Writing Effective Headlines for Web and Mobile Devices

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

Give it a try. In the following examples, rewrite the following newspaper headlines for the web using the guidelines above.

EXAMPLE 1:

Poor Air Quality

John Smallwood, Daily News

THE ANSWER to what happened to the Eagles’ convoluted offensive game plan in Sunday’s humiliating beatdown by the Arizona Cardinals was easy.

“It didn’t work,” Eagles coach Andy Reid conceded on Monday.

The better question was: What made Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg think it was going to work in the first place?

Reid & Co. knew that one of the Cardinals’ primary strengths was a vicious pass defense featuring a beastly line, aggressive linebackers and solid cover men. Just a week earlier, Arizona had harassed the Patriots’ Tom Brady relentlessly in an upset win.

Reid and Mornhinweg also knew that their quarterback, Michael Vick, has trouble reading blitzes and sometimes makes bad decisions with the ball.

They knew that the Eagles were going into battle with a patchwork offensive line that featured center Dallas Reynolds making his second NFL appearance and first start, and underachieving veteran left tackle Demetress Bell – meaning Vick would be even more vulnerable.

They also knew the Eagles’ attack was missing its most consistent receiver, Jeremy Maclin.

Still, Reid and Mornhinweg looked at the Cardinals’ biggest strength on defense and decided attacking it with the weakest part of their offense would yield a favorable result. I’m not a football coach. I don’t claim to know as much as Reid. But even I could see that wasn’t going to work.

“We thought we had some opportunities down the field in the throwing game,” Reid said. “We went in thinking we would probably protect a little better than we did and be able to exploit some of the things we felt were our strengths and that we matched up best against. It didn’t happen.”

How do you come to that conclusion? Looking at the status of your passing game, how do you conclude that it can exploit a defense ranked near the top of the league in pass defense and sacks?

That’s not logical, but it’s been par for the course for the Eagles during the Reid era.

Come hell or high water, Reid is going to throw the football.

It doesn’t matter if his quarterback is Vick, Donovan McNabb, Kevin Kolb, Koy Detmer, A.J. Feeley, Jeff Garcia or Mike McMahon. It doesn’t matter if his receivers are talented ones like Maclin, DeSean Jackson and Terrell Owens or just bodies like Freddie Mitchell and Todd Pinkston. It doesn’t matter if his offensive line is a veteran unit or a bunch of guys strung together at the last moment. It doesn’t matter if he has a feature running back like Duce Staley, Brian Westbrook or LeSean McCoy, or stiffs like Darnell Autry or Chris Warren.

Reid is committed to the passing game – even when every indication going into a game says it might not be the best idea.

The Eagles have McCoy, who is coming off a season when he finished fourth in the league with 1,309 rushing yards on 273 carries – the fewest among the league’s top seven rushers. He led the league with 17 rushing touchdowns and 14 rushes of more than 20 yards. McCoy is tied for fifth with 59 rushes, but would anyone argue that he shouldn’t get more?

Sometimes I think Reid and Mornhinweg just look at film of an opponent’s defense over and over until they can convince themselves they’ve found a weakness in the pass defense that they can take advantage of.

That’s the only thing that makes sense for why they did what they did against Arizona.

Vick passed 37 times behind a makeshift line. Is it any wonder the Cardinals hit him 21 times? There was no upside to having Vick pass that many times. He’s not that kind of quarterback.

Vick is ranked 29th with a passer rating of 66.3. He’s 25th with a completion percentage of .552.

So explain how that correlates into Vick being ranked third with 125 pass attempts. Vick has never proved that he’s a good enough passer to warrant 41 attempts a game. That’s just asking for trouble on all fronts. Is it any surprise Vick is tied for the league lead with six interceptions?

With Vick’s history, do the Eagles truly believe that exposing him to that many hits isn’t going to eventually put him on the injured list? “I’ll tell you he’s getting hit way too much,” Reid said. “At this point, it’s way too much, so that part’s got to end. We’ve got to limit that.”

The best way to limit that would be cut down on the number of times Vick is put in jeopardy, but history tells us that’s not a viable consideration.

Reid said the same thing for a decade when McNabb was being used as a tackling dummy. McNabb would take his beating and then get sent back out to throw 30 to 35 times the next game.

Under Reid, Vick has averaged as many throws per game (30) as McNabb did. The difference is that McNabb completed 59.4 percent while Vick completes 55.3 percent. At his current pace, Vick would attempt 667 passes – 244 more than his career high.

There are only one or two guys I can think of who would believe Vick throwing 600 passes would be a good thing.

“Well, we’ve got explosive players,” Reid said. “So, with that, you’re going to take your shots. I mean, that’s what we do. That’s one of our strengths and has been over the last few years. We’ll continue to do that.”

Come hell or high water, no matter what makes sense.

EXAMPLE 2:

Making Needle Park Safe for Kids

BY DAN GERINGER
Philadelphia Daily News

IN THE EARLY light of another Needle Park morning in Kensington, two men patrol their patches of ground on opposite sides of Indiana Avenue near F Street, picking up bloody syringes so that children won’t step on them and get sick.

Leslie Perez, a father of three who lives across Indiana Avenue from McPherson Square Park, picks up needles that were tossed over his side-yard fence the night before and drops them into a clear plastic bucket filled with water. Bloody bits of cotton float among the syringes in the cloudy water like dead sea creatures suspended in an aquarium of the damned.

Across Indiana, 100 yards away, Luke Rebstock, a seasonal employee with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, walks the lawns around the public library in McPherson Square Park, wearing rubber gloves and disposing of needles in a biohazard container before children arrive to run around and play on the grass.

McPherson Square Park earned its “Needle Park” moniker decades ago and has survived as a notorious haven for junkies despite massive police campaigns – including Operation Sunrise and Operation Safe Streets – to rid it and its neighborhood of relentless drug sales and hordes of addicts.

Today, long after those multimillion-dollar programs ran out of cash and died, zombielike junkies still wander Kensington Avenue at all hours and favor the benches in McPherson Square Park to shoot up.

“You worry about some kid playing in the park, picking up a needle or stepping on a needle, getting stabbed and getting hepatitis or HIV,” said Rebstock, who walks down Kensington Avenue from his home every day to begin cleaning up the needles at 6 a.m.

“I pick up 20 needles a day just in front of the library, around 150 a week in the whole park,” he said. “I pick up bloody bandages and alcohol swabs all over the place.”

This Friday, KaBOOM! – the nonprofit company that builds playgrounds in a single day with the help of neighborhood volunteers – will erect a playground right where Rebstock picks up heroin needles every morning.

Funded by Philadelphia Flyers Charities and Wells Fargo, the playground promises to be a kid magnet – but will neighborhood parents allow their kids to use it? And will the city’s sudden feverish efforts to clean up Needle Park dispel decades of allowing it to fester as a sanctuary for heroin addicts?

Parks and Recreation Department staffer Patty-Pat Kozlowski, who ran a “Play Street in the Park” minicamp all summer long, had gathered the kids for a ballgame near the library one morning when she saw a woman passed out on the grass with her back propped up against a tree.

“A needle was sticking out of her arm,” Kozlowski said. “Her mouth was full of blood. She had an old school notebook on her lap and a pen in her hand, as if she’d nodded off while she was writing in her diary.

“Here I am, a drama queen, dialing 9-1-1 and going, ‘I got a body in the park!’ while the kids are stepping over the woman and they’re like, ‘Let’s play ball. Who’s up first?’ Didn’t bother them at all because they see this all the time.”

Junkies invade the park so unendingly that Perez and his wife, Lisa, do not allow their children to play there, even though they’ve lived across the street for seven years.

Instead, Perez, a jack-of-all-trades, built a wooden fence around his side yard, one board at a time, to make it a safe haven for his kids.

“Each stick in that fence cost a dollar,” Perez said. “There are 500 sticks. Some of my neighbors laughed at me because it took forever to buy enough sticks to finish it.”….

EXAMPLE 3

The Few, the Passionate, the Jersey Tea Partyers

By Julia Terruso and Richard Khavkine/The Star-Ledger

CRANFORD — On a recent evening at a Cranford diner, a dozen members of the Union County Tea Party of New Jersey sat around a long table decorated with American flags, sipping coffee and discussing how to take back their country.

“We’re going to battle,” said Vikki Jensen, founder of the group. “What’s happened these past four years; it’s scary.”

Two years ago, Jensen’s discontent with the Obama administration and Congress led her to start a tea party organization in one of the most Democratic counties within a consistently blue state. Hers is a lonely vigil.

The tea party movement, a loose association of conservative, anti-tax groups nationwide — united by its opposition to the policies of the Obama administration — has left its mark on American politics. It has upset races around the country, hardened conservatives, and claims credit for a vice presidential candidate pick with Republican Mitt Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate.

But here in New Jersey, political experts say, the tea party seems more like a shadow play than a viable political movement. They point to two big factors: Jersey’s two mainstream parties are too deeply entrenched for the tea party to gain a strong following. They also were soundly beaten in their one serious state race two years ago. Tea party members say don’t count them out, they are in this for the long haul.

“I get the sense that they peaked in 2010 and really have been somewhat overwhelmed in the presidential election, with this being a blue state,” said Brigid Harrison, a political science professor at Montclair State University. “There’s no evidence that the tea party in New Jersey has experienced any resurgency, or that they are coming out of the woodwork to support Romney.”

The groups here have garnered some attention over the years, participating in Washington demonstrations against health care reform legislation and supporting conservative candidates for congress. Their biggest moment in the spotlight in New Jersey came during the 2010 race, when grassroots help from tea party supporters — known as “Anna’s Army” — propelled then-Highlands Mayor Anna Little to an upset primary victory in the 6th congressional district against the well-funded and GOP-backed candidate….

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About Nick DiUlio

My name is Nick DiUlio, a freelance writer and editor from New Jersey. I have been passionate about the craft of writing since I was old enough to spell, and this love has led to a successful career in journalism and creative nonfiction. As a freelancer, I have covered a wide range of topics and personalities, as my published work has focused on everything from profiles of artists and important political figures to hard-news stories with both national and local appeal; from restaurant and beverage reviews to tips on fashion and finance; from health and wellness pieces to celebrity Q&A’s. My work has appeared in several local, regional and national publications—both in print and online—including Philadelphia Magazine, Slate.com, Miller-McCune, New Jersey Monthly, Eating Well, and Delaware Today. Additionally, I am the South Jersey Bureau Chief for New Jersey Monthly and an adjunct journalism professor at Rowan University. To be sure, the broadness of my body of work seems only to be matched by my boundless interest in almost every subject imaginable (except Warren Zevon). Check out some of my most recently published work here.
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25 Responses to Writing Effective Headlines for Web and Mobile Devices

  1. Pingback: Week 4 | Southern Accents

  2. eric m says:

    Vick’s passing game no good?, Needle Parks Revival, Jersey Tea Partyers are Here to Stay

  3. therealnjm says:

    Reid Puts Too Much Faith In Vick’s Passing Game.

  4. Matt E. says:

    Example One: “Eagles passing attack just not working”
    Example Two: ” Philadelphia neighborhood struggles to keep parks drug and needle free”
    Example Three: “Tea Party attempting to stay relevant in key blue states”

  5. Example 1: Coach Andy Reid Continues to Use Ineffective Plays
    Example 2: Parents Hesitant to Let Children Play in Future Renovated KaBOOM! Park
    Example 3: Conservative New Jersey Tea Party Group is Not A Threat to America

  6. Caitlynn P. says:

    Rehabilitation for Needle Park; No Matter What, Vick is Passing; Watch out Boston, It is the Jersey Tea Party

  7. jfullam22 says:

    1.) Handoff- Why Reid Won’t Give Up 2.) What You Need to Know about ” Needle Park” 3.) The Tea Party Spoils

  8. 1. Poor Air Quality can be changed to HOWS MY PASSING GAME?
    2. A SERINGE AND SLIDING BOARD DON’T MATCH
    3. NEW JERSEY TEA PARTY IS BEST FOR THE COUTRY SO THEY THINK

  9. 1. Andy Reid fails to adjust game plan, continues to call pass plays against elite pass-defenses
    2. McPherson Square Park not safe for kids, Drug users use park to dispose of needles
    3. Jersey Tea Party members few and far between

  10. shawna says:

    1. Why Did Coach Reid Make the choices he Did?
    2. Will Kids be Allowed to Use the New Park Despite Needles Being Found?
    3. NJ Experts call the Tea Party Movement a Shallow Play, not a Political Movement

  11. tierrafisher says:

    Why Reid thought the Eagles would pull through despite Vicks passing game…KaBOOM! builds playground at Mcpherson Square Park, will it be a good place to take your kids?……Jersey Tea Party sticking around

  12. Jeremy Rodriguez says:

    Eagles coach, Andy Reid, says game plan against Arizona Cardinals “didn’t work.”

    Needle Park cleans up drug needles to keep kids safe

    Union County Tea Party of New Jersey holds meetings to oppose Obama

  13. harlow77 says:

    Example 1: Relying On The Passing Game Is Not Working For Andy Reid
    Example 2: McPherson Square Park Needs A Cleanup For Our Children
    Example 3: Upset New Jersey Democrats Start Tea Party Organization

  14. Example 1: Reid’s Offensive Game Plan Needs Change
    Example 2: New Playground in Needle Park Safe?
    Example 3: NJ Tea Party Meets in Cranford

  15. Megan D. says:

    Example 1: Reid Relies Too Heavily on Passing Game in Eagles Loss
    Example 2: Drug Addicts and Used Syringes Endanger Children in Philadelphia Neighborhood
    Example 3: New Jersey Tea Party Not Giving Up

  16. 1. In Game Against Cardinals, Reid Should Have Passed on Passing; Eagles’ Weak Defense Leads to Overwhelming Win for Cardinals
    2. Turning McPherson Square Park Into “Needle-less Park”; Philadelphia Promises to Clean Up McPherson Square Park
    3. New Jersey Tea Partyers Remain in the Shadows of the State’s Democrats; New Jersey Tea Partyers are a Non-Threat to State’s Democrats

  17. Jessica Rogan says:

    Reid’s Game Plans Leaves Vick In Jeopardy, Taking the ‘Needle’ out of Needle Park, The Conservative Tea Party of New Jersey

  18. xoshan09 says:

    1. Reid committed to Vicks unreliable passing
    2. Is there any hope for Kensingtons Needle Park?
    3. New Jersey Tea Party Won’t Give Up

  19. johnnythiel says:

    Example 1. Like McNabb in Super Bowl, Vick Throws Up At Worst Times.
    Example 2. “Needle Park” Reborn Following Massive O.D.
    Example 3. Red Hot Tea Party Warms Cool Blue County

  20. Liz Brister says:

    1. Reid makes game ruining decisions regarding Vick.
    2. Making a Philadelphia park safe for its visitors
    3. New Jersey Tea Party against the government

  21. Hello! I could have sworn I’ve been to this web site before but after looking at some of the posts I realized it’s
    new to me. Nonetheless, I’m definitely delighted I stumbled upon it and I’ll be bookmarking it and checking back often!

  22. google.com says:

    Have you ever considered writing an e-book or guest authoring on
    other websites? I have a blog based on the same topics you discuss and would
    love to have you share some stories/information. I know my visitors would value your work.
    If you’re even remotely interested, feel free to send me an
    e-mail.

    • Nick DiUlio says:

      Hey. Thanks for the comment. Can you tell me a little more about who you are and what type of blogging you do? I’m always interested in meeting others who focus on similar topics.

      Cheers,
      Nick

  23. After I originally left a comment I appear to have clicked on the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and from now on each time a comment is added I receive 4 emails with the same comment.
    Perhaps there is a means you can remove me from that service?

    Thanks!

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