My Top 3 Secrets to Writing KILLER Headlines

Last Update: May 04, 2019

“If you use a poor headline, it does not matter how hard you labor over your copy because your copy will not be read.” – John Caples

Once upon a time, there was a WA member named John (names have been changed to protect the innocent). John had been writing articles for his blog for two full years. And they were good. Really good. It was clear that John was extremely knowledgeable of the topic, and had a real passion for his niche. But John had no traffic. So what was his problem?

At the same time John was experiencing no results, Jane also had been blogging for years. And she was amazing. She was a bright and beautiful soul who truly loved sharing, and was able to connect with readers at an almost divine level. Anyone who read her content instantly fell in love with her passion. And therein lied the challenge. She had no traffic and, thus, no one to connect with. So what was her problem?

John and Jane — and many of us — share the same challenge, and often it boils down to the same solution: crafting better headlines.

You see, I have found that most people actually put the article headline on the back burner. Many times they will just throw up any old thing that pops into their head. There is no effort put into identifying a good keyword (you know, that thing that people are actually typing into Google) or creating a headline that is compelling enough to entice someone to click on it in the first place.

What they don’t realize is that crafting a great headline is absolutely crucial to any successful article.

In fact, long before the Internet, many copywriting gurus argued that the headline is often even more important the content itself. In fact, famed British advertising executive, David Ogilvy, once stated, “On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.” (emphasis added.)

Bottom line, the better your headline, the better the chances are of someone actually clicking on it and reading the entire article.

So, with that in mind, here are some of my favorite tips and techniques for writing killer headlines:

Article Headline Formula Number One: Numbers

It is a proven fact that psychologically we are attracted to numbers. Whenever we see a number in a headline our eyes are automatically drawn to it.

Examples:

“7 Ways to…”

“The Top 3 Secrets to…”

"19 Reasons You Should..."

Article Headline Formula Number Two: Negatives

The negative headline tends to evoke strong emotions and plays on one’s fear of missing out on something.

Examples:

“What Experts Don’t Want You to Know About…”

“3 Lies People Have Told You About…” (Notice the use of a number here; yes, you can combine techniques and get even better results.)

Note: Be careful with a negative headline. Make it too scary and you may actually turn off the reader. Fear is good… absolute terror is not.

Article Headline Formula Number Three: Ultimates

You’ve probably seen these a million times, and there’s a reason for that… they work!

An ultimate headline is one which generally refers to some form of guide, numbered list, or particular method of doing something.

Examples:

“The Ultimate Guide to…”

“The Ultimate List of…"

“The Ultimate Method for…”

My Secret Ninja Headline Tool

Perhaps you are thinking, “But AJ, that’s all great for you. You’re a professional copywriter. But I am just not that creative… what do I do?”

Never fear, my friend. I have a super-secret (not really) Ninja tool that will help anyone, even the least creative person on the planet, write awesome headlines.

It’s called Portent’s Content Idea Generator.

Portent’s is an incredible tool that is extremely easy to use. You simply enter your article topic (i.e. keyword) in the box and hit the arrow. Portent’s will offer a suggestion for a great headline.

Now, you may have to “fiddle” with it a bit as this is an automatic tool so sometimes the grammar isn’t quite right, but it’s simple enough to tweak it to sound normal.

Here’s an sample exercise I did…

I wanted to write an article on “writing tips”, so I typed that into Portent’s. Within a second or two it suggested the headline,

“How Writing Tips Can Help You Predict the Future”

Wow! Pretty compelling, right? Does that not create enough curiosity that it almost demands the reader click on it to find out what it’s all about?

Now let’s hit the refresh button and see what comes up…

“11 Facts About Writing Tips That’ll Make Your Hair Stand on End”

Pretty good, right? Now, I’d probably tweak it by removing the word “tips” just so it makes a bit more sense, but overall that’s a pretty compelling headline.

Let’s do one more…

“How Writing Tips are Making the World a Better Place”

I just love that one. One of the primary reasons I joined WA is because I want to change the world. How about you?

Where to Get Ideas

There are great headlines everywhere. Check out your competition (just don’t copy them directly.) Review sites like Reddit, Buzzfeed, etc.

Perhaps my favorite source for getting great headline ideas… Magazines.com.

Think about it. How do most magazines get you to buy? By filling the cover with crazy and compelling headlines. I just did a quick look, and in only a few minutes I found:

“Kate + Meghan’s 5 Royal Secrets for Looking Good in Pics” (Cosmopolitan)

“The 18 Seconds a Day That Ends Neck Pain” (Woman’s World)

“Top Kitchen Tools: 21 You Have to Have” (Cook’s Illustrated)

“50 Dips & Snacks Everyone Will Love” (Food Network)

“9 Animals That Changed the World” (National Geographic for Kids)

As you can see, each headline creates curiosity in your mind that makes you want to read more. And how easy would it be to take your article topic and incorporate it into one of these headlines? Simple, right?

So, give these ideas a go, and keep us posted on your progress. As I like to say, sharing is caring, so feel free to come back here and post your best headlines if you like.

Please leave a comment below letting my know what you though and on your own insight into writing killer headlines. Thanks for reading :-)

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WelcomeMM Premium
Thanks a lot for sharing this tip because it really so simple and is taking me into the next level as I practice to write. Thanks a lot for sharing beautiful tools.

While reading this article I could remember a book title that changed my business and view of life "9 Lies that are holding your business back...."

Keep sharing.

I will come back here to share some of my exciting titles.
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AJTrimble1 Premium
That's a great title :-)
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caljones6750 Premium
As a retired journalist, I can professionally vouch for the importance of the headline. If it doesn't work, nothing else matters.

I often spend hours on coming up with the headline even before I write the article. I review my research, check my facts, decide just what I want to get across to my readers, come up with a headline to pull them in, and then write the article. I may have to tweak the headline a bit when I'm finished, but often the article is a detailed elaboration on the headline.

P.S. As an old-school journalist, I would rather drink muddy water and sleep in a hollow log than use a computer to generate headlines. What's next? Put in a keyword and have the computer generate the headline AND post? It's probably already possible.
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AJTrimble1 Premium
I agree. I often spend more time working on the headline than I even do writing the article itself. Thanks for sharing :-)
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Duckman4 Premium
Ok AJ. Just like the previous article, you hit this one out of the park. it is a terrific asset to have a professional copy writer on this site to provide this really useful information. I can't thank you enough and I hope you will keep it coming. I was wondering, is the a content app or program the we can use to help in building content. I saw something on Kyles screen during a trining session the was a tool titled "Rapid Writer." Is that something we all should get or download or install, or is there something else that may help a bit.
Most of us have good ideas and many can even writ well. But, just like killer headlines to capture the reader, the writing style may be very important as well. Any thoughts or suggestions?
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MaryFRM Premium
What troubles me is how to put my keyword in this type of title.
I think usually I have to make a choice:
1. Have such catchy title and try to get traffic from social media
2. Put my long tail keyword in the title and hope to get some organic traffic.

Your thoughts?
Mary
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AJTrimble1 Premium
No worries. See my response to @SueKolman1 below where we discuss this very thing :-)
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Robert-A Premium
Maria why not have your Main Keyword in your Title and again in your Headline.

You can also have it in your first paragraph, somewhere in the middle of your article and one more time near the end of your article.

Then you can insert your Title at the beginning of your Description

Hope these suggestions point you in the right direction and if you get stuck, get in touch.
Robert
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SueKolman1 Premium
Hi A.J. Great blog with precious information - I will be saving it in my documents.

I have a question though. I have an 'old dog' niche. Say I'm searching Jaaxy for great keywords and "osteoarthritis in older dogs" is a great keyword.
Then I search for "5 things you should know about osteoarthritis in older dogs" and according to Jaaxy, it's a dud. Would it still be best to choose the headline with the number? Thanx
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AJTrimble1 Premium
Hi, Sue. So, here is what I do...

You can actually separate your title and your permalink (the actual address part). Thus, I would use the "5 Things..." line as my title, but make the permalink just the keyword. One is for Google, the other is for real people. Hope this makes sense :-)
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SueKolman1 Premium
Thank you, it makes perfect sense, but I wasn't aware that we could separate the two. Have you written a tutorial about that maybe?
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AJTrimble1 Premium
I have not, but it's a good idea :-)
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Lesmyb Premium
Very interesting, thank you AJ.

I have to be honest and admit that I really struggle with finding good headlines. I often search for long-tail keywords and my headlines end up being the whole keyword and nothing more. I have agonized over changing these, but it feels like I always draw a blank.
I am definitely going to try the tool that you suggested and see if I can get some inspiration there.

Les
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AJTrimble1 Premium
Yes, it can be tough. We're asking a lot out of one little sentence, but it's totally worth it. If it were easy, everyone would be doing this :-)
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Debbie46 Premium
Hi Trimble, thanks for sharing this. I am in the middle of finalising a headline for an article which I am about to post to my website now. I will apply the ideas you share here.
Perhaps using a dash (-) on the headline is not a good idea; I have used this on my posts. What is your view on this?
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AJTrimble1 Premium
No worries. I use dashes, and even colons, all the time. It doesn't affect the rating (Google basically just ignores them) and can be quite useful. As long as it makes sense grammatically, you should be good to go :-)
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Debbie46 Premium
Many thanks, Trimble
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hkwaszenko Premium
I was wondering about having numbers in headlines and if we later edit the post to add or take away some of the numbered points and therefore need to change the headline, do we need to re-submit the new heading to Google Console and also we should change the meta heading too, right?

Thanks again for the awesome article! :-)
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AJTrimble1 Premium
As long as you don't change the permalink already indexed by Google you should be okay. Of course, it never hurts to resubmit just so Google is aware of the most recent "update" :-)
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ariesight Premium
I'd say, if you do any change to your article, resubmit it to Google and Bing. It's free, after all.
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hkwaszenko Premium
This is a fantastic article- thank you for sharing your ideas. I recently wrote the title "Weird animal facts for kids that will blow your mind!" which I thought was quite catchy, here it is in case you want to check it out: https://yearsofenchantment.com/weird-animal-facts-for-kids-that-will-blow-your-mind/

You've definitely given me great ideas for my future titles and I think some of my other headings could be spiced up a bit.

Thanks again,

Hannah
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AJTrimble1 Premium
That's a great title, Hannah. I'll take a peek when I get a chance. Keep up the good work. :-)
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hkwaszenko Premium
Thank you! :-)
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JTA1212 Premium
This is so timely. I have been having difficulty deciding on titles for my blog. Content Idea Generator sounds like a great tool, that I will look to use.

Being new to writing, I am only now appreciating the importance of a great title to attract readers to our content.

Thank you for sharing this.
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AJTrimble1 Premium
Thanks for reading. If you need more help as a new writer, click on the "Training" tab at the top of my page here and check out my class on writing for non-writers; a lot of people found it quite useful ;-)
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JTA1212 Premium
Thanks so much. I will give it a read.
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PeteWeaver Premium
Hey AJ,

Thanks for posting this valuable content.

As I was reading this post, I kept thinking about Don Lapre. Do you remember him?

He had a program that teaches you how to create Tiny Classified Ads.

And if you can create just one good Tiny Classified Ad that makes you thirty to forty dollars, you could upscale it by placing this Tiny classified ad into several newspapers and making you several of those thirty to forty dollars.

This is the same concept, except we're not advertising ads: we're advertising articles using specific keywords. Now just think, we can do the same thing for our website. Just one good keyword rich headline can get you thousands of visitors to your article.

And we can do this with little or no money.

This post is a great resource for creating great headlines.

I wish I knew how to bookmark this valuable content. 😢

Thanks again for inspiring me with these new million dollar ideas.

Keep creating those killer headlines.

Pete Weaver
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AJTrimble1 Premium
Okay, Pete, as long as you promise not to laugh or tell anyone, I'll let you in on a little secret... Lapre was my first introduction into copywriting and direct marketing. I quickly moved on to more "sophisticated" guys like Carl Galetti and Dan Kennedy, but ol' Don is who got me started. lol

Thanks for the walk down memory lane. :-)

P.S. To bookmark any WA post, just click on the star up near the headline.
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PeteWeaver Premium
AJ,

I've taken Don Lapre's course too. I thought it was great and simple but you're right though, he was no match compared to Carl Galetti, Dan Kennedy, and Joe Girard. It's too bad that his life ended in such a tragedy.

Thank you so much for showing me how to bookmark this blog post.

Apparently, I must of known how to bookmark and create categories because I found some old bookmarks.

What a great treasure!

By the way, I did purchased the book you mentioned in our last conversation entitled: "Storytelling Made Easy" by Michael Hauge.

I'm really enjoying this book so thank you for helping me learn how to get more million dollar ideas.

I'm looking up Carl Galetti right now. I found his website learning how to pick three top expert salespeople.

This kind of information goes well with my website SuperAffiliatesChoice.

Again thanks

Pete Weaver
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Che4 Premium
Thank you AJ once again your post came at the right time. I've been struggling with coming up with headlines, which delays me from finishing my post. Thanks to you and your great tips I feel more comfortable moving on. I will definitely check potent's idea generator. Also the magazine idea is right up my alley, I have tons of them at home to look at. And to think my kids wanted me to throw them away.
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AJTrimble1 Premium
Hahaha... yeah, don't throw them out just yet, they come in quite handy. Thanks for your support :-)
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Zarina Premium
I totally confirm these types of titles work. I spend a great deal of time to create catchy titles that people click on.

A while ago I also created a pretty popular WA training: If you want more tips ;)
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AJTrimble1 Premium
Awesome! Thank you for the added resource. The more the merrier :-)
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Zarina Premium
Glad to help, AJ :)
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AdamHenryl1 Premium
AJ , I need more help with understanding the keyword deal. If I use a compelling headline or compelling words around certain keywords doesn’t that affect jaaxy figures? What I’m trying to say is that most of my headings are straight out simple keywords because I’m chasing those keywords and figures . But when I add certain words like
“ the amazing benefits of...” or “the incredible uses of ...,”. It alters the jaaxy figures into low traffic or none at all ? I’m a little confused ! Can you please shed some light on this ?
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AJTrimble1 Premium
If you are targeting long-tail keywords it won't affect it too much.

For example, Jay offered an example in one of his live classes where his keyword was "Legit Ways to Increase Website Traffic" and he just added a number to make it "6 Legit Ways to Increase Website Traffic" and it ranked extremely well. That's a simple and effective way to do it if your keyword works.

If you are targeting a more generic keyword, it will still work, however. Exact keyword matching is, for the most part, a thing of the past. With the advent of Latent Semantic Analysis (LSA) Google has become smart enough to recognize what you are trying to do.

For instance, it used to be that if you wrote an article called "XYZ Class", you would have to write another article called "XYZ Course" because Google saw them as two different search terms.

But today, LSA virtually eliminates that issue. Google knows that class and course mean the same thing. The "semantics" are the same.

Of course, you don't want to break up the keyword too much. If Jay wrote it as "6 Ways to Increase Traffic to Your Website Legitimately" it may throw the numbers off a bit because the keyword might be read as "ways to increase traffic", "increase traffic to your website, or even "ways to increase traffic to your website", all which may generate different results. But I would be willing to bet not by much.

Having said that, then, here is my rule of thumb...

Google's job is to provide readers what they are looking for. And the primary way they judge that is by what your readers do after they get to your site. How long are they there? What are they reading? Are they engaging with comments, etc.?

So, although identifying keywords is important, I find writing primarily for the reader and not for Google delivers the best bang for the buck.

Does it really matter if one keyword gives you an AVG of 100, and a similar one only gives an AVG of 50, if nobody in the first group actually clicks on your article because of a poor, dull, non-interesting headline?
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AdamHenryl1 Premium
Ok. So it’s more of finding the sweet spot balance between “ numbers” and “ clicks “? Thanks AJ.
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AJTrimble1 Premium
Exactly... if this were easy, everybody would be doing it. lol
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AdamHenryl1 Premium
Yeah not wrong !. For me , understanding the keyword thing has been my biggest battle in this course. I love new info and insights to this crucial element of affiliate marko. Thanks a lot for sharing and clearing up my haze on the matter. Love your work AJ.
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Jody4 Premium
Thank you AJ for the headline tips you have provided here. I will try out the generator and have saved the post for future reference.

A question, I understand we are supposed to include the keyword in the title of the post, won't the generator change it? If so is this not a problem for SEO?

Thanks

Jody
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AJTrimble1 Premium
Thanks for your question. So, there are a few ways around it...

One, you can actually use the keyword itself as the search term, as I did with "writing tips". This may or work, but it should at least give you some ideas on how to tweak it to make it fit.

The other way that works well is to use the article title method Kyle suggests in the training. List the keyword first, followed by a hyphen or colon, and then add the compelling lead. For a great example of this, scroll down and see what @ stevetug52 did with a great keyword he found.

Hope this helps :-)
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Shellback Premium
As a newbie WA Premium Affiliate...I would like to offer the thought that the above post....and the resultant, ongoing discussion exactly illustrates WHY it is critical for affiliates to engage with each other! There is a wealth of knowledge displayed here by all parties. We must NEVER sell these discussions short. Any of these conversations is capable of sparking a major epiphany for another! Thank you Kyle for your foresight in setting up a structure that works so well. Thanks to the leaders that get involved.
Regards,
Billy
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AJTrimble1 Premium
Thank you, Billy. I 100% agree. Many times I learn as much (or, dare I say, even more) from the comments section of a post than the lesson itself. Well said :-)
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EdwinBernard Premium
I see you walk the talk judging by the headline of this Blog!

This Blog is worth its weight in gold. It's up in the clouds. And clouds can weigh TONS!

Your tips are very timely as I have only recently started my Affiliate Marketing For Leaders website. I am having second thoughts on this title, No numbers in it. But I sure can create headlines for the Blogs that go into it using the tips you gave.

Thank you so much A.J.

Cheers.

Edwin
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AJTrimble1 Premium
No worries, Edwin. And I would't worry about using numbers in the domain or title of the website as it may actually limit you in the future. But for your articles, that's a whole different story... ya gotta "hook" 'em if you want them to read :-)
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EdwinBernard Premium
I appreciate your wise words A.J. I have a renewed feeling of excitement as I embark on writing new articles. Not that I was already excited.

Who would't be excited in a place like Wealthy Affiliate and meeting such talented marketers like you.

Cheers.

Edwin
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AJTrimble1 Premium
Thanks, buddy. The feeling is most certainly mutual. Keep being awesome!
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MiaL Premium
Thanks, this is great. I did a few test ones and they were really good , and I've bookmarked the tool. Then I keyed in "ways to make money online" just to see what it would come up with, and I got "How ways to make money online make you a better lover". Lol. My website could really take a turn in a whole new direction with that one!
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AJTrimble1 Premium
Hahaha... that's terrific. I think a LOT of people would be compelled to click on an article like that. lol
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BobMargroff Premium
Incredible! I suffer from horrible headlines and this will make them better...but we do need to be careful not to over promise or at least be sure they are relevant, don't we?

I would not want to attract someone to read one of my blog posts whether here or my website and then not deliver the goods as the headline promises.

Still a great tool and thanks for posting
I wish you the best!

Bob
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AJTrimble1 Premium
Excellent point, Bob. There's a name for that -- "Clickbait" -- and people HATE that.

Yes, you do want a compelling headline, but you definitely have to deliver the goods. Thanks for your suggestion.
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BobMargroff Premium
I just happen to remember a blog posted here about Clickbait. It just made me think, hmm.

Your post is excellent though.
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gbj35 Premium
When I worked for an online paper I spent at least half my editing time tweaking headlines. This is true across the board, no matter what content we are creating.

We are dealing with a generation that has grown up with info at their fingertips. If we don't capture their attention within the first 3-10 seconds, we will not get it.

Great post!
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AJTrimble1 Premium
Thanks, and I could not agree more. Headlines have always had a tough job, but as you pointed out, they are even more important in today's nanosecond culture.
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ERichardson1 Premium
My friend, this blog was outstanding, you are absolutely correct, it is something that so many writers forget about. If you want to be successful watch what the successful people do, outstanding my friend, oh by the way this is what I do. May you have a wonderful weekend.
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AJTrimble1 Premium
Thank you for wonderful comments. It means a lot to me.
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Eliz65 Premium
Your post couldn’t have come at a better time... I’ve been stumped thinking about what to write about next... I’ve got some new inspiration!
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AJTrimble1 Premium
Awesome! I love helping people when they are "stumped" :-)
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Nrichards Premium
Hello and thanks so much for the insight.
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AJTrimble1 Premium
Thank you.
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Leucavorin Premium
Great information--another tool to add to our toolboxes. I agree the headline/title needs to grab the reader. Your suggestions will be very helpful. Thanks!
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AJTrimble1 Premium
Thank you.
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Shellback Premium
I found this very informative, and admit I had not considered this at all! Thanks!
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AJTrimble1 Premium
Awesome. Glad I could help :-)
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stevetug52 Premium
Hi AJ. From the content, it seems clear to me you are talking primarily about the Title of the article as opposed to all those headlines we use to break up the content. If so, how do we make that work with the requirement that our keyword must appear in exact order as close to the beginning of the title as possible.

Here is my keyword from my last post:
Online Home Work Job (Great KQI!)

The title I came up with was Online Home Work Job - 4 Words To Help You Retire.

Not sure it measures up.
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AJTrimble1 Premium
Thanks for your insight, Steve.

Yes, this is primarily for the title as that is what gets the reader to click in the article in the first place.

But that doesn't mean you can't use similar techniques in the subheadings to keep them reading. Notice, for example, where I used the subhead about a "secret" ninja tool.

I call it "Bucket Brigade" copywriting. Just like firefighters did in days of old by handing the bucket off person to person to get from the water source to the fire, you use headings and subheadings to guide the reader section by section from beginning to end.

And, for what it's worth, I think your headline measures up quite well. You have the keyword in there to help Google, and you also have a compelling line to create interest for the reader.

Well done, sir :-)
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gbj35 Premium
One of the things I do is use something like a question the reader might ask. You can see an example here:

https://gigthat.siterubix.com/

Notice I use keywords for the body headlines. You can tag them in the settings as well. I am creating hashtags and I use them in almost every article.
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FKelso Premium
Excellent! I see some things I can use here...and I agree...the headline needs to be the "hook". I need practice. Some of my "hooks" are okay and some could use work.
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AJTrimble1 Premium
Yes, it takes practice. But definitely use the tools if you need to. Even if it doesn't generate the "perfect" headline you were looking for, often it will still trigger an idea in your mind for something that will work. Good luck, Fran... you're doing awesome :-)
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Robert-A Premium
Hi AJ, I use a Headline Analyser and have done for years and can achieve 200% when I work with it.
It hasn't let me down yet.

I have also tried your suggestion and you're right it does make a mess of the grammar now and again.
Enjoy your Saturday.
Robert
PS
Forgot to say it can sometimes create a great keyword phrase as well.
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AJTrimble1 Premium
That's a great suggestion, Robert. The more tools the better. Thanks for sharing. You have a great weekend as well, sir.
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Robert-A Premium
Just about to sign off for the night.
Robert
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Nadia27 Premium
Yes, those headlines always attract.
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AJTrimble1 Premium
Definitely.

It saddens me when members have had content up for some time and ask why they aren't seeing any traffic. When I read it the content is amazing, but the problem almost always comes back to just a dull, boring headline.

Thanks for your insight :-)
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