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What's Really the Best Headline Length?

Published June 25, 2024
/ Updated July 2, 2024

First off, I want to congratulate you for taking time to research the best practices for creating the perfect headline. Far too often are writers overlooking the importance of a headline, instantly cutting their potential traffic to a fraction of what it could be.

While the content of your headline is just as important, the length of your headline should also be on your radar.

Did you know that the length of your headline can sometimes help determine whether your readers will feel engaged enough to click through to your content?

Outbrain claims that you only have a few seconds to catch your target’s attention through your headline before they continue to skim through other search results. That’s not a lot of time to shoot your shot.

You need to have a brief enough headline that gives your audience the gist of what your content has in store, but it can’t be too long — otherwise they lose interest, and you risk losing them entirely.

Let’s get to the core of why you’re really here — read on to get some more details about the optimal headline length, and why word and character count make such a difference to your traffic rates.

Get the Most Out of Your Headline Research

You’re in for a treat! CoSchedule has recently launched the perfect tool for crafting your next headline. Introducing the Headline Studio, where you can write better headlines that are guaranteed to boost your traffic!

If you like our original Headline Analyzer — a no-cost tool that gives you honest feedback about your headline ideas — then you’re sure to love our Headline Analyzer Studio. The studio brings you millions of all-new, actionable suggestions that tell you EXACTLY how to improve your headlines.

Headline Analyzer Studio Pro welcome page

Here are some of the specifics: You can…

  • Analyze headlines 10x faster with an all-new, time-saving algorithm.
  • Gain 5x more feedback with advanced analysis from thousands of data points.
  • Outperform the competition by making changes that boost your headline score.
  • Optimize headlines on any site where you write them with a handy browser extension.

Try out the Headline Analyzer Studio today!

Download Your Headline Optimization Toolkit Today

In addition to the references above, take a glance at the free headline kit we’ve composed for you. It’s full of great kick-starters to get your headline ideas off the ground and ensure you’re making the most out of your headline brainstorming.

In this bundle, you’ll find…

  • 100+ headline templates from Copy Hackers, Copyblogger, Michael Hyatt, Crazy Egg, and CoSchedule.
  • A list of attention-grabbing words that are perfect for writing diverse headlines that drive traffic, shares, and search results.
  • A headline infographic full of relevant headline data — like average click-through rates and how to use positive/negative headlines — that is sure to bring you the best results to get connected with your audience.

When you’re doing an ordinary search on a search engine, like Google, what are the links you’re most likely to click?

Exactly — ones that contain keywords from your organic search.

In this case, we would be more focused on title tags and meta descriptions (SEO) because these things are what appear on the search engine result pages (SERPs). If this pertains to you, make sure you customize your title tag and meta description to match popular keyword searches.

Search engine result page content

If your headline is the star of the show during an organic search, then you need to tread a bit more carefully.

While there isn’t exactly a limit for how many characters you are able to include in your title tag or displayed headline, you should keep in mind that Google only displays the first 50–60 characters.

This means you should be aware of your keyword making an appearance before you hit the character limit, OR you should just stay within the 60-character limit.

I Want My Headline to Do Well on Social Media

What about your headlines in context with social media?

As you can probably imagine, the best way to measure the success of a headline through social media is to gauge the amount of shares and click-throughs. However, share rates come to a grinding halt when the headline no longer piques the interest of the people it’s being shared with.

Instead of creating headlines that can fit into a title tag, like with search engines, you want to create headlines that invoke curiosity and get people to click.

Curiosity headlines quote

You might be thinking, “Okay, that makes sense, but how do I make people curious enough to click on my headline?”

Excellent question!

When you’re dealing with creating the perfect headline on social media, you need to take into account that people’s feed is CONSTANTLY updating, refreshing, and getting pushed around by other, relevant sources.

Your best option here is to put a neon sign above your headline — also known as:

  • Long, rambling — bordering on bizarre — headlines. I know, I just told you to stick to a 50–60 character limit before, but hear me out. Lots of headlines nowadays almost tell their own story. It’s okay to make a social media headline lengthy, if you’re piling on the perks, call-outs, and helpful specifics.
  • Emotional headlines. Sometimes it’s not what’s IN the article that matters, but the emotion that radiates from it. CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer Studio can help you measure your emotion words within your headline.
  • Headlines with sparse keywords. Use less keywords, more emotion.
  • Headlines with less context. If your target hasn’t read the article yet, your goal is to bait them with the headline. The less they know, the more they can learn through your content… when they click.
  • Shocking, emotional, or questionable headlines. When your readers are left with a big question mark, they click to find the answer.

The key is to not overthink it and make your headline too complex, but you want to be able to boggle your readers enough to click and learn more.

Additionally, you’re going to want to customize your social messages to match your headline, since the actual headline isn’t very likely to BE the social message.

If your social message DOES happen to be your headline, then follow Kevan Lee’s (VP of Marketing at Buffer) advice on optimal characters for social media.

Optimal character count for social media

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, different social media platforms mean different headline lengths. Make sure you’re customizing your headline alongside the social network you are choosing to promote your content.

I Want My Headline to Drive Email Opens and Clicks

Customizing your headline length/content for your social media works very similarly to customizing it for your email. However, with email, you are usually focusing more on what is going in the email subject line.

Email subject line length preference really depends on your own, personal preference.

The reason your subject lines are more difficult for finding the perfect length is because results vary from marketing team to marketing team.

For example, MailChimp has found a variety of data on long, short, and somewhere-in-between headlines, so they don’t believe length is a crucial factor.

On the other hand, we did our own research, and found that email subject lines with around 50 characters got the best results.

What does this mean?

Trial-and-error. Try one method, if it works, that’s great. If it doesn’t, well, try another method. Simply put, there may not be a solid answer, and you may just have to play around with your subject lines every time. The subject-line world is your oyster!

Before you get out there and go crazy on your subject lines, keep in mind that open rates and click-through rates are not the same thing.

This is an important thing to note because you don’t want to confuse the people that are simply opening up the emails in their inbox versus the people that are ACTUALLY clicking through to your content.

In this situation, click-through rates are important, and these are the numbers that you should really care about being high.

Click-through vs open rates

You’ve Got What It Takes

What do you think? Are you ready to get out there and give these tips a try?

Of course you are!

With all of the amazing resources we’ve planted here for you, all there’s left to do is test them out for yourself. Don’t be shy; play around with the different recommendations I’ve thrown your way and see which ones work best for you and your personal preferences.

The truth is: the only way you can understand what YOU need to create the best headline and craft the perfect headline length is to try these ideas out on your own.

Go explore and discover your next big win with your best headline yet!

This post was originally published on February 16, 2015. It was most recently updated and republished October 7, 2020.