Have you ever been rushing to finish an assignment by midnight and struggled to find relevant sources to your topic? We all have, and we have all asked ourselves why we waited until the last minute, again. It would be so much easier if we started the assignment a few days ago, or if headlines were true to their content.
Haven’t we all delt with the frustration of clicking on links we think have potential, until we scan the headings and content and realize it has nothing to do with what we typed into the search bar.
When writing for the web, it is important to write clear and concise. You don’t want the format of your website and the words you use to turn users away. So, I am going to introduce some simple tips you can follow to improve your web writing skills. I will break it down into three categories: headlines, headers, and word choice.
Writing effective headlines
In the vast ocean of online content, the headline is the beacon that guides readers to your work.”
Headlines are the first thing you see when navigating content. They are the hook that either gets a user to choose your website or to pass.
So, to increase the discoverability of your content, make sure to include relevant keywords in your headline. A successful headline should communicate the main point of your content and give a clear understanding of what you are going to talk about. For example, if your website is about coral reefs affected by oil spills, make sure your headline contains that information.
So, let’s talk about how to do this.
5 Tips to writing an effective headline
- Be clear not cute.
- Think about who your audience is.
- Keep your headline within 7-12 words.
- Use a statement, question, or call to action.
- Add a short description if people need it.
1. Be clear not cute
2. Think about who your audience is
Know your audience and avoid acronyms, abbreviations, and idioms they may not understand. Your headline is a “bite” that site visitors may or may not take. Make your bites good and choose a statement that highlights your content. Here is an example of what you want to consider in a headline.
3. Keep your headline within 7-12 words
4. Use a statement, question, or call to action
Writing your headline as a statement or call to action tells the site visitor exactly what you are going to be addressing in your content. A question raises curiosity in a site visitor and allows them to start the conversation. According to The Writing Cooperative, a question implies there is a solution to be found in your content. However, question headlines fail when they can be answered without reading the content, so make sure it’s not a simple yes or no question.
5. Add a short description if people need it
Sometimes your 7- 12 words won’t be enough and you’ll need to add a little extra to your “bite”. If this is the case, include a brief description of your content. Here is an example, so you better understand what that looks like.
What is a strong heading?
Headings should divide content into manageable pieces, or “bites.” They guide readers through an article, indicating what the next section is going to be about. A good heading is written in the form of a question, statement, or verb phrase.
Additionally, headings are helpful when it comes to scanning content to help readers decide if the content is relevant or not.
To structure headings and content well, use different level headings. In the blog post How to use headings on your site, they use the example of an H1 heading being the name of a book. H2 and H3 are subheadings, and can be thought of as chapters in the book. H3 subheadings are more specific headers that can be used to introduce sub-sections. Most content isn’t long enough to use H4 headings and beyond, but that does not mean you can’t use them.
Example heading structure:
- H1: How to make hardboiled eggs
- H2: Things you’ll need
- H2: Instructions
- H3: Step 1
- H3: step 2
- H3: step 3
- H3: step 5
- H2: Tips
- H2: Frequently asked questions
Conversational word choice
Words are the building blocks of your article, blog, website, etc. They seek to inform, help, engage, inspire, reassure, tell stories, and more. So, choose your words carefully.
Your content should be a conversation between you and your reader. Make sure to keep your tone of voice consistent; keep it light and conversational. Use words that are short and simple, words you would typically use in a conversation with one of your friends.
“Writing a blog isn’t a place to try and impress with your knowledge, it’s a place where you want to engage your reader.
So lets engage!
How has your experience been listening to me talk to you about headlines, headers, and conversational word choice?
Did I do all the talking, or were you able to ask some questions?
Hopefully, this blog post was an example in itself of how to effectively use headlines, headers, and word choice, if not I look forward to hearing your comments.
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