Do your headlines suck? Mine, too.
You want to hear a juicy secret?
This is something I have never admitted out loud before. It is something I have carried around for a while now, and it really eats away at me. I think it might be a great idea to get it off my chest. Today is as good a day as any and you are a nice bunch of people so I know you will support me. Just make sure you are sitting down. Are you sitting down? I can wait a minute until you get a chair.
OK, here we go.
*Takes a deep breath*
My name is Shari Berg, and I suck at writing headlines.
I know, right? It is utterly shocking. How could such a skilled wordsmith struggle with writing compelling headlines? Yet, I do. This horrible affliction goes all the way back to my days in journalism school. I used to break out in a cold sweat and feel nauseous every time I was tasked with coming up with an attention-grabbing headline for the student newspaper or a class assignment. I would watch all my fellow journalism students and student newspaper staffers generate awesome headlines like it was second nature. No matter how much I practiced, headline writing never got easier.
Back then, there were not many tools to help spur your creativity. Sure, you could do some good old-fashioned brainstorming with other creative folks. But then you would have to admit that you sucked at writing headlines. Nobody wants that, Amiright?
If you are a bit headline-challenged like me, headline analyzer tools are a saving grace. There are plenty of choices on the market, so I reviewed a bunch to save you the headache of wading through them.
Here are my top 3 choices. They all have their pros and cons but do share one common benefit: they are all free. That is right, my friends. Free, free, free, free, free, free, free. One of the best-sounding words in the English language.
Free does not mean inferior. Give these headline analyzers a try. I promise they will make you a better headline writer.
EMV Headline Analyzer
Of all the headline analyzers I am sharing with you, this one is my go-to for writing amazing headlines. Created by the Advanced Marketing Institute, it targets a reader’s emotional side. Research tells us the best way to get someone’s attention is by appealing to their emotions. Writers do this by using “power” words that evoke action.
When I put the headline for this blog post through EMV Headline Analyzer, it rated it at 33.33 percent with a “spiritual” classification. What does that mean, exactly? Well, according to the analysis provided with my score, words with spiritual impact make up the smallest number of words in the English language. They also have the strongest potential for influencing your readers’ emotions. I was advised to aim for headlines with scores between 30 and 40 percent if my goal is to influence others’ emotions and prompt them to act.
Capitalize My Title
This handy tool is my runner-up because it challenges me to keep tweaking until I have the right balance between readability, SEO, and sentiment. Simply enter your suggested headline into the analyzer bar and then ask the tool to either analyze or capitalize it.
Using the same headline that I generated for this blog (the one EMV Headline Analyzer loved), I earned an overall score of 64. My score was circled in green, which indicates it is sufficient for achieving my goal of getting people to read my article. How did it come to that conclusion? It averaged out my scores from the three categories it rates. Here is how it breaks down:
- Readability: 90
- SEO: 70
- Sentiment: 30
Capitalize My Title uses the Flesch-Kinkaid Readability Score. Here is how it works:
What my score tells me is that my headline is written at a reading level that makes it accessible to most people. That is a good thing. At least when you are writing news stories or informational pieces. Now, with academic writing, you would want a readability score in that 0 to 30 range. Your audience matters, so do not always aim for that 90 to 100 range.
My SEO score also performed well. I kept my word count between 5 and 7 words (Google likes that sort of thing) and used both power words (do, your) and appropriate SEO keywords.
Capitalize My Title ranked my sentiment score close to what EMV rated it, so that was nice to see the tools shared the same opinion in that category.
As previously mentioned, this headline analyzer also offers a “Capitalize” option. What does that do? It makes suggestions on capitalizing words within your title for more effectiveness based on writing styles (AP, Chicago Manual of Style, APA, MLA). I have never really used this option. It might come in handy if you are trying to generate titles for email campaigns.
This headline analyzer is my third choice. It does a decent job but is not as effective as my top two choices. Since it is free, I hesitate to criticize it too much. It does have value. When you plug in your suggested headline, it will generate a quality score just like the other two headline analyzers on my list. It breaks your score down into strengths and suggestions. When I fed it my title for this blog, my limited use of positive sentiments and passive language earned me a 59. That is a good thing, according to this analyzer. As they like to say in the news industry, “if it bleeds, it leads.” Unfortunately, negativity sells. At the very least, it attracts attention.
ShareThrough also gives me a list of suggestions for improving my title. With my current blog title, it recommended the following:
- Increase your headline length
- Include your brand identity
- Reference the body of the blog
- Use context words
- Try adding a celebrity
This is the part of the tool I am not keen on. Some of those suggestions – increasing headline length and brand identity – are good suggestions. The rest? They are not always appropriate depending on your topic. I also disagree that I did not reference the body of the blog. I think it is clear I am going to discuss writing crappy headlines from my title. Still, the analyzer has value, so it never hurts to plug in your title and see what it has to say about it.
Getting your money’s worth
Yes, I know. These tools are all free. (I told you I sucked at writing headlines). What I am going for here is the sentiment behind that phrase. If you are going to use these headline analyzers, make sure you use them to their fullest potential for the best results.
While EMV Headline Analyzer is my favorite, I am going to let you in on another secret today. I never just use it when crafting headlines or sub-headers. I take the time to sample my headlines in all three of these tools on my list. It gives me a different perspective and helps me create more well-rounded titles and sub-headers. Give it a try. I promise it will make you a better headline writer.
If you try out any of these headline analyzers, I would love to hear what you think about them in the comments. Have other favorites not included here? Toss those out for consideration as well. I am always looking for new tools to try to improve every aspect of my writing.
Happy headline writing everyone. Try not to suck.
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Shari L. Berg is the owner/operator of The Write Reflection, and a writing professional for 25 years.