If the eyes are the windows to the soul, a headline is the window to…content. It’s what draws people in and makes them decide whether they want to click to read more.

There are a lot of dull headlines out there. Just look at press releases. Recently in a marketing class I teach, I was trying to find a good example of a press release title. I couldn’t find one. Companies often write them extremely dry, with just the facts and no juice to make people curious. Blogs and emails are the same way. If you’re not excited about your headlines, how can you expect your audience to be?

Top Headline Tips

Here are my tips to writing better headlines, wherever you need them.

1. Keep it Short

Every search engine and RSS feed has a maximum length of headlines. Go beyond that, and your headline will be chopped in two, rendering it pointless at its length. Some sources say to keep headlines 50 characters or less. Say what you need to say, then see if you can boil it down to make it even shorter.

2. Make it Clear

I see a lot of blog headlines that don’t make it clear what they’re about. So if I see on Twitter someone sharing a post called “Are They Serious?” I have no idea if it’s about diapers, tech, business or elephants. You can be witty and still include words that clue people into what to expect in the content.

3. Ask a Question

I’m big on questions as headers. They provide an explanation of what the post is about (presumably it answers that question) and gets readers thinking about how they’d answer it as well.

4. Use Numbers

For some reason, people love “Top 10” posts. Just search that phrase and you’ll get results in every category. Using this in your headline tells people they can expect 10 items they can quickly skim. Bonus for busy people.

5. Be Catchy

You can say you’ve partnered with a new company, won an award, or other news without being boring. Find exciting adjectives to spice your headline up, and try to make it different from others out there. You’ll be rewarded with more email opens and clicks to your content.

6. Don’t Use Spammy Words

You know the ones:

  • Free!
  • Urgent
  • Make Money Fast

Anything that would turn folks off, avoid. And never use all caps or too many exclamation marks. Better yet, avoid exclamations altogether.

7. Use Keywords

Google likes to know what you’re up to, and headlines tell it just that. Include at least one keyword that relates to the content so both search engines and humans know what to expect, and so your content will appear in search results appropriately.

Read other headlines to get a sense of what appeals to you, and incorporate similar concepts when you’re writing your small business’ email, press release and blog headlines. You’ll see better open rates and engagement from your audience.