happened To Vogue
5. These Disney Princesses On The Cover Of Vogue Show Everything That s Wrong
With the Fashion Industry
That's just scratching the surface of what is possible with this one piece of
content. The best title writers aren't the best because they are the most likely
to succeed with their first attempt. What distinguishes the best title writers
is they write lots of titles from lots of angles, NOT the same title with minor
changes like swapping the word beautiful for the word gorgeous.
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Best guide to writing headlines

  • 1. The Best Guide To Writing Headlines The headline that you use for an article has a massive impact on its performance. We ve seen traffic double, triple, and even quintuple just by changing the title of an article. Also, it s almost impossible to predict which headlines are going to be successful. As a result, we test a multitude of different titles for every piece of content that we write using a proprietary testing system. The primary purpose of these titles is to get users to click. Whether the user sees the headline on our homepage or on social media, we want them to read the article and that only happens if they click the headline. Part of your job as an associate editor is to write a number of different headlines from varying angles so that we can test them in our system. It s important that the headlines approach the article from different angles, different frames, and different points of emphasis. Small variations in adjective choice don t have a very big effect, but different ways of looking at the same story have a huge effect on clicks and performance. The 5 Rules of Writing Headlines 1. Speak With a Strong Voice 2. Speak With Emotion 3. Create a Curiosity Gap (Not Curiosity Cliff) 4. Approach The Article From Different Angles 5. All Headlines Must Be Written In Title Case 1. Speak With A Strong Voice Our content is powerful. We want readers to know that so they want to check it out. Example: "An Open Letter to the ***hole Who Abandoned This Amazing Cat" is STRONG "An Open Letter To A Poor Cat Owner" is WEAK Example: "Many Dads Would Ignore Their Kid s Drawings, But This Father Made Them Unbelievable." is STRONG "This Father Made His Kid's Drawings Look Even Better" is WEAK 2. Speak With Emotion Our content connects with people on an emotional level. Sometimes it's uplifting, humorous, or awe-inspiring. Our titles should reflect that. Example: "No Words Describe What This Cat s Owners Did. They Are The REAL Animals Here." This title clearly lets the readers know that you are angry at the behavior of the owners. While there are no obvious keywords to convey the central emotion, the comparison of the owners to animals is a clear metaphor that most readers will understand. "This Cat s Owners Really Did It This Time" This has a strong voice, but as a reader I have no idea what emotional connection I'm going to make with this title. Did they dress the dog up in a ridiculous costume? Did they treat the
  • 2. puppy poorly? Having the reader guessing some of the details of the content is a good strategy to employ and can get people to click. But leaving people confused about the nature of what they're going to see just makes people move on to the next title. 3. Create a Curiosity Gap, Not a Curiosity Cliff The curiosity gap is one of the oldest tactics of headline writers: tell the reader some, but not all, of what they re going to get in the article. Then, the reader will click through in order to fill that curiosity gap. Use the curiosity gap judiciously, but be sure not to create a curiosity cliff that will cause readers to just move on to the next piece of content. Example: "No Words Describe What This Cat s Owners Did. They Are The REAL Animals Here" Revisiting the previous example, this headline creates a great gap. You know that the owners did something bad, and the strong, emotional language in the headline leaves you curious to know exactly what they did. "This Cat's Owners Really Did It This Time" After reading this headline, I know that the owners did… something. This is a curiosity cliff you re asking readers to jump without letting them know what s on the other side. More often than not, readers will just move on to something else. Example:  19 Celebrities That Prove Everyone Looks Ugly When They Cry… Even Selena Gomez  There are a lot of elements here that work to create curiosity in a reader. Asserting a fact (everyone looks ugly when they cry), combined with the claim that the list somehow  proves  the fact, creates a powerful desire in the reader to see the proof. Naming a small, specific example furthers that desire, and also creates an expectation as to what kinds of celebrities you re going to see.  19 Celebs That Are Having A Worse Day Than You  This, again, is a vague and listless title. What celebs? Why are they having a worse day than me, and why do I care? Instead of provoking curiosity, this title just creates indifference and indifference is the worst emotion someone can feel when it comes to your titles. 4. Approach the article from different angles Imagine you are buying a new car. Which is the most important selling point for you? The Gas Mileage? The Reliability? The Acceleration? The Price? You are unique and what appeals to you about this car might be different than what appeals to your boss, your neighbor, or your friend. We need to find the angle to the story that we will use in our title to "sell" the story to the most people. The best way to do this is to try LOTS of different angles. Sometimes, those angles involve breaking some of the previous guidelines. Let s say we had a piece of content showing what Disney Princesses would look like on the cover of Vogue. Here are a few different approaches you could try in writing a title for it: 1. If the Little Mermaid Were a Person, THIS Is What Her Vogue Cover Would Look Like 2. 11 Disney Characters On The Cover of Vogue. Some of These Are Not PG 3. Disney Princesses Get Made Over For Their Vogue Cover. Jasmine Looks Like A Kardashian
  • 3. 4. Disney And High Fashion Is The Best Thing That's Ever Happened To Vogue 5. These Disney Princesses On The Cover Of Vogue Show Everything That s Wrong With the Fashion Industry That's just scratching the surface of what is possible with this one piece of content. The best title writers aren't the best because they are the most likely to succeed with their first attempt. What distinguishes the best title writers is they write lots of titles from lots of angles, NOT the same title with minor changes like swapping the word beautiful for the word gorgeous. http://ilovewhisperwireless.com/ http://dailyneedservice.com/ http://bapyessirfansite.com/