Headline Writing Tip

Assuming you’ve already read my article on the importance of an optimized article headline, the 2nd biggest mistake that newbie authors make is writing TOO short of a headline.

Pop Quiz: Which of these four headlines do you think will attract more human attention:

Headline 1) Car Audio

Headline 2) Car Audio and Electronics

Headline 3) Car Audio and Video That Will Make Your Friends Envy You

Headline 4) Car Audio Components, Sub Woofers and Tweetors – 7 Tips To Amp Up Your Stereo

Which did you vote for?

If you voted for Headline #4, you win the quiz!

The first headline is too short to get any hooks and the reader has to guess what your topic or angle will be about. You’ve built no motivation or interest.

The second headline is better than the first, yet it doesn’t explain why someone should read the article.

The third headline is again better than the first two headlines and we pick up a 2nd keyword (Video) and a reason why the article should be read (to make your friends envy you if you follow the car audio system advice in the article).

The fourth headline is the charm because we nailed multiple high value keywords, gave a reason to read the article (7 tips) and even used a high value keyword as a verb (amp).

What you should get from today’s article headline writing tip:

Extend the LENGTH of your article titles/headlines so that you give the reader a motivation or benefit for reading your article while simultaneously hooking high value keywords relevant to the topic of your article. This strategy works to deliver more qualified eyeballs to your content.

The sad truth is that a great title with poor content will outpull a poor title with great content.

Since we already know you are writing great content (right!), match up your excellent original works with a great title that is longer, contains more high-value keyword hooks and gives a benefit or reason why someone should read what you have to say.



Ed Howes writes:

Excellent tips Chris,

And then there is the writer’s personal preference. I post on a directory which does not use summry/ intros and requires a minimum of four word titles. I like and often use titles of 3 words and less. I have no intention of telling you what you are going to get by the title. If my title does not arouse your interest and curiosity, my article will likely bore you to tears and you would never see my resource box or visit my website for further boredom. I began altering my “perfectly good” titles for this other directory and then decided no more. They get the ones four words and longer, the others will simply be posted here and elsewhere.

In terms of sales and marketing, everything you say makes perfect sense to me. It is your choice of example that really rang my chimes. I have had a budget car audio idea I have never built, but know enough about audio and car audio, I could easily share it with others. Now that you practically handed me the title, I’ll go write the article. :-)

Comment provided August 16, 2006 at 8:55 AM


Dina writes:

Ooh, a fun headline-rating game!

I vote for Number Four:

Car Audio Components, Sub Woofers and Tweetors – 7 Tips To Amp Up Your Stereo

Good balance of keyword copy and human appeal. Love the play on words: “Amp Up Your Stereo.” Very professional sounding, makes me think there’s a credible expert behind the information.

Other remarks:

Headline 1) Car Audio – this is pretty boring.

Headline 2) Car Audio and Electronics – also dull – works for search engines maybe, but not humans.

Headline 3) Car Audio and Video That Will Make Your Friends Envy You

– this one’s a little better but it’s also silly and reflects a narrow-minded, shallow outlook. I’ve read headlines like this before and am not compelled to click on them.

Actually, while I’m jabbering here let me add that the “7 Tips” headline in Example 4 sets up a proper web article format nicely.

I’ve read some articles recently that, as thought-provoking and/or heartwarming they may be, really aren’t articles.

You don’t just slap up a short, unbalanced personal anecdote or random trail of thought and call yourself an article author. Web articles, although often a far cry from magazine features, still require some sort of authoritative voice, which is usually achieved by writing a list of helpful tips, advice or resources.

I mean, assuming you want to attract business… maybe some article authors don’t?

Thank you for posting this, I enjoyed participating.


Comment provided August 16, 2006 at 10:24 AM


Ed Howes writes:

Hey Dina,

If you could learn to be more shallow and narrow minded, you could have a rewarding career in politics, I just know you could. :-) The folder on my desktop is labelled essays because I don’t consider them articles and never have. Yesterday I read a New Yorker article by Seymour Hersh. 5000 words. I thought the end would never come. But it was worth the time.

Comment provided August 16, 2006 at 10:59 AM


Susan Scharfman writes:

Have to keep reminding myself that this blog exists. I am not good with headlines so any help I can get is appreciated. Thanks much for your suggestions. It’s hard to keep it all straight: First I read that headlines should not be more than four or five words max; then you throw a curve ball. What the hell. I’ll try them all. Thanks.


Comment provided August 16, 2006 at 1:02 PM


Edward Weiss writes:

I tried both long and short headlines. What’s worked best, of course, are the headlines that have the right keywords.

There’s actually a member of EzineArticles who writes the kind of headlines Chris talks about. His name is Ben Settle and he’s an excellent copywriter. I’ve gotten many ideas for headlines just by reading his.

Comment provided August 16, 2006 at 1:23 PM


Susan Scharfman writes:

Thanks Ed. I’ll look at Ben Settle. Easy name to remember. Copywriters are a breed apart. The really good ones are good at headlines.


Comment provided August 16, 2006 at 2:57 PM


Lance Winslow writes:

Hey Ed Howes, That was a great Jab about the Politicians; :-)

Comment provided August 16, 2006 at 5:17 PM




Actually, it has nothing to do with being shallow or narrow minded as the target audience for car audio is all about the emotion of envy. It’s a motivating force within that niche. I suppose you could call it pride or ego or whatever… but for that niche, it’s important to the kids of the age that buy that stuff.

Personal Trivia: A decade ago, I took 3rd place in the Pro division of a major car audio competition. Today my tastes are a little more refined with 1800 watts via separate components for tweets, mids and subs. I love a crisp sounding well balanced car audio experience.


Actually, I’ve never said 4 words should be the max for the headline.

My philosophy is that the first 3-4 words have a heavier weight of importance than the rest of the headline… and that you shouldn’t use junk words or conjuctions in the first 2-5 words of your title if possible.

So today’s tip was just expanding on the article title by making it longer. I even had a dejavue feeling as I was creating this blog entry because I know I’ve blogged about the importance of longer article titles because of the additional hooks that it creates.

Yeah, Ben Settle has great headlines:

Comment provided August 17, 2006 at 6:00 AM


Dina writes:


My apologies if I offended you with extreme word selection. I feel that headline is in fact lacking in substance, for an ARTICLE. Clearly Headline 4 is the winner here, and not Headline 3.

I agree with you about the target audience; I could see the concept in headline 3 working in an AD that includes a compelling graphic of some cool looking kid in a hot car.

An article is supposed to be informative. Although we all know that a web article is a hybrid between marketing and article, so that gives some leeway.

I would NOT click an article that gave me tips on how to make my friends envious. I would NOT walk away thinking the better of a company who chose Article Headline 3 to represent their business.

Which is why I chose Headline 4 as the best one.

Hope that my brusque critique did not offend you. I think my argumentative dander is up. I agree to disagree, if that’s the case.


PS – I Googled Ben Settle and he has an amazing story on his blog that I think some other copywriters and marketers may enjoy as much as I did.

Comment provided August 17, 2006 at 7:14 AM


Susan Scharfman writes:

Chris, it wasn’t you. I think I picked up the 4-5 word headline “winner” from a Poynter seminar years ago. It must have had a subliminal effect because nothing else he said stuck. Thanks again.


Comment provided August 17, 2006 at 8:55 AM


Ed Howes writes:

“Ultimate Headphone Experience” I’d read that article even if the title is less than ideal. In view of professional car audio systems of the last decade, do cops still pull you over for wearing headphones on the assumption you can’t hear horns and sirens?

Comment provided August 17, 2006 at 9:44 AM


Dave Saunders writes:

This was a print-out blog entry for me. I found it to be an inspiration to the next article I’m writing…which already has a much longer title. ;)

Comment provided August 23, 2006 at 11:41 PM


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