It’s important to remember – especially when repurposing print content – that print heds and web heds (and deks, for that matter) have very different functions and should really not be thought of as the same thing, despite their sharing a name.
Print heds work in context. You see them on a page next to deks, pull quotes, copy and art. They are designed to draw the reader in, but the reader isn’t dependent on them.
Web heds, on the other hand, very often function on their own – they could very well be the only thing your reader sees before deciding whether to click and read the whole piece. They’re also weighted heavily by search engines – and appear in search listings – which gives them extra depth as compared to print heds. In fact, I often compare web heds to print cover lines rather than to heds proper.
Here are some things to keep in mind when (re)writing heds for web:
• Make it understandable. Will the reader know what the article’s about?
• Use keywords. Make the subject matter obvious to a computer (i.e., to search engines).
• Make it clickable. Think, would I click on this if I knew nothing else about the article? Does it entice me?
Unfortunately, these three “secrets” can make web heds less…artistic than print. It can be challenging to produce well-written heds that incorporate keywords and are clear and explanatory – especially when the same keywords are repeated in the dek (which will help your SEO rankings, too). But it’s worth it in exchange for the increased exposure you’ll be giving your content.
For more, check out this collection of tips on writing “magnetic headlines” from Copyblogger.