In case you haven't noticed, the headline of a web story, blog post, newspaper article, newsletter or even the crossword puzzle is the first thing you see. Your decision to proceed is usually based solely on those first few words. In other words, your headline can mean the difference between having 200,000 views and 200 views. As a result, many professional writers spend more time crafting a headline than they do writing the body. Even I'm guilty of this sometimes. 

The most effective headlines are the ones that promise something to the reader. What do I mean by promise? The perfect headline must guarantee news, a revelation, insight, or explanation in exchange for reading the content. Don't write a vague headline that doesn't give the slightest inclining to what your story will be about. (Although, sometimes vague headlines pique curiosity and lure in more readers if done correctly.)

Your headline and content also needs to be easily found so it can be read. So if it's online, it must be easily searchable. Of course, we know that easily searchable translates into major keywords. Headlines are the perfect place to insert top searched keywords. You can get an idea of what those are by visiting sites such as google.com/trends. But remember, your readers aren't stupid. They are going to notice if you stuff the headline and body with useless keywords just to increase search rankings. Don't insult them and assume readers won't notice your repeated use of the word target and Justin Bieber in one phrase. They will. You can only use the same words so many times in a small grouping of words. 

Of course, this means you should keep headlines short. Otherwise, they wouldn't be headlines. Although you want to make sure you send a message that summarizes the story through the headline, you need to do it as concisely as possible. In my experience, the most effective headlines tend to be 12 words or less. Once you exceed that readers may tend to lose interest. However, you can get around it by using short words and breaking your headline into multiple lines.

Examples of effective headlines
  • How to : How to headlines go straight to the point so readers know exactly what they are getting when reading your content (i.e. How to lose weight without giving up carbs)
  • List or reasons why : List or reasons why headlines are used when your body consists of a bullet points, tips, or features written in the form of the list. This type of headline is almost always a winner. (i.e. 10 jobs that didn't exist 10 years ago or 5 Ways to get him to propose)
  • Testimonial or recommendation headline : The testimonial or recommendation headline instantly proves your content has value from an outside source. It almost guarantees your readers won't be disappointed. (i.e. "Drinking orange juice is the best way to stay healthy, "Dr. Oz.)
 
 
As someone who has written for several magazines and newspapers, I am frequently asked how to get quoted in various media outlets. And it's a good question to ask. The more your business name is mentioned, the more you are likely to generate leads. Who wouldn't want the chance to say, "As featured in..." in future marketing paraphernalia? Now, it may seem impossible to capture the attention of media professionals everywhere,  but it's actually a lot easier than think.  As your trusty go-to writing and marketing professional, I've made it easy by listing the top five things to do to get noticed by well-connected journalists. You can thank me later... 

1. Join Help A Reporter Out
This company proves that free PR really does exist. How? Visit helpareporter.com and sign up to get emails filled with requests from journalists, radio personalities, television producers and more. It's the go-to place for media professionals on the hunt for sources for their latest story. It's an outlet that I use frequently and thank the publicity gods for it everyday.
 
2. Optimize your Linkedin Profile
Never underestimate the power of Linkedin. Filling your profile with frequently searched keywords will make it all the more easier for media professionals looking for their latest subject. 

3. Utilize Twitter
If you're only following celebrities and college buddies, now may be the time to rethink your strategy. Start following writers, hosts, and publications and be the first to know what they are working on. When journalists get desperate for quotes, they tend to send out a general tweet in the hopes the right source will come along. How do you figure out who to follow? Do a search on Twitter for journalists, authors, editors, and more. You can start by following me: www.Twitter.com/TerrificWords

4. Establish yourself as an expert
Demonstrate your expertise by writing a blog, tweeting about industry trends, informing customers through a Facebook page, or making your audience aware of future projects and publications. By making your expertise visible, you make it easier for journalists to find you. 

5. Submit press releases
Many local newspapers are desperate for content to fill their pages. It's much easier to get a press release used in a local newspaper than it is to get it published in a major magazine.  Try drafting a press release and sending it to the appropriate newspaper editor. You may be surprised at how willing they may be to use your work.