Write Headlines, Not Clickbait

Headlines matter. They are the first impression of your story. They represent your voice and convince readers to dive into your content. They provide a service to your readers and help them find your story. But how do you write good headlines?

Good headlines follow guidelines; bad headlines can quickly turn into clickbait, promising readers content that isn’t there and manipulating them to click.

Here’s your guide to becoming aware of the difference between honesty and hyperbole.


Bad headlines can quickly turn into clickbait, promising readers content that isn’t there. Here are tips on how to write good headlines. Click To Tweet


Before writing your headline, ask yourself:
  • Is it true? Find the one thing that crystalizes the true gist of the story.
  • Is it interesting? Make it irresistible. Leave a curiosity gap and don’t give everything away. Relate to your reader.
  • Is it concise? Eliminate filler words.
  • Is it assertive? Commit to a position that you can defend. Readers will engage and be enticed to read further.


Good Headlines…
  • use the right language for their audience
  • are direct, concise, honest and don’t make the reader work too hard
  • answer questions: what, why, how to?
  • validate their readers’ feelings, speak to and center on them
  • offer clear, enticing promises, suggest real value and leave a curiosity gap
  • use a (news)hook or are urgent
  • focus on what’s interesting and not too comprehensive and concentrate on one aspect that represents the story
  • may be funny, weird, compelling, provocative, odd — but they don’t cross the line to clickbait and stay true to the story
  • have one, at most two lines
  • highlight a message and then follow through with the content
  • start with “Is” and “Are“ to be more committing, make a case and are surprising. They nudge readers to take a side.
  • use action verbs and evocative words
  • ditch superfluous, vague or boring adjectives


Bad Headlines & Clickbait…
  • ask a question but don’t provide the answer in the content
  • are generic, resemble book titles, have no verbs and don’t feel like stories
  • use words ending in -ing, i.e., The Calling
  • feel weak and don’t commit their readers to a position
  • are hyperbolic and over the top
  • use scary, implicating or overly emotional words
  • promise something that doesn’t represent or match the truth of the story

Bonus tip: Here is a handy online tool to help you find the correct Upper/Lower Case spelling for your headline, according to various style guides that you can define: Capitalize My Title


More on the topic:

Headings Are Pick-Up Lines: 5 Tips for Writing Headlines That Convert (NN/g)


Great Content Connects

Persuasive Writing: Promoting Your Brand

Writing Should Open a Vein


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Content Designer, Editor, Writer and Web Developer for content-rich websites with a global reach. Founder of Content+Design™ LLC. Helping you focus on your content to get your message out.

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