Good Titles/Headlines are Good Practice

November 19, 2010 · · Posted by Jordan Frank

In my role as an emergineer, I talk a lot about best practices and how they can be leveraged in a given customer deployment. One practice that works in any sphere from email to social software and journalism is to write a good headline.

At the Traction User Group meeting in October, Jon Udell talked, in part, about Heds, Deks and Ledes (words used to mean Heads, Decks, and Leads but intentionally mis-spelled so they are not mistaken for content in a news room). He followed the conference, intentionally or not, with a blog post of the same title: Heds, Deks and Ledes.

Jon says: "We're all publishers now in one way or another. None of us can predict the contexts in which what we publish will be found. But if we're careful about writing heads, decks, and leads, we'll improve the odds that it will be found."

He talks through how this applies whether you are writing an email message or a blog post, then really brings it home in a Facebook example where when you post an event "Heds will always be visible to a scan or a search; decks and leads are active in far fewer contexts."

So, his recommendation for posting an event in Facebook is to pack the Hed of an event with the event title, location and date.

Email is a little more forgiving on Search, but when looking at email, we always start by scanning a list of titles (Heds). When scanning its crucial to understand, from a title, if a message is relevant to you and what dates it applies to (if its an event or deadline notice).

In a blog post or wiki page, similar rules apply. You also have to consider that search ranking may be influenced by word order, word proximity and exact matching (all factors in our Attivio Search Module). When writing a title for a wiki page you also have to consider the naming schema for the rest of the wiki. As a result, there may be advantages to being concise in the head, leaving the deck and lead to explain further.

The happy medium, as Jon indicate, depends on where you are publishing, how its viewed and how its searched.