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Effective Headline Writing

Posted on 2.27.2008
Studies show that only about one in five people read past the headline of an article. I would venture to guess that number is even lower when it comes to press releases. Especially in a point-and-click world, grabbing a user's attention is critical. While scanning through PRWeb this morning, I came across two very good examples of headline writing about a topic that's not easy to sum up.

Example one: Headline writing gone awry.

OpSource Provides Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) Delivery for the New Rollbase Platform as a Service (PaaS) for Business Users

The problem: It's vague, I'm confused and not interested. Who is OpSource? What's a Rollbase Platform? Who are these "Business Users?" The headline is too long and makes my eyes glaze over. This headline may be intriguing to a select few, but lacks in mass appeal. On the upside, it's stuffed with a few keywords that may pop up when searched. This press release is intended to announce a partnership between Rollbase and OpSource that will help non-tech savvy businesses owners launch custom Web-based applications - did you get that from the headline? And if it's aimed at non-programming experts, why the jargon-filled headline?

Example two: Headline writing done right.

What SaaS Vendors Don’t Want You to Know about Software as a Service

Why it works: It's direct, concise and pulls me in. If you're interested in SaaS you're probably going to need to go through a vendor. And if there is something these vendors don't want you to know, it probably involves you saving money - always an effective headline element. In addition, anything promising inside information and making you a more informed consumer is an effective lure. This also has some keywords built in that may show in search results. This press release is promoting a webinar about ways to select SaaS vendors and save you from paying hidden costs - hinted at nicely in the headline while still urging further reading. This headline could be even better by removing "SaaS." It's spelled out at the end and provides an unnecessary stumbling block for the eyes.

What should be considered when writing headlines - especially for press releases - is what you're trying to accomplish. As noted before, the first example has some keywords stuffed in there that may be good for searches - if that's what people are searching for. The problem is that for general mass appeal, it's not going to work. The point of a press release is for it to be read. And confusing people from the start is just not a good idea. Detail should be reserved for the deck (the descriptive area below a headline) or for the first few sentences of the body of the press release. The headline's job is to pull people in, not turn them away. The rest of your copy can explain your service but you first need to get your readers wanting to know more.
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