How to Write Effective Web Headlines

You have two audiences online: readers and robots.

For readers: Headlines should be simple, literal, and direct. They must motivate readers to click.

For robots: Search engines look for keywords. If a headline contains keywords that are also repeated in the text of the article, it will show up higher in search engines.

Suggestions for writing better online headlines:

1. Be descriptive – say clearly what the story is about

2. Use keywords

3. Use conversational language

4. Avoid puns that confuse or are unclear

5. Engage readers

For example, rewrite the following newspaper headlines.

1. BIG CHEESE

Someday they’ll be comparing the next Packers quarterback to Aaron Rodgers.

Whoever it is, he’ll have big shoes to fill.

Rodgers now can cement his name alongside Green Bay’s other great quarterbacks — Bart Starr and especially Brett Favre — after he and the Green Bay Packers put a bow on a stunning postseason with a 31-25 victory over the Steelers in Super Bowl XLV Sunday night at Cowboys Stadium.

“It is a dream come true,” said Rodgers, a native Californian and 49ers fan growing up. “It’s what I dreamed about as a little kid watching Joe Montana and Steve Young.”…

2. Upscale gamble on menu

Hold the obituary on fine dining, and pass the 12-course tasting menu, please.

It’s a refrain chef Marc Vetri hopes to hear often after March 15, when his signature gem, Vetri, abandons a la carte dining altogether for $135 tasting menus, a decadent splurge previously required only on weekends.

In a move that seems counter to these recessionary times, not only is the city’s best Italian restaurant raising the cost of midweek dining, but Vetri is also shaving six seats from the townhouse dining room. At 36 before, it was already a picture of tight-squeeze intimacy….

3. A BEAST OF A PROBLEM

At first, a band of stray cats occupied the filthy basement of the abandoned house on Camden’s Lansdowne Avenue. Then, when the weather turned unforgiving, a point yeared shepherd mix and stripednosed pit bull chased the scraggly felines out a cracked window. Now, they had a warmer place to crash.

The pair roamed the yard and howled through the nights, nextdoor neighbor Anthony Jones said on a frostbitten afternoon last week in the Whitman Park neighborhood.

“I would have called somebody,” said Jones, 33, who has lived on the street his whole life. “But with all the layoffs, I didn’t know who to call.”

Camden’s two animal-control officers lost their jobs in January budget cuts that slashed about a third of the city’s staff, nearly one-half the police force, and a third of firefighters. The city is in the process of transferring animal control to a contractor.

So Jones was glad when Kathy McGuire, president of the nonprofit NJ Aid for Animals, came to investigate a tip about neglected dogs….

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