15 Tips on How to Write Great Headlines

January 27, 2022

15 Tips on How to Write Great Headlines

Whether you're writing a blog post, advertisement, landing page, sales page or web page, your headline is perhaps the most crucial element of the entire piece of content. The headlines you write need to attract the attention of the people you want to read the main message. If they don't, whatever wonderful things you have to say in your post, ad or page will never be read and you will never accomplish your marketing goals. Luckily, countless copywriters and marketers have blazed a trail before you and through much trial and error have found the best ways to write great headlines that you can use for your own efforts. By following these tips, you'll be writing better headlines in no time.


Here are 15 tips you can start using today to get the results you want:


1 - Know Your Goal


The first thing when writing headlines is to know your goal. Obviously, your goal for any good headline is to attract people's attention and engage them so they click or continue reading the rest of the message. However, you can go a little deeper than that and kind of prime them before they begin reading the rest of the message. All of the tips that follow in this post will help you write headlines that attract attention and are engaging, but before you even begin, try to figure out what state you want the person to be in before they start reading.


This can be accomplished by thinking of the type of content you've written and asking yourself what state of mind would be ideal for this person to be in to digest my message and then use words in your headline to help make that happen. You can only go so deep within the confines of the headline but you can still determine if you want someone to be excited, relaxed, angry, concerned, fearful or any of the other range of emotions that humans experience. Take the time to figure this out before you craft your headline and then use your words accordingly.


2 - Know Your Audience


This one works in conjunction with the first tip in that you must know who you're writing to before you write catchy headlines or anything at all. And when I say that I don't mean you're writing to plumbers, I mean you're writing to plumbers who never seem to have enough time in the day to get everything done and have had a lot of trouble finding reliable help, so they work late and put a strain on their marriage and have issues with their kids because they aren't around enough.


And since they are predominantly male, they don't feel like they're living up to their manly responsibilities and feel like a huge failure. This may be a little over the top but as you continue to dig into the target audience or avatar you're writing to, these types of human characteristics come out which can help you write killer headlines. After all the basics like occupation, gender, age, salary, etc., think fears, frustrations, problems, needs, wants and desires and go from there.


3 – Keep It Clear and Concise


It's important not to confuse your readers at any point with any type of content, and that is doubly important when it comes to writing the best headline. If you haven't accomplished your headline goal in a clear and concise manner, all is lost. The last thing anyone wants to do, especially these days, is to try and decipher what the hell your headline means.


It's OK if the goal of your headline was to arouse curiosity, just be careful not to confuse anyone because there is often a fine line between getting someone interested and causing them to click somewhere else and abandon you. Also keep in mind that a short headline is usually better when it comes to clarity in your headlines. Try to make a point of using the fewest words possible to accomplish your headline goal, and you should be good.


4 - Follow Proven Headline Formulas


When you're starting out in content writing it's common to want to be creative and go against the grain to make your mark or stand out from the crowd. And while that's a wonderful idea, it's completely unnecessary and even unproductive when it comes to your headlines. That's not to say you can't create creative headlines that have your own style, but there are formulas that work over and over again and you would be a fool to ignore them.


Here are several that have worked from the days of direct mail and catalogs all the way to the modern day Internet.


Using numbered lists as a headline. Different studies have shown that a numbered list post outperforms just about any other type of headline for blogs and it's usually easy to configure the words of your headline to use numbers and make it a list. For some reason, odd numbered lists tend to do better than even numbered lists.


Using the words “how to”. You can use these magical trigger words for just about any kind of niche or industry because people just seem to want to learn and including “how to” in your headline creates the perception of giving every potential reader something for free.


Addressing your reader by using the word “you” often makes for irresistible headlines. This is copywriting 101 and should be used throughout all of your writing with very few exceptions. When you use the word you it seems as though you're addressing your reader directly which creates a certain level of rapport right from the beginning.


Calling out your audience by speaking directly to the group of people you want to read the message. Examples include: “A Special Message for Dental Hygienists Only!” or “Attention Single Dads!” When you use this formula, not only do you attract the precise people you want but you will also deter anyone you don't want reading the content.


Promising a benefit that the reader will get by taking a certain action or using your product or service. “Try this to Grow Two Inches Taller” or “How Eating this Vegetable Gives You the Stamina of a Teenager”


Making the headline like a news story. You can accomplish this by using words like “Major Breakthrough” or “New Evidence Shows”.


Ask an open-ended question that can’t be answered easily with a yes or no. Sometimes, if you ask a question in your headline like “Do You Like Black Licorice?” the reader may answer yes or no in their head and just move on. The classic “Do You Make These Mistakes in X? is a great example of asking a question that creates intrigue without turning them away.


5 – Make It Urgent


Creating a sense of urgency is always a great way to attract the reader's attention and a good tactic to get people to take action. FOMO is real and people will react if you use it wisely. Creating a deadline is one of the most common ways to create urgency in your headlines effectively.


6 – Make It Useful


Useful and relevant are two of the primary buzzwords that Google and other search engines have used for ages when describing how they want to rank content. And depending on the nature of the content you've created, writing a headline that lets the reader know what you have to offer will be useful to them can be a very effective way to create engagement and attract attention.


7 – Make It Ultra-Specific


There's an old adage in the marketing world that if you try to appeal to a general audience, you're going to get general results. That may not be the exact phrase, but you get the idea. It's a common mistake for people to try and attract the attention of everyone but in the end your results will suffer. Make your headlines specific to the people you want to read them and then take another stab at it and make them ultra-specific so only your ideal customer would ever be interested in reading what you have to say.


8 – Make It Unique


You need a compelling headline and it's important to keep in mind that the majority of people are bombarded with information online every single day. That's not to say you have to rewrite history or reinvent the wheel with every headline you write, but you should make an effort to make your product, service or offer seem unique. That way, it will stand out from the crowd just enough to get the attention you want.


9 - Appeal to Their Emotions


Another adage, or more accurately an unwritten rule in marketing is that people buy for emotional reasons and then back up that emotion with logic. Many or even most people like to think they're practical and make logical decisions when buying, but that's just not the case. Everyone buys for emotional reasons, so if it's possible, craft your headlines to appeal to the emotion that your reader is feeling or would need to feel to take the action you want them to take. This ties into the first tip of knowing your goal and it will help you enter your prospect’s mind and guide them where you want them to go.


10 - Consider Your Platform


These days, with so many different platforms available it's important to remember which one you're on and what you're trying to accomplish before you write your headline. As an example, if you're using paid ads on Facebook you're not going to get very far and you may even get your entire ad account cancelled if you use traditional benefit-based copywriting in your headlines. Facebook and its subsidiaries and other platforms can be quite strict when it comes to the type of headlines they allow. Make a point of reading all of the available guidelines before you write your ads or posts because many of the tips in this post will get you banned.


11 - Try Using a Negative Slant


Even if you want to be happy and positive with all of your messaging and content, the reality is you may get a better reaction if your headline has a negative slant to it. That may be due to the human trait of wanting to avoid pain more than wanting to gain pleasure, but whatever the reason you can use it to your advantage. “Five Benefits of Drinking Green Tea” can easily be turned into “5 Health Risks of Skipping that Cup of Green Tea Each Morning”. Now, I wouldn't recommend making everything negative but it's still an interesting tip to keep in mind for writing effective headlines.


12 - Use Superlatives


Superlatives as adjectives in your headlines can add some pop that flip the switch in your reader's minds and get them to continue reading. Typically, you'll only want to use one superlative or power word per headline so it stands out and makes an impact. Some effective ones that you can try to slip in for a strong headline include:











Just make sure the superlative you use makes sense in the context of your headline and the nature of your product or service. Superlatives can be an important element, so try writing a handful of headline examples with different ones before you make a final decision on which one to use. 


13 – Consider the Appearance


Factors such as the font size, colour, typeface and other elements can also have an impact on whether someone continues reading the rest of your content. This may be more of a task for your designer but it's still important to keep in mind, especially if you notice you aren't getting as many clicks or as much traffic as you think you should based on the effectiveness of the headline. Sometimes, a little tweak to the appearance can make a noticeable difference when it comes to the performance of different headlines 

14 - Test and Test Some More


You aren't always going to get it right the first time. For blog posts and web pages it's not as easy to test more than one headline, but when it comes to ads and landing pages, or even the subject lines in email marketing, testing is the best way to find winners. All successful marketers test a variety of variables and it all starts with the headline. Whether you do standard A/B split testing or some other variation, don't be satisfied with the initial result because you may be leaving money on the table.


15 – Stay Focused


With so much information available it's easy to get overwhelmed and distracted, which is why it's important to stay focused on what you're trying to accomplish throughout the entire process. If you find that you're making excuses to not get started or to not finish, give your head a shake and try to simplify the process as much as you can because you'll never accomplish anything until you start. Remember you only have to do one thing at a time and choose one option to get that headline created and out there into the world.

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