Choosing Effective Headlines, Headers, and Word Choice For Your Website

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. 

Let’s begin!

Writing effective headlines

According to Nick Ronald: 

In the vast ocean of online content, the headline is the beacon that guides readers to your work.” 

Why Headlines Are the Most Important Part of Any Content Writing

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

  1.  Be clear not cute.
  2. Think about who your audience is.
  3. Keep your headline within 7-12 words.
  4. Use a statement, question, or call to action.
  5. Add a short description if people need it.

1. Be clear not cute

Having a clear headline will place your article high in a search engine’s results if it has keywords matching a site visitor’s search. Additionally, a clear headline will help site visitors scanning links on a page to find one that matches what they are looking for. Make it easy for students, and help them decrease the amount of time they spend researching, so they can turn their assignments in before midnight. 

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

Research has found that headlines containing 7-12 words are most effective. So, keep your titles short and sweet, but not too short. 

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.  

Structuring headings

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.
-Sharon Tanton

How to make your writing feel conversational so that your readers stick with you

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.



You might also like:

Guidelines to creating effective headlines, headers, and sentences


This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. I enjoyed reading your blog post this week on writing effectively for the web. You gave good information on the format and wording of not only websites but any formal writing. I appreciated the overall tone you took. It was very conversational yet still informed on the topic. It helped in making the information easier to understand, as well as interesting to read. Your usage of examples helped show how to use different styles of headings, and when they would be appropriate. One thing that I found interesting was the quote used in the “conversational word choice” section. It was an effective quote to pick because too many people focus on getting a lot of information out rather than actually engaging the audience. I think your work connected a lot with our reading for this week, and followed many of the rules from our textbook. For example, the book talked about using lists and keeping them short and easy to skim. All of your lists demonstrated that idea well. A further topic I explored from your mention of using keywords was SEO. The article I read talked about the importance of keywords in order to gain traction on sites and reach your target audience. The article also talked about how different sections of websites use keywords and how that affects the overall traction. I am an advertising major so I find SEO very important to know about!

  2. I liked your blog post this week! I think the part that made the blog post so well done was the way that the post seemed informational, yet it did not feel like a business that was giving out advice to fellow businesses. It seemed more like a friend giving out advice to another friend, rather than the way businesses talk about their product. Something I found to be really useful for when I go to post my own blog is the point of keeping the headline clear and concise. I know specifically when I start writing things (especially if I’m really passionate about it), I have issues keeping my ideas clear and concise, especially with titles. It’s almost like I want to go ahead and spill out everything that I know about the subject all at once, which definitely wouldn’t help. I also found a website that comment on something similar to your opening, and how a lot of websites won’t really get to the point, causing endless frustration. I recommend giving it a read, but my favorite point this website brings up is that “the headline will mold itself from the content that is being produced, not the other way around” and that “trying to force content into a headline can lead to confusion from the audience that will not only disqualify you as a resource, but could cost you future traffic and business.” This seems really relevant with the discussion about headings and headlines, so I’ll definitely keep both in mind!


  3. I really enjoyed reading your blog post this week! I appreciated your casual tone throughout; it helped your post feel conversational, and not like I was being talked at. I struggle with paying attention to pieces of writing that use more of an impersonal tone throughout, so the tone you used did a good job keeping me engaged! I had never heard the guideline about keeping headlines between 7-12 words before, and that piece of information really stuck out to me. Now that I reflect back, I do realize that I do tend to click on headlines that aren’t super lengthy, so it’ll be good for me to keep that sweet spot in mind. I did find the figure directly below that section interesting as well, about the features that can help make your post more clicked-through, such as an odd number or a hyphen in the title. I found an article that went along with that idea by listing a series of tips to make your headlines more clickable. One point that stood out to me was including data in the headline, such as saying ‘“Attract More Readers” vs. “How I Attracted 40% more readers”’. As a marketing major, I’m always interested in small things to do in order to make an idea more marketable, so I thought this was an interesting read!

  4. It’s very clear from your blog post that you spent some time researching. I appreciate several websites being listed and cited throughout; your five tips for successful headlines are clearly based on these sources. From the beginning, I was instantly hooked with the personal connection created through the scenario. I was similarly engaged with the informal tone of voice. However, I will admit I was taken a bit off-guard by the final sentence in the first paragraph. While I see the attempt to compare misuse of time with misuse of headlines, the insertion of the main topic (headlines) felt abrupt to me. I found an article that discusses five smart ways to utilize metaphors; indeed, just like you wrote, they are effective as openers. However, in the provided example, the author begins a new paragraph for the topic shift. Your blog might flow better if you copy that method. Alternatively, as the article suggests, you could bring it back into the post by inserting it into your closer and/or headline. I have always liked analyzing metaphors and similes, so I would personally recognize that clever call-back.


  5. I really like your introduction because you mentioned the issues of procrastination and struggles in finding relevant sources. Your structure of advice for focusing on headlines, headers, and word choice is clear and easy to understand. I also appreciate that your tips on clear headlines within 7-12 words, and the use of statements, questions, or calls to action to make them stand out. I also think explaining the purpose of headings and the importance of hierarchical structure using H1, H2, H3 is extremely helpful. Your word choice discussion on how using conversational, simple language resonates well with online readers was super helpful and something I’ll continue to keep in mind. Overall, your blog post addresses common writing issues that I often find myself experiencing, and offers a clear and engaging guide for beginner blog writers. The article I found has a lot of similarities that were expressed in your post, while also including different tips such as using various different punctuation and including numbers in the headline. I like how your blog post focused more on content while theirs is the more technical and literal way of creative effective headlines.

  6. Lauren, I really enjoyed your blog post! It was very clear and easy to follow. I also appreciated you including the comment about procrastinators; as a heavy procrastinator, I have certainly run into those unhelpful articles at 11PM, and they are frustrating every time. I’m an applied statistics minor, and one thing that we talk about when creating graphs is appropriate titles: the person viewing your title should know exactly what your graph represents. Likewise, a person viewing your page title should know exactly what your webpage contains. I found an interesting article from NPR that described how using the proper headline is important not only to explain your article, but also to build trust with your readers. Nobody wants to feel like they were tricked into reading an article.

  7. Hey Patrick, you did a great job at addressing effective headings/word choice in a relatable way. Opening up with a frustrating real-life example helped introduce readers to the gist of your content. The sources you linked, ironically enough, helped supplement your point and were highly relevant. It’s also good that you included keywords in your headings, as per your advice, to demonstrate what you’re writing about in sort of a meta way. The bulleted overview of the 5 tips worked nicely as well, and it felt similar to the way information was presented in the Web Style Guide text. Also, the breakdown skeleton of the different levels of headings was a greate guide that I would use as a reference point for writing an article or blog post.

    Content Snare has an article that defines what a headline and subheadline are and offers a few tips for headlines in particular that could be added to your list. Interestingly enough, the first tip was to write your headline last! I agree with this, since I usually end up writing the title of my papers after I’ve written everything else. They also mentioned that a headline should “invoke curiosity”, which I think is something the writer will develop a sense of after considering who their audience is–a major point you’ve discussed in your post.

    Here’s the link:

    1. Correction to my post: I just realized this is Lauren’s post, not Patrick’s. I’m sorry Lauren!

  8. Hey Lauren, I feel that you did a great job demonstrating the ways of choosing effective headlines, headers, and word choices for your blog. I think the structure has a great layout that compliments your information and makes the blog look official with easy navigation. I also like the way you use your own headers and subheadings within the main sections and feel it is one of the best aspects presented here. They make the entire blog look really nice and organized without overwhelming the paragraphs. When you discuss the idea of how research states that headlines containing 7-12 words are most effective, it got me thinking about the various ways of approaching your headlines in other projects. After researching more on this subject, I found an article on the Hubstop blog featuring 13 of the most efficient and attractive headliners for blogs. Some of the top headliners are labeled as the ‘Make My Life Easier’ headlines or the ‘Backed by Science’ headlines. These headers support your information presented and provide insight into the ways people can engage their audience more efficiently. Some of the headlines incorporate hook words like “best” and “easier” because they are effective ways of appealing for readers to click your intro tagline. Overall, great work on this post.


Leave a Reply

Close Menu