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.


“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.


“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.


“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…

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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Shellback Premium
I found this very informative, and admit I had not considered this at all! Thanks!
AJTrimble1 Premium
Awesome. Glad I could help :-)
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.
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 :-)
gbj35 Premium
One of the things I do is use something like a question the reader might ask. You can see an example here:

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.
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.
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 :-)
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.
Forgot to say it can sometimes create a great keyword phrase as well.
AJTrimble1 Premium
That's a great suggestion, Robert. The more tools the better. Thanks for sharing. You have a great weekend as well, sir.
Robert-A Premium
Just about to sign off for the night.
Nadia27 Premium
Yes, those headlines always attract.
AJTrimble1 Premium

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 :-)