Hands-down, the most important thing to get right!
If you want someone to even read your article, you need a strong headline.
Clear, simple, and interesting always wins. Overly-fussy or complicated will do you no favors.
Ideal length 8-13 words.
- Never go under 6 words.
- Longer than 13 is totally fine when necessary.
- Short and sweet is ideal, however.
- Never compromise quality with word count worries, though.
- The only exceptions for under 6 words would be bombshell breaking news headlines e.g. Michael Jackson Dead At 50.
Articles largely circulate via Google Discover/Smart News
Remember that your headline preview on Google Discover/Smart News will typically get cut off around 10 words, after which “…” will show as seen below:
As such, always count out your 10 words when drafting. If your buzz words or main draw aren’t in the first 10 words, fiddle your headline to include at least some. Don’t force your headline to the point of awkward to facilitate this, but equally, do not wait past 10 words to throw in your draw.
How To Fiddle A Headline So The Best Parts Show On Google Discover:
Examples below have the first 10 words bolded. The bolded words are what the reader will see.
Won’t show much:
Kylie Jenner Slammed For Instagram Photos Showing Her Daughter Stormi In $1 Million Car
Will show much:
Kylie Jenner Slammed Over Daughter Stormi’s $1 Million Car In New Instagram Photos
Won’t show much:
‘RHOA’ Star Porsha Williams Says She Doesn’t Really Approve Of The New Show’s Rules And Here’s Why
Will show much:
‘RHOA’ Star Porsha Williams Doesn’t Approve Of New Show Rules In New Reveal
Always include first and last names of celebrities. Kim Kardashian & Kanye West, not Kim & Kanye. Exceptions include two family members with the same last name, e.g. Kendall & Kylie Jenner.
Always name the celebrity. Example below.
Capitalize first word, every word.
Numbers below 10 spelled out, above 10 in numerals – except age.
No keyword stuffing. Don’t repeat the same name or buzz word twice in a headline, e.g. “Kardashian” or “Baby.” Totally fine to repeat words e.g. “the” or “in,” however headlines with the best flow tend not to include repeat words.
Just above, we stressed the importance of naming your celebrity. Example:
Celeb name not included (not allowed):
‘Modern Family’ Star Reveals Traumatic Experience From First Episode
Celeb name included:
‘Modern Family’ Star Sarah Hyland Reveals Traumatic Experience From First Episode
Make Your Headline Interesting
Readers are lazy. Unless you feed them something interesting, they won’t bother. You want a strong, clear, crisp, and uncluttered headline that gets to the point.
Don’t be Vague: e.g. Fans Are Worrying About Britney Spears
Do be specific: e.g. Britney Spears Sparks Concern With Bizarre Posting Spree
Don’t span multiple topics unless necessary: e.g. All The Ways Jennifer Lopez Has Made Her Family, Career, And Fashion Enviable
Do go full-throttle on one angle: e.g. Jennifer Lopez Deemed ‘Family Goals’ In New Video With 12-Year-Old Twins
Detail, detail, detail. Your words are limited, so you’ll need to prioritize. Offer a taste of detail in your headline. Remember, vague is the plague. Examples below.
Weak: What’s Next For Stassi Schroeder?
Strong: Stassi Schroeder Reveals Unexpected Career Move Amid Racism Firing
Weak: Jennifer Aniston Clears Up Old Rumors (About what? Her hair? Her dog?)
Strong: Jennifer Aniston Finally Addresses Brad Pitt Marriage In New Light
Weak: Farrah Abraham Slammed Over Latest Photo
Strong: Farrah Abraham’s Lingerie Yacht Snap Blasted By Instagram
How To Craft The Perfect Headline
Put the celebrity/subject as opening words, recommended, but not required. Juicy quotes, if correctly sourced, can sometimes help.
Bad: People Are Saying That Kylie Jenner Isn’t Doing Enough To Help During Coronavirus
Better: Kylie Jenner Blasted For Not Helping Out During Coronavirus
Even better: Kylie Jenner Blasted For ‘Useless’ Response To Coronavirus
*Note, for the above “Even better” example, you’d only be able to use the word ‘Useless’ if the word is already quoted, alongside linking to the source calling Kylie “useless” in the body of your article.
Unless breaking news, try not to give it all away in the headline. Articles generate revenue via click-through-rate. Use your best judgment here, but avoid headlines resulting in: “Oh, guess I know it all now. No need to click”.
Bad: Meghan Markle Names Baby Boy Archie
Good: Meghan Markle Reveals Baby Name On Instagram
Bad: Khloe Kardashian Says She Feels Hurt After Tristan Thompson Mom-Shames Her
Good: Khloe Kardashian Breaks Silence After Tristan Thompson Mom-Shames Her
Don’t Waste Words: Shave, Shave, Shave
Literally, every word counts, especially since Google Discover cuts your headline preview off after 10 words. Always assess your headline for any wasted words. While you don’t want to sound awkward (sometimes “the” or “a” is necessary), you don’t want to have half your words as unnecessary ones.
The below examples have wasted words in red:
Wasting words: Nicki Minaj Keeps Telling Her Fans That Her Husband Is Innocent Amid His Criminal History (now count 10 words and see how little it shows!)
Not wasting words: Nicki Minaj Says Husband Is Innocent Amid Criminal History
Wasting words: Kylie Jenner Says That Her Little Girl Stormi Isn’t Actually Spoiled After Gifting Her A $1 Million Car
Not wasting words: Kylie Jenner Slams Suggestions Daughter Stormi Is Spoiled After $1 Million Car Gift
Creating A Good Sub-Headline
Each card sub-headline helps keep the reader afloat. It refreshes them from the wall of text they’ve just read. It also introduces what you’re about to offer.
Flex your writer skills here: Don’t be afraid to be descriptive or witty
Keep them brief and to-the-point: Don’t ramble, don’t use unnecessary words
Don’t be repetitive