Tag Archives: headlines

How to use subheadings to make your writing more effective

When you are writing a blog post, a web page, a landing page, or even an email, you use a headline. Then you use headings. Then you use subheadings.

In terms of HTML, your main headline should be <H1>, headings should be <H2> and subheadings should be <H3>, or at least this is a format that I follow when I’m writing content for myself and my clients.

The headline grabs your reader’s attention and headings, and subheadings keep them reading. When they are getting distracted, your subheadings bring them back to your writing. The subheadings tell them why they should read further.

In this Copyblogger post Sonia Simone explains how to use subheadings to break a long piece of content into manageable pieces, separated by many headlines or subheadings. She compares subheadings to the steps in a staircase. Every step takes a person up or down the staircase of your blog post or your web page.

In the subheadings you can capture

  • Some irresistible facts you don’t want your readers to miss.
  • Phrases and expressions that spark interest
  • Underscoring what lies ahead so that the reader is prepared and excited.

Not just for readers, subheadings make even writing easier for you. In fact, as suggested by the author above, before writing the main body text, it is important to organize your thoughts under headings and subheadings and then you can expand them.

Search engine crawlers too find subheadings easier to read and process. If there is a hierarchy of processing the text then the title, the headings and subheadings are processed before the remaining text and hence, if you can capture the entire essence of your web pages and blog posts using subheadings, it also improves your search engine rankings.

How many headlines do you write?

The headline of your article, blog post or webpage is as important as the rest of the copy and many would claim, even more important. In fact, according to David Ogilvy,

On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.

It is the headline that draws people to your link because it is the headline that often appears as the highlighted hyperlink on search results, social networking websites and other online places. It is your headline that gives an idea what your content contains. The words that you use in your headline can make or break your content marketing campaign.

Some of my clients insist on getting multiple headlines from me and I don’t mind. It is a challenging task. They say, “Send me 10 headline options for this blog post” and then they choose what they like the best. The same goes for an email subject line (just as your headline prompts people to read your webpage, your email subject line prompts people to open your message). Of course they pay me accordingly and that’s not the point, the point is when you create multiple headlines you cannot only test them out, you also have a better grip of what is the most compelling way of making your offer.

How to optimize your headlines for search engines as well as your readers

Interesting Headline

Headlines are one of the most important part of your webpages, blog posts and articles. They are the essence of exactly what you’re trying to communicate to your readers. In conventional media you can have a free run with your headlines as long as they make sense and make the right impact. On the Internet, along with striking the right tone with your readers you also have to convince the search engine algorithms that you are on right track.

When it comes to your search engine rankings your headlines can be a big deal. Your headline must have your primary keyword and it should also sound quite compelling. It should convey exactly what you are offering, most convincingly. The problem is, sometimes it is not possible to create a highly innovative and creative headline without making a compromise at the search engine optimization front.

As a content writer I wouldn’t say that it would be difficult for me to create a compelling headline without making it search engine unfriendly but there can be many instances, especially when how you present your headlines can have a big impact on how many people come to your blog or website and read your message.

Your headline can be different from your page title

Herein lies your solution. This is especially possible when you’re using WordPress to run your website or blog. The title of your blog doesn’t necessarily have to be the title of your webpage. Ain’t clear what I’m talking about?

Normally when you look at the source code of a web page or blog post look at two places

  1. Text appearing between <TITLE> and </TITLE>
  2. Text appearing between <h1> and </h> (or whatever tag you are using to display your main headline)

In most of the cases both the places have the same text.

Using the latest features in WordPress and other content management solutions, you can have separate text for the title tag and the headline portion.

Different headline and title

Click to enlarge

For instance, in WordPress if you install an SEO plug-in (in most of the cases it is All in One Seo Pack) you can have a different headline and a different title for the same blog post or web page.

Let’s see an example:

  • For readers: Let sleeping policemen lie
  • For search engines: Sleeping policeman, when awakened, hits an old woman in Bangalore

So for readers it would be amusing to draw a parallel between the sleeping policemen and the old adage “let sleeping dogs lie” but for the search engines you are including in the title all the keywords required – “sleeping policeman”, “when awakened”, “hits an old woman” and “in Bangalore”.

A good list of killer headline creating formulas

You have won half the battle if you’ve created a good headline for your website or blog post. It’s all the more important in the times of social media and social bookmarking where your well-prepared headlines can attract lots of attention. Having said that, do pay close attention to the following when you are creating your next killer headline:

Don’t create a headline just to create attention

This proves counter-productive and incites lots of WTFs if your headline doesn’t match your content. Make sure your headline truly represent the message of your blog post or web page.

Use your main keywords in the headline

It not only helps your search engine rankings but also helps you better represent your message. Take for example the headline of this blog post — it clearly tells you that the post intends to tell you some good ways of creating highly effective headlines.

Enough of my ruminations, head to this excellent post on Copyblogger titled 10 Sure-Fire Headline Formulas That Work.