Do I Have Your Attention? (Headlines and Headings)

Did that work? Well you’re reading this, so I guess it did! Now that I have your attention, let’s dive into the eye-catching, concise, and strategic topic of headline and heading writing, and blog language. 

Use Effective Structure

We all know that there are many types of users that visit a website or blog. All of these users have different characteristics. One thing they all have in common is that they are hungry for information. The best way to fulfill this need is to implement the inverted pyramid structure into your blog. The order of information goes:

  1. Essential Information
Inverted Pyramid Structure
(University of Exeter Blogs)

The inverted pyramid structure delivers the essential information first. All of the essential information (who, what, where, when, why) should be located in the first paragraph. This structure draws readers in, encouraging them to read on, or to simply skim for the information they need. 

  1. Additional Information

Following the essential information comes the additional information. This content supports the main content. While it is useful, it is below the essential information in the hierarchy of the inverted pyramid structure.

  1. Least Important Information

Save the least important information for the end of your blog. You already gave your reader the essential and supporting information, so if they don’t stay until the end, it is fine. However, the best scenario would be to keep your reader engaged until the very last line!

Write with Conversational Voice

After structuring your content, comes development. Before you can get into writing, you need to establish the why of your blog’s content. As you are strategizing your blog with the inverted pyramid structure, predict your users’ questions. After understanding why the reader may read your blog, and what they may want to learn from your blog, begin to write content that answers the anticipated questions. This is called conversational writing, and it actively engages your reader.

Process of Conversational Voice (Class Lecture Screenshot)

According to Zery’s, these are the dos and don’ts of conversational writing:

Dos

  • Write in second-person active voice
  • Use contractions
  • Keep it simple
  • Practice by reading conversational writing

Don’ts

  • Break all the rules
  • Write like you speak
  • Use long sentences

Focus on writing in a plain language style and write directly to your audience. Use the word “you” to show that the blog is written for them. Make sure to write concise sentences that are straight to the point. According to valuablecontent.co, the job of your words is to engage, inspire, and reassure. Establishing those emotions in your writing will better hold the attention of your reader, giving them exactly what they came for. 

How useful is your heading?

Yoast says, “Headings are signposts that guide readers through an article. Therefore, they should indicate what a section or paragraph is about. Otherwise, people won’t know what to expect.” 

Make it informative

When writing your headings, make sure they are informative. They should properly prepare a reader for the information that follows. The main focus of your heading is the content. 

Headings are used for navigation

Headings are also used for navigation purposes. The use of shortcuts allows those who are simply scanning for information, to go straight to the heading that will hold the content they need. If a heading is vague or misleading, the reader will get frustrated and most likely leave the page. 

Your Headline needs to spark interest

“On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest.”

Writing Spaces Web Writing Style Guide (pg. 29)

If your headline doesn’t spark interest, who is going to want to read the actual content?! This is your first impression with a reader. If it isn’t compelling, it is time to implement one of these 7 tips for writing blog headlines:

  1. Reflect the actual value of the content

Right from the start, share with your reader exactly what they will learn from reading your blog. For example, How To Nail The Interview.

  1. Use words and phrases that actually resonate with your audience

If you have an understanding of your desired audience, you can make calculated decisions to determine which words or phrases will make your blog appeal to them. If your audience was college seniors, you might use, To Go To Graduate School or Not?

  1. Ask questions

What better way to catch the attention of your reader than to ask them a straight-forward question. For example, Is Your Network Protected?

  1. Use numbers

Numbers allow you to communicate concise, useful information that readers will perceive to be a quick read, which is perfect for everyone’s busy lifestyles. For example, 3 Easy Ways To Revamp Your Resume, doesn’t seem like an overwhelming read. 

  1. Play around with visual structure

Impact BND says, “Using two-part headlines with a colon, parentheses, or brackets can add a dynamic feel to your content, tease the contents of the article, and provide further context to the value of your blog content. For example, WordPress Vs. Squarespace (Reviews/Ratings/Prices), uses parentheses to convey additional information, supporting the visual structure of the headline. 

  1. Be concise and to the point

Great headlines are short and concise. Your headline should fall within the “character sweet-spot” of 40-49 characters. This means your headline will entice and attract readers, but not giveaway the “meat” of your piece. A short and sweet example would be, The Skill That’ll Set You Apart Among Applicants.

  1. Optimize for keywords and search performance

Get specific with your most valued keywords. Think about the language your audience would use when searching your topic, and rank your keywords accordingly. The headline, Best Blue Dog Beds for Smaller Dogs, offers product, animal, size, and color details that will help meet the various searches of your desired audience. 

The Ethics of Headlines and Headings

While the goal is to attract and keep readers on your blog, how we bring them in matters. Honesty is critical, and your reader is trusting you to honor that. According to ONA Ethics, “Clickbait headlines, or social media posts that seek to deceive users into clicking on a story, are viewed with disdain in much of journalism.”

A flashy, somewhat-accurate headline may boost your page views and site traffic while situationally improving your metrics. However, it does not hold the same value as establishing loyalty by building your audience. 

Don’t Forget to Review!

Now that you’ve constructed a blog that has an informative title, deliberate structure, and concise language, it is time to review it. Forge and Smith shared these three tools to improve the readability of your content:

The Hemingway Editor

The Hemingway Editor conducts a readability score test to best advise how to improve your content. But what’s a readability score test? A readability score is a computer-calculated rating that determines the readability of your content based on:

  • Sentence structure
  • Vocabulary
  • Number of adverbs
  • Instances of passive voice
  • Length of paragraphs
  • Grammar
  • More items if you visit the site!
The Hemingway Editor (Squibler)

After you apply the suggestions, you are good to go!

Yoast SEO

Yoast SEO is a plugin that can be used directly in your WordPress CMS. While you are working, it will provide you with suggestions and a readability score. 

Simple Words & Phrases

Simple Words & Phrases is a list of words you can use to help simplify language you have written for complex subjects. This tool can help to make your content easier for the reader to digest. 

In conclusion, implement one or all of these tips next time you write a blog! Nobody is born an expert at creating catchy headlines, or writing with an active voice. We’re all learning, so give it a try! Happy writing!

This Post Has 13 Comments

  1. Hi Hannah,
    I really enjoyed reading your blog post for this week! Your introduction was both fun and relevant to your topic of discussion. The use of ordered and unordered lists throughout worked really well to add variety to the post and organize information well. I also thought that you drew attention to an important quote in terms of your discussion—the quote about headline views versus actual reads stuck out to me and emphasized the importance of a strong headline. I never thought about just how much consideration should go into a headline, and the 7 tips for writing blog headlines really made me think about the different ways that a headline can be effective. I personally found the point about using numbers interesting, as I have noticed being drawn to articles with a number in the title because of the perception of a quick, easily navigable read. I was also interested in learning more about the ethicality of headlines and found this article (https://pvtimes.com/opinion/the-ethics-of-headlines/). It aligns well with your discussion of ethicality in terms of producing articles simply for their clickbait value. The article is from 2015. The author tried searching “ethics of headlines” on Google and got only five hits. I was surprised that discussion and awareness of the ethics of headlines was so acute. The article goes on to describe the author’s experience with attention-grabbing headlines that he did not write for his article and thus caused uproar from his audience. I was unaware that headlines for articles are not always written by the author of the article.

  2. Hi Hannah
    Nice job on the blog post for this week. The way you organized your blog with lists, headings, subheads, and visuals made the blog a very fun and informational read. I already read the required readings for this week, so this blog post was very helpful in refreshing my memory on every thing I learned from the readings and lecture. It also taught me new things about writing headlines, headings, and content that I hadn’t previously learned, such as the tools that can help when ensuring your content is readable. I really enjoyed the breakdown of headline and headings, including the tips on how to write both of these because the tips were slightly different than those in the book, so in turn I was able to add more tips to the list I already had made from the book.
    I was really interested in the tools that can be used to improve the readability of content, so I did some more research and found a whole list of tools that can be used. The Hemingway Editor and Yoast SEO are both mentioned on the list, but there are also other tools listed that can be used to improve the readability of content. One of the tools is even used to find cliches in your writing. The link is https://www.searchenginejournal.com/readability-tools-seo-content/317719/#close. I think the tools mentioned on this website can be very helpful when determining whether a website or blog is readable/usable.

  3. Hi Hannah,
    Thanks for sharing! I enjoyed reading through your post. I’ve written blogs for classes in the past, so I am familiar with blog language and best heading practices. However, I did learn some new things from your blog. I had never seen the inverted pyramid used in this aspect. It’s a great graphic to keep in mind when writing and helps with organization.
    I have also never heard of the Hemingway Editor, so I found that particularly interesting. I did more reserach on it, and found an article from medium.com about it (full link: https://medium.com/better-marketing/how-to-use-the-hemingway-app-to-improve-your-writing-80a914f7de06). The article dives deeper into using the Hemingway Editor, and even lists some pros and cons about it. Something that stood out to me particularly was that at the end of the article, the author reminds readers it’s okay to break rules once you know them for intentional effect. So it may not always be good to fully rely on editors like this. But they are still a good tool for pointing out patterns!

  4. Hi Hannah! Great job on this week’s blog post! You did a great job of showing exactly what well-formatted headings can do for a blog post. It’s interesting to read and easy to skim, which are two great qualities to have on a blog. I thought your fact about headline copy was really interesting! I know that many people only read the headings, but I thought the number would have been lower than 8/10. Your last section was the one I found the most interesting. I never realized that clickbait was an ethical issue in terms of journalism. On websites like YouTube, clickbait is used as a joke and I assumed it would be the same on blog sites. I was interested in this topic, so I did more research you might want to check out! It had an interesting perspective: clickbait can be good. One influencer posted a link tagged as a makeup tutorial, but it was actually a link that registers you to vote. In Platform Magazine, this clickbait is used to help the greater good. I’m not sure I agree with this method to influence others, but it is an interesting concept to think about. Overall, great post! I learned a lot about organization of blog posts and websites through reading this blog. https://platformmagazine.org/2018/11/20/clickbait-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly/

  5. Hi Hannah! I really liked your writing in this week’s blog post! I especially liked the title and intro; it caught my attention and made me laugh! I like how your personality shows in the writing while still being professional and informative, your jokes all proved a point. I also liked the visuals that you included in the post, they really helped to visualize what you were discussing. The inverted pyramid image especially made it easier to scan that section. I found it interesting that you included the ethics of headlines, especially regarding clickbait. I knew that clickbait was annoying, but I never thought of it as an ethical issue before and I found that insight to be very interesting. I always just assumed that clickbait was something that audiences had to deal with, not something that writers have to be careful to avoid. Usually, clickbait headlines are so blatantly obvious and laughable, but they are actually quite nuanced. I found that this article posted on linkedin contained a good explanation on how to hook your audience without crossing the line into clickbait territory. Overall, I really liked this post, it was so easy to read and it taught me a lot about titles, organization, and editing. Good work! https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-avoid-clickbait-trap-still-noticed-kylie-ahern/

  6. Hi Hannah!

    I thought that your blog was very insightful and gave a lot of pro tips regarding how headlines and blogs in general should be structured. As a reader and a writer I am able to see both sides and how important it is both to be drawn into an article consistently as a reader and the importance of creating a compelling piece of content as a writer. The inverted pyramid was most helpful for me. I felt as it so clearly breaks down how your blog should be structured. I am pretty good at creating a conversational voice in my blogs as I have been writing a number of fun blogs over the years, so it is nice to see how much that can help as well. I think that the headings and bullets as always are a great way to help differentiate different topics and lists within the blog. I also thought the bolded words or hyperlinked words helped draw added attention to specific things within paragraphs to make sure as a reader I knew something was key or where I could go for further information. Your line on headings, “A flashy, somewhat-accurate headline may boost your page views and site traffic while situationally improving your metrics. However, it does not hold the same value as establishing loyalty by building your audience.” was really interesting as it proves how strategic we must be when headlining our articles. The review section of your blog gave us a lot of great tips on how to polish up a blog that I was not familiar with before this week. While I found much of this blog enticing, I wanted to look more into headlines as I find them fascinating and truly think they are the key to many articles. With that I chose to look into the greatest headings of all time. I definitely recommend checking them out as there are some pretty good ones!
    (http://www.toledoprinter.com/100headlines.pdf)

  7. Hi Hannah! I really liked how you used such good headings while you were talking about how to make good headings! You really exemplified the point you were making here. First off, I really liked how you included the inverted pyramid of web writing. Visuals like that always aid my understanding of the concept. I thought how you only have 2 seconds to hook the reader sounds like of like a ridiculously small amount of time to get someone’s attention, but the more I thought about how I find information on a website, the more I saw that this was most definitely true. Secondly, I liked how you included the do’s and don’ts of conversational writing. I think little tips like that really help to understand the nitty-gritty details of how to write well!

    Also, I found an interesting infographic on HubSpot (https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/headline-writing-tips) that gives a similar do’s and don’ts, but by showing a headline and a revised headline using a specific lesson tip to edit them.

  8. Hannah,
    Your blog post was a joy to read. I love the usage of “grab and go” throughout your post. There were many things that stood out to me in your post but the one thing that really got my attention was in The Ethics of Headlines and Headings section “While the goal is to attract and keep readers on your blog, how we bring them in matters. Honesty is critical, and your reader is trusting you to honor that.” This is very important. There were times when websites clickbait me and I became frustrated and I lost credibility in those sites. A site top focus is to build trust with its users without that trust the site couldn’t truly function. Much like products, stores, etc. trust is a key factor for a successful business. The article 5 Reasons Clickbait Is The Worst (And How It Will Negatively Impact Your Business) by Allie Wolf gives you five reasons why clickbait is bad. One of the reasons that stood out to me was how clickbait can attract the wrong users. I know that clickbait can break the trust between users and sites but I never thought about it attracting the wrong users. “That’s because clickbait turns reading into a psychological game, forcing audiences to guess what the end result is and stringing them along to reveal the correct answer.” By clickbait turning into a psychological game it can send the wrong message for the site target audience. https://www.hatchbuck.com/blog/5-reasons-clickbait-negatively-impacts-business/

  9. Hi Hannah! I really like how you wrote this blog post based off of the tips for writing a successful blog. It really showed through in your style of headings and your title! I thought the information under the heading “your headline needs to spark interest” was especially informative. As I was reading this section, I even found myself reading the headers more intently and skimming over the text underneath at points, as your statistic shows that readers will do. I hadn’t heard of the Hemingway Editor, so I found that information very interesting as well. I find it so helpful that you can get a score on how readable your blog is through this test and edit your content accordingly. I found this article (https://www.academicwritingsuccess.com/hemingway-editor-secret-online-editing-tool-powerful-writing/ ) that goes into more depth about how the Hemingway Editor works and how each part of this test affects your writing and score.

  10. Hannah,
    Yes. You have my attention! You did a great job with the title of this blog post, and I was eager to read it as soon as I saw the title from the main blog post access page. Simple yet commanding, it drew my eye right away and immediately made me want to give you my undivided attention. Way to pull me in! As for your post itself, you did an excellent job making it easy to navigate, read through and understand the content that you’ve presented and the way you broke it down. I feel like you did this through your use of headings and subheadings and contrasting text for contrasting content, (which is great considering that’s what your topic was for this week!). Your list of seven things to create effective headings was incredibly useful, and it is apparent that you followed these tips when crafting the headings for this blog post. It made me so happy to see that you included the Hemingway Editor, because as a writer who tends to be too wordy, I use it all the time to clarify my text and get across what I am trying to say in a clearer, more concise way. When it comes to Headlines and Headings, I found a great, super straightforward article about what these things are and how we as web writers can come up with the best ones. That article can be accessed here: https://www.marketsmiths.com/2015/how-to-write-better-headlines-headers-5-secrets-to-snappy-actionable-website-copy/

  11. Hannah,
    I think you did a great job of organizing your blog post, utilizing a wide array of headings, subheadings, unordered and ordered lists, and images. All of the links were descriptive and easily informed the reader of the information to expect when if they were to click on them. The inclusion of the inverted pyramid for web writing helped greatly with the understanding of the concept. The idea of the structure was familiar to me, as it seemed to slightly follow the rules outlined by the F-pattern reading structure that many readers and users employ on websites. This post was very informative regarding the specific way to communicate in a blog. I think my only suggestion regarding this post would be to have larger headings, but I also understand that the elements are built in to the blog themselves and utilizing larger headings may break the common structure used on wordpress. You outlined the importance of headings very well throughout the post. I found a blog regarding subheadings that outlined similar rules to those that you included in your original post regarding headings, but had a few unique touches relating only to subheadings. That can be accessed here
    https://blog.aspiration.marketing/the-importance-of-a-good-subheading

  12. This is a great blog post! You did a great job visually as well as describing the use of headlines/headings and how they change the entire mood of the post. I never really thought much about how the title affected the piece overall, but now that I think about it, titles are usually the reason we take any notice to it in the first place. I really enjoyed learning about the inverted pyramid because this could easily be used in other contexts which makes it amazingly useful. I decided to look up another post about how to catch users’ attention with heading which can be found here: https://www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2014/07/17/headline-writing
    When looking at what you had written down, I wanted to know more. Besides the informative aspect of a heading, this article talks about even small details such as numbers and keywords. This is a very good topic that you covered because as you mentioned before, clickbait articles are ruining journalism and giving a bad name to those who genuinely want to share information with others. Again, this was an amazing article!

  13. Thank you for this blog post! I feel like I am adequate on creating headings and subheadings and knowing where to divide content. However, I do feel like I have trouble coming up with creative headlines that will draw the reader in. This may be because I feel like I was trained to use a concise, professional tone rather than conversational. I really enjoy the information you do include about having a conversational voice. I guess there is a different between professional writing and writing in a plain language style, as you discuss. I think holding those three emotions, engagement, inspiration, and reassurance, is very helpful in getting to know your audience and thinking of their needs. I read more about understanding your audience here: https://www.searchenginejournal.com/identify-your-true-web-audience/324443/#close . They talk more analytically about finding your audience which I think can also be valuable.

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