The Coffey Blog

Web headlines that work: 5 essentials for success

Posted on: Monday, July 13, 2015

Jeremy Dietz, Executive Digital Editor

If you're reading this text, the headline worked. Maybe you saw it on The Coffey Blog home page. Or perhaps you got it in our e-newsletter.

Regardless, if you hadn't been compelled by it, you wouldn't have clicked and you wouldn't be here now.

The headline is the single most important element of a digital story. If it's not good, the rest of the content won't be read.

Whether it's a blog post like this one, an article in our health information library or a hospital service page, Coffey's editorial team puts a lot of thought into the digital headlines we create. We've come up with a set of general guidelines to help us write headlines that grab attention and compel people to read the digital content we create for our clients.

The 5 C's of great hospital web headlines

A great web headline should be:

1. Clear. Clever, pun-filled headlines can be fun to write. But on the web, you need to focus on being clear first and foremost. No confusing wordplays or jokes, no ambiguity about what people will find after they click.

Pro tip: Give your headline the clarity test. Paste it into a Word document without any other content from the story. Can it stand alone? Show it to some colleagues. Do they get it?

2. Concise. How long should your headline be? A variety of opinions are just a Google search away. Often, people say 6 words is the ideal length. At Coffey, we approach it a bit differently. Rather than counting every word, our motto with web headlines is: "Make every word count."

3. Catchy. People scan web copy—headlines included. To make sure your headline text is formatted to capture the attention of those selective scanners, focus on the first 3 words and (if your headline is long enough) the last 3 words. This is the text that's most likely to be read.

4. Clickable. To get clicks, a web headline should have at least 1 of these elements:

  • Helpfulness. Let readers know how your article will solve a problem or address a need.
  • Urgency. Make it clear why it's important for people to click right away.
  • Appeal. Focus on what's unique or interesting about your story in the headline. 

5. Credible (not clickbait). I've fallen for clickbait. You probably have too. If so, you know how disappointing it can be to click on a compelling headline and be greeted with lame—or totally unrelated—content.

In healthcare marketing, trust is important. Your headline is a promise you make to your readers. Don't mislead them.

Learn more about creating compelling healthcare content

Does your online content engage healthcare consumers? If you're not sure, we'd be happy to help. Coffey's editorial experts can provide you with an audit of your hospital's website content. Give us a call at 888.805.9101, or email us.

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