My Top 3 Secrets to Writing KILLER Headlines
“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… 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 :-)