Online, you’re often writing headlines even when you’re not.

Online headlines on mobile device

I know, today’s headline is a bit of a brain-twister.

Here’s what I mean…

There are places online where we write headlines, and are fully aware that we’re writing headlines.

Examples include the headline you might write for a website’s homepage. Or at the top of a blog post. Or on a review page. Or on a sales page or landing page.

These are the places we expect to find headlines.

But how about an email subject line? Is that a headline?

Or the line of text you add at the top of that update you just posted to Facebook.

Or the title tag you just wrote for that new web page or post.

Or the title you wrote for the video you uploaded to YouTube.

Are those all headlines?

I think so. I think they are all headlines.

They are all about the same length, and they are all trying to do the same thing.

Hmmm… what exactly ARE headlines meant to do?

Traditional headlines have a couple of duties to perform.

First, they need to grab your attention and make you read them.

Second, they have to make you want to read, watch or otherwise consume the content immediately following the headline.

That’s it. That’s all.

So yes, an email subject line is definitely a headline. It sits there among a screen of competing subject lines in the recipient’s inbox.

It had better be compelling enough to attract attention. And it has better be interesting enough to make you want to click and open that email.

The title for your latest YouTube video is also a headline.

It’s going to appear in search results, competing for attention. And it’s going to appear along with a thumbnail of the video itself on listings within YouTube.

The same goes for your next Tweet, or the description you write when you upload a photo to Instagram.

These are all headlines.

The thing is, very few online writers TREAT them as headlines.

By that I mean writers generally spend very little time writing the title to a YouTube video compared to the time they spend writing a headline for their latest blog post or sales page.

We all understand that headlines are important.

So when we recognize something as a headline, we pay attention and give the task the time it deserves.

The problem is that very often we fail to identify a piece of short-form text as actually being a headline. So we rush it.

As always, there is both a problem and an opportunity here.

The problem is that many subject lines, video titles and social media descriptions are hurried. Their importance isn’t recognized. And those lines under-perform.

The opportunity is that when you master the craft of writing ALL kinds of online headlines, you give yourself or your clients an outsized advantage.

Headlines matter. A lot.

This is why I created a course on How to Write Better Headlines…


Course on headline writing


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7 thoughts on “Online, you’re often writing headlines even when you’re not.”

  1. Hi Nick,

    I’m wondering how you are going to deal with the “responsive design” issue that readjusts headlines to mobile devices. For example, when writing a web page, I used to put one line on top and one on the bottom, which required using a hard return. When responsive design came along, those headlines with hard returns looked jacked up. So now I don’t put in those hard returns and the headline is better on the mobile devices but definitely not as good on the web page.

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