Headlines: There’s More to them than you think!

“If you think about the headline being the star of the show when you are writing, it might spark more thought about the importance of the headline.”

We often think of a headline as “just” a title to whatever it is you are working on. But there is more to a headline than we could even imagine or even possibly considered.

When I started writing this article, I was thinking in general terms of a website. But as I started to outline it, many things came to mind. I work with headlines in various formats. Whether for a website, a blog post, or maybe an article. It could also be on a book cover project I’m working on for an author or a social media post, advertising, email marketing, or even banner designs for advertisements. Headlines are everywhere!

According to Merriam-Webster.com, the definition of headline is: 1: to provide with a headline; 2: to publicize highly; 3: to be engaged as a leading performer in (a show).

I like the latter two the best— “the leading performer” has a nice connotation to it. They mean the headline act, top star, main attraction, top dog even!

If you think about the headline being the star of the show when you are writing, it might spark more thought about the importance of the headline. I know for an article such as this, you wouldn’t even get to this line in your reading if the headline hadn’t captured your attention. Right?

“On the average, five times as many people read the headline as they read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.” – David Ogilvy

The same is true with a book title (headline). If it doesn’t either let you know what the book is about or intrigue you into picking it up and learning more, the headline failed. It didn’t serve its purpose. They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but it happens every day. The title and the appearance of the cover will get your book picked up the quickest. If one or the other aren’t appealing, chances are it’s not getting read.

What Makes a Good Headline?

Does it grab the attention of your target market? If you don’t already know who your target market is, you should. It is important to know who you are writing to so that you can use words and expressions that make sense to them.

Headlines: There's More to them than you think!Are you using keywords that make sense and help with SEO in your headline? You will want to not only use keywords in your headline but also throughout the copy you are writing. Do a little research to make sure that the keyword is relevant. Sometimes a synonym of the word will have better pull than the word you planned to use.

Does it create a sense of wonder or expectation? Sometimes switching up the way you write the headline can be appealing. In this case you want to write with a sense of mystery to pique their interest. My thought in this article headline was to intrigue the reader to want to know what else is there to know.

Are you stating a reason why? Another strategy is to provide a fact or a stat that gives them a reason to want to know why. Testing shows that utilizing numbers in headlines is good for both the reader and SEO. Hmm. That last sentence could be a good headline. To make it even stronger, I could have added a percentage… “Tests show that headlines with numbers convert X% higher than those that don’t.” In regard to the usage of numbers, studies have shown that odd numbers perform 20% better than even numbers.

While everyone has their own opinion of what makes a good headline, the only true way to know what works best for your market is to test. Test what methods work, including the number of words you use in your headlines. Some people just don’t like to read so keeping it simple may work better than longer headlines.

Headlines From a Website Perspective

A website visitor will often scan the website with their eyes, picking up headlines, sub-headlines, and bolded text to get the gist of the page before diving in further. It’s been shown you have 3-5 seconds to catch a website visitor’s attention before they move on (likely to a competitor’s page).

Search engines will analyze your headlines to see if they are relevant to the copy you have used below them. This helps them to determine how significant your website is to the search term you are trying to list for.

When it comes to search engine optimization, you want to make sure you use the right formatting or HTML tags for your headlines. Some will tell you that it doesn’t really matter, but my research has shown that using H1, H2, and even H3 tags for your headlines help the search engine know the importance of the headline structure in regard to your content on the page, with H1 tag being reserved for your most important or lead headline.

You can also utilize those tags for formatting the website. Many page builders will let you set a global setting for each of those headline tags. I highly recommend you make use of those global settings so that your website remains uniform in appearance throughout. If you’re unfamiliar with the term “global settings” that simply means there is a place in your theme where you can set all headlines and fonts to a particular setting, so you do not have to format it each time you place a new headline on your page.

Fonts Make a Difference in Headlines, as Well

Using the right style can make a difference in your headlines, not only from the appearance aspect by psychologically connecting with your audience. The font “type” can make a difference to what appeals to your audience. I think about fonts in three general categories—serif, sans serif, and artistic fonts.

Serif are the fonts that have the “serifs” on them, the small little feet as some call it. Other’s call them tabs on the end. Samples include Times New Roman, Century, Palatino. You will see them used more in education or formal settings, such as like a law firm, bank, even authors just to name a few.

Sans serif fonts are fonts without the server “sans” meaning without. These fonts are simpler fonts without the extra lines. These are the most commonly used fonts on websites for headlines because they are just easier to read in digital formats. Samples include Arial, Helvetica, Verdana.

The final category are the artistic fonts such as script or display fonts that are fun and whimsical. These are used in headlines many times for events, craft sites, movies, etc. While they are fun to look at and may connect with the reader, they are not always to read. This is definitely an area I suggest testing when you decide to use this type of font in your headlines.

Closing Thoughts on Headlines

While we have covered many thoughts to consider about headlines, I’ve only scratched the surface of what could be discussed. I do hope however that by reading this, you have a better understanding of the importance of using headlines when creating your next project. You can never know enough when it comes to writing headlines as they are such an important part of so many aspects of your business.

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Frank Deardurff

An early love for graphics brought me online over 20 years ago which lead me to consume a vast knowledge in marketing, conversion, design and various types of web technologies. That information led to becoming a web master, serial entrepreneur, author, coach, trainer and That One Web Guy! FrankDeardurff.com

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