BBC’s heads are short, clear, front-loaded and context-free
Who writes the world’s best web heads?
The folks at BBC News, according to usability expert Jakob Nielsen. Nielsen points to these effective headlines:
Italy buries first quake victims
Romania blamed over Moldova riots
Iran accuses journalist of spying
Ten arrested in UK anti-terrorism raids
Villagers hurt in West Bank clash
Mass Thai protest over leadership
“Around the world in 38 words,” Nielsen says.
How can you write great headlines like the BBC’s? Make sure your blog-post, content-marketing, social-media and other digital-marketing headlines are:
Not everyone wants to play, “What’s the last word in the headline?” says Andy Bechtel, associate professor, School of Journalism and Mass Communication at UNC-Chapel Hill.
So write web heads that don’t get truncated by Google, social media channels, mobile apps — or your reader’s attention.
Don’t get your head cut off by:
- Google. To avoid having your headline truncated on search engine results pages, keep headlines to 55 characters or fewer. For SEO, Google prefers that you write headlines with at least 5 words.
- Social media. How will your headline look when it shows up on Facebook, Twitter and other social sharing sites? To avoid getting your head cut off on social media, aim for 55 characters or less.
- Mobile. Mobile apps and websites often truncate long headlines. To avoid getting your head cut off on mobile apps, follow the Associated Press’s guideline and limit headlines to fewer than 40 characters.
- Humans. Keep your web head to 8 words or fewer, or about 40 characters. That’s the length readers can understand at a glance, according to research by The American Press Institute. Bonus: Editing down your headline to 8 words can result in a 21% boost in clickthrough rates, according to the Content Marketing Institute.
But online, shorter’s better. My personal preference is for web heads of 6 words or less, or about 30 characters. The average BBC head that made Nielsen’s list weighs in at five words, or 34 characters.
However, note that headlines that work for blog posts tend to be longer, according to Hubspot. Once you write a great post, top it with a headline of 6 to 13 words for the most consistent boost in traffic and hits.
Get to the point faster
Web visitors spend 57% above the fold, or on the first screen of a web page, according to Nielsen Norman Group research. They spend 74% on the first two screens.
If so, please join me at Reach Readers Online — our 3-day online-writing workshop on July 24-26 in Portland.
In this email-, blog- and web-writing workshop, you’ll learn how to overcome the obstacles to reading on the screen to get the word out on the mobile web.
Save up to $100 with our group discounts.