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Would You Keep Reading? Tips for Writing a Great Headline

DZone's Guide to

Would You Keep Reading? Tips for Writing a Great Headline

What words get you noticed? Which ones get you passed over? Get advice from the DZone editorial team on writing the perfect article title.

· Writers' Zone
Free Resource

It’s said that first impressions are the most important. We at DZone have found that to be true, and there’s no better way to make an awesome first impression with our readers than with a well-written headline.

In this article, we’ll discuss some tips for writing a great post title, including a few taken directly from the DZone editorial team! We’ll also share some examples of what NOT to do when crafting your post title.

General Guidelines

We asked the DZone Editorial Team to offer some general suggestions for creating an eye-catching headline. Here’s what they had to say:

Keep it short but complete

Anything longer than a line and a half is too lengthy.  On the other hand, three words is probably too short. The sweet spot is around 8-12 words, which gives you enough room for a carefully-chosen keyword or two.

Create conflict

DZone’s readers enjoy a bit of controversy, as indicated by the popularity of articles with “vs.” in the title. Not a fan of a specific tool, or think another one is much better? Feel free to state your preference in your article title – you’ll get views from readers who agree and readers who disagree with your stance.

Use Keywords 

Many of our site visitors come to DZone after searching for a specific term on Google. We recommend using tools like www.keywordtool.io or Google Adwords (if you have an account) to research keywords. You can target both common (short) keywords and long-tail (longer strings and queries), depending on how long you’d like your headline to be. 

Set Expectations

Your headline should reflect the content of your article as accurately as possible. For example, if your title includes the word “checklist,” there had better been a checklist in the body of the article.

While most content on DZone is in article/blog post format, we do publish other types of content. If your post is a comic, infographic, video, interview, or other “non-traditional” type of article, you can include that information in the headline. That way, a reader won’t be expecting a long-form article and be disappointed or surprised when it’s a video or comic strip instead.

DZone “Hard Sells”

What words turn our readers off? Our editors gave us a list of words that, if they appear in a headline, make them extremely unlikely to select that article for publication. Use these words in your headline only with extreme caution!

  • E-commerce: “This indicates ‘sales-y’ content to me,” said one DZone editor.

  • SEO: “Those three letters are a red flag in a headline – your post could be about the technical ins-and-outs of proper SEO, or it could be high-level and way too generic for our audience. Most of the time, I don’t have time to figure out which it is.”

  • Consumer: “Another red-flag word! It tends to be paired with content that is too marketing-focused.”

  • Any company name: “It’s fine to mention company names in your content – we even encourage it, especially if you’re a company blogger – but it’s better to leave it out of your headline. You might turn readers off before they even get to your great content!

What Our Editors Want to See

So, what are our editors looking for in a headline? Here are a few "easy sells" for the DZone editorial team. 

Tutorials and How-Tos

Last year, “How-Tos” were the most-viewed content type on DZone. This isn’t surprising, as developers are eager to learn new things and gain skills to help them in their careers.

Image title

Headlines containing words like “tutorial,” “how-to,” and “learn” have a good chance of getting clicks from the DZone audience.

Real World Examples

Headlines that suggest the authors have personal experience with the technology or issue discussed tend to draw in readers. The DZone audience is made up of working software professionals, and they respond well to articles written by their peers. Phrases like "How I Used [X]," or "Case Study on [X]" let readers know that the content that follows is based on real-life projects.

End Results

Did using a particular tool save you time? Money? Did it help you avoid a reprimand from your boss? DZone's readers like to know what kind of benefits they can receive by reading your article. If you can tell them up front what they'll gain from your content, they'll be more likely to click on your post. 

Some Examples of Great DZone Headlines:

What the Military Taught Me About DevOps” by MVB Chris Short: Suggests real-world experience and focuses on learning. 

Is Inheritance Dead? A Detailed Look Into the Decorator Pattern” by MVB Nehme Bilal: Controversial title that's tempered with well-chosen keywords. 

The Rise and Fall of Scala” by MVB Moshe Kranc: Both clever and a bit controversial! 

Spring vs. Java EE: The Real Story [comic]" by MVB Daniel Stori: Sets expectations for the content of the article with the "comic" tag. 

Happy writing - we look forward to reading your articles, headlines and all! 

Topics:
headlines ,writing

Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.

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