Common Headline Mistakes You’re Probably Guilty of (And How to Fix Them)

Low website visitors? No social media shares? Most blog posts fail because of the headline. While content quality is crucial, a poorly written headline doesn’t spark curiosity and motivate readers to choose you — more specifically, your article may be one out of the millions discussing the same topic.

The worst part? You can kiss goodbye to the hours you’ve spent writing, researching, and editing your content. 

Luckily, it’s not too late to give your headlines an overhaul. And the best place to start is to know what you’re doing wrong. Here is a list of common headline mistakes and the secrets of how you can cleverly fix them without racking your brains out. 

1. Using Vague or Generic Headlines

A woman confused after reading a headline.

Whether you like to admit it or not, we judge an article’s value solely on the title. If the headline is too generic to the point that the preliminary evaluation is next to impossible, we move on to another article that matches our search intent

Label Headlines

One of the most common headline mistakes is using a label. This type of headline consists of nouns or noun phrases and is void of any verbs. And, although it identifies the topic, the absence of any verb means trouble – there’s no action, thus sapping the much-needed energy out of your story.

Label Headline Examples: 

  • Content Update 
  • Mission Modification and Update
  • Disposable Air Cleaners 

How to Fix:

The best way to fix a label headline is simply by adding a verb. You can also add more details about the topic. As a general rule of thumb when writing headlines, always ask yourself, “what for?”, “Who is it for?”

For example, your headline is “Increase of Social Shares.” What is it for? Is there a significant effect on the reader? 

If you have answers to these questions, add them to your title. 

Brevity at the Expense of Clarity

Brevity and clarity are both essential in writing. In the case of crafting the best headlines, you don’t want to sacrifice clarity for brevity. There is nothing wrong with short headlines per se. It only becomes an issue when the message is unclear. 

How to Fix: 

If you are worried that your headline will be long, always think about what your article is really about. Write different versions until you have the correct number of words to get your message across.

Keyword Filled Headlines

Adding a keyword to your headline helps Google and readers understand what your article is about. It is not necessarily bad, but once you overstuff the headline, now that’s a different thing. Keyword stuffing in the article’s title is unnatural and affects intent and readability. 


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How to Fix: 

The only way to fix a keyword-filled headline is to stick to your article’s main keyword. If your sole intention is to keyword stuff for ranking, you should know that Google doesn’t reward such tactics and search results only display the first 50-60 characters of a headline. 

2. Confusing or Misleading the Reader

A person in disbelief after reading a headline.

If you’ve ever clicked an article based on its headline and the content doesn’t necessarily reflect it, in journalism, that’s called an “edline.” These headlines often occur because of the need to produce an enticing and short title. Unfortunately, it’s at the expense of the truthfulness of the content. 

Another way you can confuse readers is by using jargon. Remember, readers are trying to learn, so chances are they don’t know these terms yet. How about experts or industry leaders? Well, they can see right through it – you’re using jargon to “catch” readers’ attention. 

How to Fix: 

Always stay true to your article’s topic, regardless of the pressure to produce a viral or clickbait headline. In our example, it’s okay if your content piece is not the “ultimate guide.” What’s important is that you, again, stay truthful to set your readers’ expectations. 

Bait-and-Switch Headlines

“Girl Tries to Leave Hair Salon Without Paying. Guess What Happens Next.” (yes, that’s an actual YouTube video headline.) Sadly, it’s often anti-climatic; nothing really happens. This headline is called a bait-and-switch headline. 

How to Fix:

The only way you can fix this type of headline is to describe your content (written or video) as it is. If there is no suspense or drama in your content, leave the “guess what happens next” behind. 

Over-Promising and Under-Delivering

Over-promising and under-delivering are also one of the most common headline mistakes. For example, your headline is “An In-Depth Guide to Gardening for Beginners.” The moment the reader is on your article, it is underwhelming and barely even touches on in-depth topics like composting and mulching. 

How to Fix: 

Like bait-and-switch headlines, you’ll have to craft a headline that precisely matches your content. Remember, if your blog post doesn’t have enough information, don’t over-promise and under-deliver your headline. 

3. Using Improper Capitalization

Looks also matter when creating good headlines. Not only does it gives a good impression to your readers, but it also guides them to the important words of your title. Most importantly, it’s easier for them to identify your content in the search results. 

How to Fix: 

If you are having a hard time staying consistent with your headline capitalization, using this capitalization generator can come in handy.

4. Lacking a Call-to-Action

CTA or call-to-action compels readers to react. More specifically, CTAs are little ques that you strategically put in the title to help your target audience what to do. Without it, you leave your target audience the opportunity not to act. 

Add a strong command verb in your headline. Alternatively, choose words that will provoke emotions from your target audience. 

5. Using Too Many or Too Few Words

A writer typing a headline.

Being overly specific and using too many words also damages the effectiveness of your headlines. For example: 

“Writing for Beginners”

“Using Too Many Words In Your Headline Will Leave You Asking Why You Have Low Clicks, Shares, Website Visits, and A Bounce Rate That is Through the Roof!”

Both are equally bad. The first headline is too vague and lacks the CTA to push readers to act or make a decision. On the other hand, the second title is way too long that you’ve lost your reader’s attention halfway through. 

How to Fix:

Take a step back and ask yourself, Do I really need this to be in here? Will a reader notice if I take a few words out? Is this really the best way to say this? 

Treat Your Headlines Better 

Between researching, writing, editing, and optimizing, we typically put little importance and attention to writing headlines. But, with over 7 million blog posts published daily on the internet, having a great headline is a powerful way to increase website visitors, engagement, and social media shares. 

Hopefully, our list of common headline mistakes has inspired you to make better and more effective headlines for your future articles. 

This post was proofread by Grammarly. Try it - it's FREE!

Capitalize My Title is a dynamic title capitalization tool used to make sure your titles or headlines use proper capitalization rules according to various style guides include APA, AP, MLA, and Chicago. It also counts your words and checks for grammar issues.


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