The secret to a good headline: Why The Daily Mail is the ‘click bait’ king

Screen Shot 2014-08-27 at 10.23.11 amCrafting a good, attention-grabbing headline for a newspaper article was once considered one of the great skills of journalism and editing.

A successful headline was direct and compelling and managed to convey an entire story in as few words as possible. The aim: to capture the reader’s attention quickly and effectively.

The rise of online news has changed headline writing remarkably. Brevity and simplicity has been replaced by keyword rich complexity.

When writing headlines today, journalists must consider incorporating SEO (search engine optimisation) strategy to improve their Google search rankings. The headline not only has to be catchy, but it must also utilise keywords that readers search for regularly on the Internet. The goal is to entice readers to click through the Google results and onto your page.

The Daily Mail  is one newspaper that has successfully used SEO to increase its online readership  – it’s now the world’s most popular online newspaper (Daily Mail 2012).

The Daily Mail  is striking in its use of keyword rich headlines. Headlines are unusually long and descriptive, completely breaking the traditional rule of writing headlines that are concise and simple. All headlines incorporate long-tail keywords researched for their popularity in search engines.  It’s not uncommon for headlines to be more than 30 words.

The website is particularly successful at keeping the reader’s attention once they have clicked on an article. This is due to a number of different tactics.

To ensure it gets clicks, The Daily Mail uses four times as many words to sell copy as The New York Times (Ruud Hein 2012). Each story also features plenty of videos, graphs and images. On the right-hand side of each article is a column filled with enticing links to other stories on the websites, featuring, of course, keyword heavy headlines.

Another key to the The Daily Mail’s success is its willingness to follow trends.  Whatever is trending on Google News, the Mail will write a story about it. The more stories it writes about this particular topic, the more visible it becomes on Google News.

Whether you love it or hate it, The Daily Mail  has proved that the world of journalism is a moveable feast and it’s better to be adaptable than inflexible.


Daily Mail 2012,, accessed 5 August 2014, <>

Ruud Hein 2012, accessed 5 August 2014,<>