Don’t let your head get cut off
How short should your press release headline be?
1. Don’t let your head get cut off by Google.
Best practice: Keep release headlines to 55 characters or fewer.
Why: Google’s search results display only the first 63 characters of your headline. Longer, and your headline will be truncated on search engine results pages. To avoid getting your head cut off on Google, keep headlines to 55 characters or fewer.
How are we doing? According to an analysis of more than 11,000 releases issued over BusinessWire wire service in a 31-day period:
- The average press release headline weighs in at 120 characters.
- Some 79% of releases have headlines longer than 65 characters.
- 2% of releases have headlines longer than 300 characters.
- The longest headline was 2,141 characters long. That’s a story, not a headline!
2. Don’t let your head get cut off by social.
How will your headline look when it shows up on Facebook, Twitter and other social sharing sites?
Best practice: To avoid getting your head cut off on social media, aim for 55 characters or less.
3. Don’t let your head get cut off by mobile.
Best practice: Limit headlines to fewer than 40 characters
Mobile apps and websites often truncate long headlines. To avoid getting your head cut off on mobile apps, follow the Associated Press’s guideline: Keep your headline to 40 characters or less.
4. Don’t get your head cut off by humans.
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.
Plus, long headlines get lost below the fold or take up too much valuable real estate on mobile screens.
Best practice: To avoid getting your head cut off, keep your web head to 8 words or fewer, according to research by The American Press Institute.
But online, shorter’s better. My personal preference is web heads of 6 words or less, or about 30 characters.
Off with your head
Hey, all those extra words aren’t worth losing your head over. So when writing for mobile audiences, write headlines to go. Keep your head short.
But not too short. Google “prefers” headlines of at least 5 words. The shortest headline in Schwartz’s review: 18 characters. That’s not enough room for long-tail keywords or phrases — or to satisfy Google.
And … what’s the right press release length?
Sources: Andy Bechtel, “Writing Headlines for Digital and Mobile Media,” Poynter News University, Dec. 5, 2013
Eric Ulken, “Writing Online Headlines: SEO and Beyond,” Poynter News University
Eric Ulken, “Writing Headlines for the web 2010,” Poynter News University, July 29, 2010