Five Tips for Writing Great Headlines

[*Note: the first in a series of guest posts by attorney and writer Reba Kennedy. See Reba’s BIO below.]

1.  Imagine Your Headline Online – and Draft Accordingly

Your headline is listed in search results (Google, Yahoo!, Bing, etc.) in bold face, with a brief excerpt of the article itself shown below. Content delivered by JD Supra to LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, iPhone and elsewhere is also listed on those platforms with a similar look and feel.

Craft your title with these screen images in mind: in less than ten words, you must explain the overall topic effectively for the reader. Online isn’t the place for polysyllabic adjectives – limit yourself.  

2.  Remember Your Intended Reader

Who are you trying to reach? Your title is, more often than not, the first connection that your work makes with its intended reader. Not only does each individual headline create an impression, but the entire collection of content comprising your JD Supra Portfolio also allows readers to judge your ability and authority in your stated areas of expertise. Make a great first impression by using headline language that resonates with your intended readers.

3.  Write the Title (or Headline) Last

It’s tempting to start at the top and plop a headline into the title bar before moving into the body of your document, isn’t it? Resist that temptation. Creating the title to your article as the final step before publishing on JD Supra allows you to consider (and discover through the writing process) the most important words and phrases to use. Titles are worth the time.   

4.  Key Words and Phrases Go First

Your title is an invitation: strategic use of key words and phrases helps readers discover what you’ve written. Find those two or three words that convey the core message of your article – and place them at the beginning of the title, or very close to it.  

There are some that may argue this is only true from an SEO (search engine optimization) standpoint. I disagree. Your reader is browsing online for interesting and relevant material.  Why would you avoid waving the flag that your article delves into the very subject matter which your reader is investigating?

5. When in Doubt, There’s Always the List

Lists get read. (You’re reading one right now!) You’ve seen them before: the top five of something; ten ways to do X; or a title that promises to provide 100 reasons why Y is better than Z. Using a list in your headline is an accepted, proven method of producing a successful headline. Readers like lists.

Reba Kennedy is an AV-preeminent™ rated 20+ year attorney and 5+ year professional writer whose work regularly appears on JD Supra, published within her own profile and as ghostwritten or edited publications for law firms across the country.  For more information, check out Reba’s JD Supra profile or website.