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.​