5 critical tips for writing strong business headlines – Formative Content

5 critical tips for writing strong business headlines

One of the hardest parts of writing an article is the headline. A vast proportion of journalists and bloggers agree, and rightly so. The headline is unquestionably a key feature of any article; it forms a crucial part of the decision a reader makes about whether, or not, to read on.

If it’s weak, they may never get to discover the content of your no-doubt interesting, informative and insightful article.

A great headline will drive up the reach of your article, website and business so it makes sense to get it right.

Here are our top 5 ways to write great business headlines while avoiding common pitfalls:

Take your time

If your headline does not attract the reader’s eye there is little point in writing the rest of the article. It might seem obvious but writing a great headline takes time. It’s unlikely that the working title you start with will be the headline of the finished product. Take your time and be open to change.

Keep it short and accurate

Short catchy headlines are more likely to encourage people to read your article. Your target audience have short attention spans – especially online!

They want a quick way to find out what the article is actually about, so accuracy is key. Wordy headlines, which are often common in business blogs, can dilute your message and bore potential readers.  A short and accurate headline informs your reader, will not lose their attention, and will not dilute your message. And if that’s not argument enough, if you want your headlines to appear in full on Google they have to be no more than 60 characters in length.

Which brings us to our next point…

Stay search engine friendly

If you want your business blog to be at the top of Google then you need to consider Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

Google and other search engines pick-up on relevant keywords in your title. If your article is about Private Equity, the words ‘Private Equity’ need to be somewhere in your headline.

The dangers of SEO are that it can make headlines too dull and prosaic, but there are way to avoid that…

Keep it interesting

One of the best ways to avoid a boring headline is to include a number in it. People like contrast; for example the juxtaposition of digits resting beside text naturally draws the eye. Additionally, business people like efficiency – having a numbered list fulfils this need.

Another way to keep your headline interesting is to use powerful adjectives and clickable verbs. According to content planning tool Buffer the best examples of these words are:

  • Smart
  • Surprising
  • Science
  • History
  • Hacks (hacking, hackers)
  • Huge/ big
  • Critical

It’s not a coincidence that this article headline has both a number in it and one of these words.

5 Ws and How

Using the word ‘how’ and the ‘5 Ws’ (who, what, when where and why) is a great way of engaging a potential audience with your business’ article.

They are trigger words that tell the reader the kind of information you intend to provide (which links back to an issue raised in tip 2: accuracy).

Peter Koechley, cofounder of Upworthy argues that good social media headlines need to seduce people to click through by telling them enough to whet their curiosity, but not enough to fulfil it, creating a ‘curiosity gap’.

“Why” and “how” create this curiosity gap by asking a question of the audience – prompting them to Read your article to find the answer.

The 5Ws and How have also proven themselves to be clickable. In analysis by content planning tool Ripenn how, who, what, when where and why all appeared in the top 50 most popular words in Viral Headlines.

The best article headlines for businesses are short, well thought-out and SEO optimised. They use interesting adjectives and numbers to be more engaging, or trigger words like the 5Ws. Rarely do the best business headlines use both a number and a trigger word as this can be deemed as ‘clickbait’.

Adam Shirley is a Junior Content Producer at Formative Content and specialises in digital content and writing for social media. 

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Formative Content is a UK based content marketing agency producing high quality content, live event coverage and strategic communications support for clients around the world.

Adam Shirley - Senior Social Media Manager, Formative Content
Author:Adam Shirley - Senior Social Media Manager, Formative Content