Brevity is the soul of good headlines

Witty or not, the title of your blog post must be concise enough to fit on mobile screens and taut enough that Google doesn’t foreshorten them. Here are a few guidelines.

Some mysteries are annoying, not tantalizing.

“Not everyone wants to play the game, ‘What’s the last word in the headline?’” says Andy Bechtel, associate professor at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at UNC-Chapel Hill.

[FREE DOWNLOAD: 10 punctuation essentials]

You must write web heads that don’t get truncated by Google, social media channels and mobile apps, or you’ll never grab readers’ attention.

Make sure your web heads are short enough that they do the following:

1. They should get seen on Google. Google’s search results display only the first 63 characters of your headline. To avoid getting your head cut off on Google, keep headlines to 55 characters or fewerRemember: Google never bought a product, voted in an election or supported a cause. Write headlines for humans; optimize them for Google.

2. They should get shared on social media. How will your headline look when it shows up on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms? On social media, aim for 55 characters or fewer.

3. They should get seen on mobile devices. Mobile apps and websites often truncate long headlines. For mobile apps, limit headlines to 40 characters.

4. They should reach readers on the go. You have only a few seconds to reach mobile audiences before they swipe left or leave for another site. They want to scan at a glance, not study for a minute. Keep your web head to eight 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.

A version of this post first appeared on the PRsay blog.

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