The Importance of Headlines and Hashtags

Here at Dardis Communications, our instructors are receiving an unprecedented number of inquiries about writing for the web – from how to craft better blog posts to how to leverage them on social media.

I like to focus on two sure-fire methods to expand your reach: hashtags and headlines. These are powerful mechanisms to casting a wider net on the web.

Let’s begin with headlines. It doesn’t matter how good your content is, if you don’t write a compelling headline, no one will read it. This applies to headlines at the top of a blog post or a Facebook post as well as the 140 characters chosen in a tweet, which function as a headline.

A headline should entice and also invite – that is, it shouldn’t be daunting. That’s why numbers work so well. When your body copy is a list, use numerals rather than spelling out the number: 7 reasons, 20 tips. Placing the number at the beginning of the headline draws in more readers.

Of course, not every headline can be a list. But every headline can offer to teach readers in a fast, painless way. Use words such as “introduction,” “The beginner’s guide,” “101,” “In 5 minutes” and “DIY.” These phrases grab more readers than the traditional “how to.” So instead of a headline that states: “How to grow your business through social media,” try, “The 5-minute guide to growing your business through social media.”

Don’t forget that your analytics can provide a study in headlines. Review which headlines generated the most traffic and look for patterns. Were they shorter? Did they pose questions? Use a first-person voice? Tag others?

The use of hashtags is also a simple way to boost traffic on social media. The key to effective hashtags is choosing something that’s not too broad. For instance, a business selling baby products could skip #parents and instead use #newmom.

Keep your hashtags short and straightforward. This isn’t the place to be offbeat.

Poke around online to see what others in your industry are doing. See what hashtags your colleagues and competitors are using and make them your own.

Brand hashtags do not have to mention your name, but rather, represent your brand. That’s why the Iowa Tourism Office created the popular hashtag #ThisIsIowa. It’s easy to remember, and it feels more authentic.

When it comes to writing for the web, if you’re getting your headlines and hashtags right, you can’t go wrong.