Writing Effective Web Headlines

You have two audiences online: readers and search engines.

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

For search engines: 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

Go to in-class exercise below…

1. Rewrite the headline – RESCUERS AND RESCUED REUNITED

EWING — “I bet you were the one who was yelling, ‘Don’t touch anything!’” a smiling Frances Kaplan, 81, said to Ewing Police Officer Jeffrey Caldwell from her bed at the St. Lawrence Rehabilitation Center yesterday.

Caldwell nodded, smiling.

It was the first time that Frances and her husband Marvin Kaplan, 80, were reunited with police officers who rescued the couple and their 54-year-old son Harris Kaplan from a burning mini- van on Jan. 18. The vehicle became entangled in electrical wires after crashing into a utility pole.

Frances, who suffered a broken hip and femur in the crash, is in rehabilitation and is recovering well, her family said.

“For someone who has been through what I have been through, I guess I am doing great,” she said yesterday during the afternoon reunion.

The family was traveling back from a trip to the grocery store at the time of the
accident. Marvin was at the wheel, driving along Lower Ferry Road, when he was tem- porarily blinded by sun glare and lost control of the van.

“It was so fast,” he said. “We just heard the crash and I knew I had to get her out.”
Marvin said his wife knew immediately that her hip was broken. As soon as he got out of his car, he said he saw police officers and heard sirens coming to the scene.

“They were right on top of it, thank God,” he said.

Caldwell was quickly joined by Detective Michael Pellegrino and Officer Fred Dow, and together the trio worked to pull Frances and son Harris from the wreckage. Moments after the family was safely out of their minivan, it erupted into a cloud of smoke and flames.
As the group talked about the experience yesterday, they all seemed to understand just how close they came to death…

2. Rewrite the headline — ROBLES IS MAN WITH PLAN

CHERRY HILL – I shook hands Monday night with Anthony Robles, his smile as wide as if he never had a worry and his grip as powerful as if he forges iron with his bare hands.

His story is even more gripping.

There would be a short line behind Robles of those willing to trade places with him at birth. Certainly, no one was smiling when he was born without a right leg.

Or, when he ditched his anchor of a prosthetic leg as a 7-year-old growing up in Arizona, opting to maneuver through childhood and life on crutches.

Or, when he developed a crunching grip used to squeeze opponents into submission on the wrestling mat and a powerful left leg that hoisted him to the top of the podium at the NCAA Championships last March.

“I always believed there was a purpose in my life,” Robles said. “It was a matter of finding what the plan was.”

Robles, 23, didn’t let life take him on a ride of pity, rather he steered his own purposeful path which started as a 90-pound freshman, who he said was the worst of all high school wrestlers in his hometown of Mesa.

That path led to being the best, winning the 125-pound collegiate national wrestling title while finishing his senior season at Arizona State perfect.

“I wasn’t in my sport for attention,” he said smiling again. “I just love wrestling.”

The national attention wasn’t there in high school when he was hopping around the track on one leg carrying a 20-pound sandbag at practice even though his coach Bob Williams said he didn’t have to do it.

Because he wouldn’t allow anyone to tell him what he couldn’t do in life, the spotlight shined on him again Monday night at the Philadelphia Sports Writers 108th annual dinner where Robles was honored as the Most Courageous Athlete.

3. Rewrite the headline — DON’T BET AGAINST THE SPITTIN PRINCESS

LACEY TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) — People use all sorts of ways to try to predict the winner of the Super Bowl: comparing regular season records, judging who looked stronger in the post-season run-up to the big game, or watching the betting lines from Las Vegas oddsmakers.

But the closest thing to a sure thing may come from a camel in New Jersey.

Princess, the star of New Jersey’s Popcorn Park Zoo, has correctly picked the winner of five of the last six Super Bowls. She went 14 and 6 predicting regular season and playoff games this year, and has a lifetime record of 88-51.

Her pick this year: The New York Giants.

The Bactrian camel’s prognostication skills flow from her love of graham crackers. Zoo general manager John Bergmann places a cracker and writes the name of the competing teams on each hand. Whichever hand Princess nibbles from is her pick. On Wednesday, she made her pick with no hesitation at all, predicting bad news for Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, even though the Las Vegas oddsmakers have New England favored by about 3 points.

Her only miscue in the big game was picking the Indianapolis Colts over the New Orleans Saints two years ago, indicating that even camels know it’s generally risky to go against Peyton Manning.

“It started out when a local radio station was looking to have some fun, so they asked Princess who was going to win a particular game each week, and it just took off from there,” Bergmann said. “Now we have guys calling up on Sunday morning wanting to know who Princess has picked that week. One guy even asked if she does lottery numbers.”

Her best season was 2008, when she got 17 out of 22 games right, including correctly picking the Pittsburgh Steelers to win the Super Bowl.

Princess doesn’t do point spreads. But she has nearly mastered the art of picking straight-up winners.

The cunning camel was once the personal pet of heiress Doris Duke, the only child of tobacco and electric energy tycoon James Buchanan Duke.

Doris Duke raised Princess and her sister Babe from youngsters, Bergmann said.

The pair of camels had their own barn, and spent summers at Duke’s Rhode Island estate. During bad weather, they were put up in the solarium.

After Duke’s death in 1993, the camels stayed on her estate in Hillsborough. Babe died several years ago, leaving just Princess.

When Princess’ caretaker was about to retire, the estate offered Princess to Popcorn Park Zoo, which took her in. The zoo cares for abandoned and abused animals.

 

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