The Ultimate Guide to Writing Effective Headlines

May 12, 2021

Headlines are the entry point for longer-form written marketing content and are arguably as important as the body of the pieces, themselves. Writing effective content headlines is a highly sought-after skill in marketing professionals and is, in many ways, responsible for the overall success of written digital and print content.

In this session from our Digital Summit at Home video archives, Nadia Rawls of Medium (one of the largest online content publishing platforms) shared specific tips and tricks for effective headline writing that she has gained over her career at both traditional and non-traditional publishing outlets. Enjoy the full session video above or scan the summary below for the high points!

Foundation: What Makes a Strong Headline? (2:30)

In her session, Nadia starts with a primer and highlights the key elements that need to be considered when crafting a headline.

First, the writer needs to define what the story is about and why it matters now to ensure clarity and relevance.

Next, they must understand that the headline is a part of the greater story package and needs to be developed in a way that considers how the reader will receive it upon seeing it.

Finally, it is essential to understand that the person reading the headline has not read the story, which means that this is the entry point to the context of the greater piece.

Once these key things are clarified, it’s time to move into actionable tips for crafting strong headlines.

8 Tips & Tricks for Writing Effective Headlines (6:10)

The overarching message that Rawls wants marketers and writers to keep in mind is “Don’t make me think” with a headline. Readers should be able to understand what the story will be about and why it is relevant to them in the quick instant that they read a headline.

Over the past decade, she has come up with and refined the following tips and tricks for effective headline writing:

Be Direct (8:45): The most basic tip is to ensure that the headline makes it very clear what the rest of the content will be about.

Use Conversational Language & Avoid Jargon (13:10): Keeping in mind your audience’s level of understanding of the subject matter, the headline should be easy to understand.

Focus on What is Most Interesting (21:50): As you try to captivate a reader, the headline must garner interest that pulls them in from the very beginning.

Be Bold in Your Assertions (27:55): Firm language to drive home a statement is a powerful tactic in headline development for capturing reader interest. Keep in mind that the body of the content must back up the assertions made in a headline.

Check Your Biases (28:50): It is important to evaluate adjectives in headlines to ensure the language is inclusive of your target audience.

Communicate the Urgency (31:50): Make your readers understand why they should be reading this content and why it matters now

Show What Someone Will Learn (32:25): Use your headline to paint the picture of what a reader will gain from reading the full piece of content.

Deliver on Your Promises (36:05): Most importantly, your headline should genuinely communicate the actual content that you are trying to get them to read. This is very important in developing trust with your audience.

As marketers and content creators, we can all learn a thing or two about stepping up our headline-writing game. By putting the concepts introduced in this session into practice, your content will benefit from a wider engaged audience and allow your precious content to shine.


To hear from experts like Nadia on the regular, check out an upcoming Digital Summit event — including our upcoming Digital Summit at Home: B2B virtual conference May 25-27. It’s three days of game-changing B2B marketing workshops, sessions, and keynotes — from the world’s leading B2B brands and experts.