Make those headlines sing

The new media world requires journalists to be able to do a myriad of things, some of which they’ve never even thought of doing before.

One area that might not be so obvious is headline writing. Good, strong headlines are very important on the Web, both to entice people to click and to improve search results.

Most reporters and editors have not been required to learn headline writing. Yet they are frequently the ones who put headlines on blog posts and copy posted to the Web site during the day.

Here are my 5 Golden Rules for Web Headlines:

1. Two goals – encourage a reader to click and help search engines find the story.

2. Include key words and phrases people use when they search:

— Specific locations
Fort Worth
Arlington
Texas – not state
Bedford – not Northeast Tarrant;
River Legacy Park

— Full team names
Texas Rangers, Dallas Cowboys

— Specific words
TAKS – not test
Olympic softball – not softball
Dachshunds – not dogs
Salmonella – not illness

3. Be direct and specific. No label heads. No kickers. Use interesting, active,
powerful and provocative words.

4. The Web head stands alone as the ONLY entry point to the story. Can’t
count on display of cutlines, summaries, labels, etc.

5. Keep it relatively short. At the very least, put your most important words in the first 8-12. Search engines often don’t read past the first 65 characters or so.

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