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 – your headline is just one in a zillion circulating on social media.

Love them or hate them, BuzzFeed and UpWorthy know how to do headlines. Here’s an article explaining what Upworthy might mean for the future of online content.

Now give it a try. Rewrite the following newspaper headlines for the web.

 1. No Bones About It (Star Ledger – 9/24/14)

Think of Vitamin D as the shy child, always upstaged by its siblings.NoBonesjpg

Vitamin C has claimed most of the attention for years, relinquishing the spotlight only when the B vitamins clamored for recognition. Even Vitamin E made a grab at the spotlight.

Lately, however, people are starting to notice Vitamin D. A flood of new studies has found it to be helpful with everything from lupus to asthma, multiple sclerosis to leg ulcers, breast cancer to gingivitis.

By one estimate, 13 percent of all deaths in the United States could be attributed to low levels of Vitamin D.

It has its own association of boosters, and even international conventions that focus on its benefits — quite heady stuff for the vitamin that has been an unassuming part of good nutrition for nearly a century.

“We’re in the middle of a Vitamin D revolution,” says John Cannell, a California psychiatrist who founded the Vitamin D Council in 2003.

Yet experts suspect two-thirds of Americans — even normal, healthy ones — are walking around with a chronic deficiency. And one Morris County orthopedic surgeon has discovered suburban teen athletes in her practice with levels so low she calls it “silent rickets.”

The vitamin appears to be central to nearly all the functioning systems of the human body— for adults as well as children. Technically not a vitamin at all, it’s rather a steroid hormone comparable to testosterone or estrogen in its power. It works by turning genes within one’s DNA on or off, which helps explain why it can impact such disparate conditions as cancer, heart attacks, depression and diabetes….

 2. The End* of Tuition Hikes (Star Ledger – 9/15/24)

Imagine this: Completing four years of college without seeing your tuition increase even once.tuitionjpg

A bill that has begun advancing in the New Jersey Legislature would make that a reality.

The state Assembly Higher Education Committee today voted 6-0 with 2 abstentions to approve the bill (A2807), which would prohibit most four-year colleges and universities — public and private — from raising the tuition of undergraduate students who are from New Jersey for nine continuous semesters after they enroll.

Assemblyman Joseph Cryan (D-Union), the bill’s sponsor, said the bill would reduce the number of students leaving college without earning a degree, or taking longer than four and a half years to earn it.

“I suspect you know somebody who’s come back to home after college because they couldn’t find a job. But I bet you can also find someone who has left college in debt and without a degree,” Cryan said, adding this his own research found that more than 33,000 students from New Jersey’s public universities and colleges have left school without a degree over the past 6 years.

Cryan said that over the last six years, tuition at New Jersey public four-year colleges and universities has increased 23 percent.

“Look at our economy and how much better we would be if those students had an opportunity,” Cryan said. “I’m not saying this bill would solve all that, but having the opportunity to provide cost certainty would certainly help”

There are some exceptions. Students who take a leave of absence of more than one year would have to pay the new tuition rate. And Princeton students, take note: The bill would not apply to institutions with an endowment of $1 billion or more. Princeton is the only school in New Jersey with that kind of wealth. Cryan said he exempted Princeton because it has an extremely high graduation rate and allows lower-income students to attend tuition-free.

None of the 8 lawmakers at the committee meeting opposed the bill, but representatives of colleges and universities did.

Julane W. Miller-Armbrister, senior vice president of public affairs at Rutgers, said she understood the bill’s intent, but that it could shift a higher tuition burden to incoming students.

“We are concerned about the unintended consequences of raising tuition on the incoming freshmen, and perhaps raising it to a degree that would deter and maybe hinder incoming freshmen from being able to afford access to college,” Miller-Armbrister said.

3. Stink of Money (New York Post – 9/24/14)

What’s for sale next, Derek Jeter’s dirty underwear?StinkofMoneyjpg

With just days left in his legendary career, the Yankees a team worth $2.5 billion, are trying to make a buck off of any trinket linked to the shortstop – and have even stooped to peddling his game-worn socks.

The Bombers are hawking the Captain’s Yankee-blue, used cotton footwear to star-struck fans for an eye-popping $409.99 each.

The knee-high socks — which are washed, so they don’t even come with game-day sweat — include a hologram for authentication. It’s not clear how many have been sold, but there are only 19 left.

The price of the socks — which if worn by mere mortals are worth about $15 a pair — may be more than a car payment, but they’re a bargain compared the windfall being made off Jeter’s other gear.

Game-worn uniforms — with dirt and grass stains included — are going for more than $25,000. Game-used bases signed by the shortstop go for $10,000 to $12,500. A signed lineup card has an asking price of $10,000….


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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18 Responses to Writing Effective Headlines for Web and Mobile Devices

  1. Pingback: Week 4 | Southern Accents

  2. Pingback: Week 5 | Southern Accents

  3. Pat Campbell says:

    Story 2: NJ Assembly votes to halt tuition increases
    Story 3: Yankees capitalizing on Jeter craze. Selling a wide variety of Jeter memorabilia, even socks.

  4. Carlo Vitale says:

    No Bones About It – Man’s Best Friend and The Importance of Vitamin D
    Stink of Money – The Yankees, The Captain, and The Blue Socks

  5. 1. Why Vitamin D is Important

    2. New Bill Proposed to Stop College Tuition Hikes in New Jersey

  6. 1. No Bones About It: A Vitamin D Revolution: What You Need to Know
    3. Stink of Money: Yankees Cash in on Jeter’s Dirty Laundry

  7. old title: Stink of Money
    new title: Yanks Still Squeezing Jeter For Uniforms, Profits —— subtitle: Game-worn socks, underwear among Jeter souvenirs Yankees are cashing in on

  8. robert cvoliga says:

    New york post: “Walking away from the game, without his socks”
    Star Ledger tuition post: “Giving us a fighting chance before and after graduating”

  9. neddb85 says:

    Story 2: Halted tuition during undergraduate years? Maybe
    Story 3: Farewell Captain and all that you have brought to the game, literally.

  10. farooqn0 says:

    The Yankees sell Derek Jeter’s game-worn uniforms, bases and socks.
    The state Assembly of Higher Education Committee passes bill prohibiting all universities in New Jersey to raise tuition

  11. antmedina says:

    “Stink of Money” -> “Stinky Souvenirs That Prove The Yanks Are Sell-Outs”

    “No Bones About It” -> “End Your Deficiency in Vitamin D- A Wake Up Call”

  12. anders45 says:

    2) New Jersey Tries to Put a Halt to Tuition Increase
    3) You Could Own a Pair of Jeter’s Socks for $400!

  13. gfandfab says:

    1) Out of the Shadows: the Vitamin D Revolution
    2) Stable Tuition Proposed for Students From New Jersey in Recent Bill

  14. Chessie Love says:

    Newspaper headline – No Bones About It / Web Headline – Stealing the Spotlight: Vitamin D

    Newspaper headline – Stink of Money / Web Headline – Derek Jeter’s High-Priced Socks

  15. Darren Mills says:

    For the Yankees article: Only the Yankees can sell socks
    For Tuition article: Tuition has been stop in it’s tracks

  16. troyspinks09 says:

    1. Vitamin D for Deadly Deficiency
    3. Dirty Money: Yankees Sell Used Socks

  17. Pingback: Week 6 | Southern Accents

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