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What Headline Writing Tips Do You Have?

Profile photo of Harry Hoover Submitted by Harry Hoover April 14, 2016

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A few years back I developed a list of 7 headline writing tips. I am wondering if all of these tips are still relevant. Seems that today you have to be more outrageous to entice people with a headline. So here’s my list below. What do you have to add?

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Keep It Short & Simple. The best headlines are less than 15 words in length and typically use simple words and concepts that convey your message quickly. Readers prefer simplicity. If your headline is long or confusing, they’ll move on to something else. Write your headline first and spend as much time writing it as you do writing the post. Don’t be like Mark Twain, who said, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”

Short & Simple Example: How To Invest Like Warren Buffett.

Use The Right Words. Advertising’s best copywriters know that there are certain words which always are effective. You’d think these words would be worn out, but they continue to persuade and compel. Here are a few of them: advice, amazing, breakthrough, discover, enhance, extreme, facts, free, learn, mysterious, new, protect, and secret.

Use The Right Words Example: Free Facts To Protect Your Family From Fraud.

Convey The Benefit. Readers like to know in advance what they will get for taking the time to read your article. Will this benefit me in some way, they ask? Your headline should truthfully tell them what they will get out of it. Don’t lie to them or craft a headline that doesn’t deliver on the promise.

Convey The Benefit Example: Learn How To Present Like Steve Jobs

Be Direct. Simplicity, as we mentioned earlier, is crucial. That’s why we prefer the direct to the indirect headline. A direct headline tells you exactly what is coming. An indirect headline may be subtle or use double entendre that can be confusing to a time-stressed reader.

Be Direct Example: Get A Free Media Relations White Paper.

Questions? A headline that just asks a question is OK, but one that asks a question with which the reader can empathize or a question he really wants to know the answer to takes it to the next level. Bob Bly, the man McGraw-Hill calls “America’s top copywriter”, offers this headline example from Psychology Today, “Do You Close the Bathroom Door Even When You’re the Only One Home?

Questions Example: Who Else Wants To Make A Fortune While Sitting In Their La-Z-Boy?

By The Numbers. You have probably noticed that we really like using numbers – particularly uneven numbers – in our headlines. This is a classic headline approach that seems to have been done to death online. But it still works. This type of headline gives structure to your post before you even write it. And my number posts consistently do better in terms of traffic – and retweets – than do my other posts. Additionally, it tells the reader how much reading time the article will require. Three to five tips won’t take too long to read, while 9 – 13 tips may require a greater time investment.

By The Numbers Example: Top 19 Free Photo Sites For Bloggers

Be Active. We use active voiceactive verbs and action-oriented words as much as possible in our posts and in headlines. These words can add color and power to your writing, as well as encourage the reader to take action. We like the works “Learn” and “Discover”.

Be Active Example: Discover Effective Headline Writing Secrets


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29 Responses to “ What Headline Writing Tips Do You Have?” Leave a reply ›

  • Profile photo of Paul Guzman Profile

    Wow! I don’t have any headline tips, but what you have here is really good. These are excellent and I will save and bookmark this page for future reference.
    Thanks.
    Paul Guzman recently posted…How to set up a newsletter for your websiteMy Profile

  • Profile photo of Chery Profile

    Hello Harry, All great tips my friend! One of my favorites is to ask questions! use!

    Have you ever heard of Jon Morrow? He shares the best list of headline hacks I have ever seen, I did download his PDF from his website.

    Another post I really enjoyed was 317 Power Words That’ll Instantly Make You a Better Writer. Add a few of these to your titles to make them even more powerful.

    Not sure if this is alright to do or not, but lets give this a try…
    Here is the link LOL
    https://smartblogger.com/power-words/

    He is one smart blogger..

    Well let me know if you would like a copy of this PDF, I do have it saved to my computer..

    Happy Writing!
    Chery :))
    Chery recently posted…The Shocking Truth About Facebook MarketingMy Profile

  • Profile photo of redtiger Profile

    Hi Harry

    Headline writing is indeed an art. You mention some very good tips.

    I like that you mention short and simple. You create impact that way.

    I also like the idea of using a question as your headline. Human beings want to answer questions. We are just made that way.

    A variation on this is to leave a statement hanging in the air. “The phone call changed everything.” The headline creates its own questions.

    It is interesting that you mention numbers. I can imagine that a number can be effective to spark interest.

    You also metion the word free. Ahh, now that is a magic wand.

    It can also be effective to weave a double meaning into your headline. Anything to get the reader to look twice. (Sorry, I could not resist a few evergreen examples).

    Squad Helps Dog Bite Victim

    Drunk Gets Nine Months in Violin Case

    Miners Refuse to Work after Death

    Juvenile Court to Try Shooting Defendant

    Grandmother of Eight Makes Hole in One

    Double meaning headlines can be quite effective if you use them in the subject-field of e-mails.

    It can also be effective if you play on idioms and expressions. I can imagine the words “Trump card” have been used quite a bit on the political pages of US newspapers recently.

    However I have found that mystery works better than humor in a headline. You reader may remember a funny one but you want him to read the article and creating mystery achieves this.

    Great post
    Thanks for sharing.
    redtiger recently posted…Affiliate Marketing ExplainedMy Profile

    • Profile photo of Harry Hoover Profile

      Humor can be dangerous, Redtiger. I like your headline examples with double meanings. One of my favorites was one that appeared in the newspaper in which I once worked. It said “Prisoners Find Jesus In Cabarrus County Jail Cell.”
      Harry Hoover recently posted…Weekly Hacks #16My Profile

  • Profile photo of Celine Profile

    Hi Harry,
    Headline writing tips are spread around the net. The most effective tips are those with simplicity and clarity. They easily trigger the emotions of the individuals.

    I will add that headlines should contain emotional and power triggers like “help”, “free”, “sure-fire”, “best”, “death”,”success” etc.

    For example: ” Free tips You need to write the best headlines”

  • Profile photo of Sarah John Profile

    I would still have shared some of the tips you already shared here! Headlines tips that works must embrace clarity, interest, and intrigue. Keeping it short and simple is still a principle that all headline writers must not ignore!

  • Profile photo of Sherman Smith Profile

    Hey Harry,

    Actually this is all still relevant.

    I still use many of the tips you mentioned here.

    I just read an article on SEO and in the past many would say to include your main keyword in your title.

    Now it’s not necessary.

    You want to use LSI keywords, or any keywords that relates to the main keyword you chose.

    The reason being is that now Google uses its Semantic algorithm to make sense, or get the context of what you’re trying to convey within your post.

    I’ve also written a post last year on Headline formulas and maybe these will give you some ideas.

    Here it is:

    http://www.shermansmithblog.com/...-blog-post-headlines/

    I hope this helps!
    Sherman Smith recently posted…Diversify Your Shares With The Social Warfare WordPress PluginMy Profile

  • Profile photo of Dennis Seymour Profile

    Awesome tips Harry

    I’m a really weak headlines guy. I’ve been learning and learning over the past years to make it better. I appreciate all the tips you gave here.

    For me, the best ones that have performed are those with numbers, a “hack” related word like a checklist and something controversial.

    Still honing my skills with it but I definitely advice people to go and have a “swipe” file of the best headlines they see.
    Dennis Seymour recently posted…The 2 Sides of Guest Posting: I’m on the “It Works” Side, How About You?My Profile

  • Profile photo of Sunday William Profile

    Hey Harry,
    This is an interesting topic for content writers!

    I will add that headlines should be interesting, thought-provoking and emotionally attaching.

    Readers would like to be drawn immediately by the wordings of headlines.

    However, the best headlines out there are crafted simple.

    For the purpose of effective copywriting, the best headlines should be embrace SEO best practices by entertaining the right keyword, simple sentence, and short words!
    Sunday William recently posted…Ask / Discuss What Steps Do You Take To Keep Freelance Writers Honest?My Profile

  • Profile photo of Gordie Chase Profile

    With so much content out there it’s hard to come up with headlines that seem original so I don’t try.

    What I do instead is Google the subject matter and construct headlines using the top 5 results then run them through the Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer (http://www.aminstitute.com/headline/), the best headlines are ones which marry SEO with emotion.

    Using this formula I cover every point in your article without wasting my most valuable commodity, Time.
    Gordie Chase recently posted…How to Boost Your Page Ranking With A Small Piece Of Code?My Profile

  • Profile photo of Freedom Blogger Profile

    Hi Harry!

    These tips for a better and enticing headline are spot on man!

    They are still relevant today, and I believe they will always be great tips for better headlines – no matter how much time goes by.

    Unless we stop being Humans for some reason! LOL

    One of the tips that I might have a discussion about is the 4th one “Be Direct”. This is not necessarily a good thing to do – if you want to really get a person’s attention with just the headline.

    People LOVE Mystery.

    We are very Curious Creatures by nature.

    The more mysterious you are in your headline – the more someone would want to click.

    I can talk from my own experiences that an “indirect” headline that makes me Wonder a lot – will most likely push me to click on it and really want to find out what the information is all about.

    Indirect is actually good.

    Leave some room for people to Wonder!

    Yes, it is true that most of us would prefer Direct to Indirect – BUT if we would prefer Mysterious over Direct all day long man!

    We like drama – and we like Interesting Stuff.

    Is like with a Book – do you want the title of the book to reveal every single thing that you will find inside? … I do not think so – because it will take away the mystery essence. Without adding a little mystery to the title, you probably won’t be very interested in reading the entire book!

    Just my 2cents here! 😉

    Thanks for sharing this value HArry!

    Keep up the great work!

    Cheers! 😀
    Freedom Blogger recently posted…How to Make Sure Your Website is Found On Google?My Profile

  • Profile photo of Patrice M Foster Profile

    Harry,

    The right words and epic content one simple way your blog will stand out. But if you want to create content that shares . Then i would agree that all these things are essential.

    What’s a house without a roof? Unless you live in the tropic…wouldn’t that be nice. Effective Headline draws reader in, make the reader think….pull on the emotional heartstring by using suspense and cause us to react.
    Patrice M Foster recently posted…Stop Feelings of Depression Right NowMy Profile

  • Profile photo of Corrisa Profile

    Great headlines! I actually bought one of Bob’s books many years ago. It was helpful, but I found an ebook online many moons ago that had winning advertising headlines that was a complete gem!

    I wish I remembered the name or else I would post it here. I like to use benefits and curiosity in my headlines.

    Good topic!
    Corrisa recently posted…What is SFI Online Marketing?My Profile

  • Profile photo of EltonCarr Profile

    Hello Harry,

    Great topic! To add to your list I would consider “keep it real”. I personally have notice that headlines with a lot of hype like the Lazy-boy which I have used don’t attract the people I really want.

    I have just started using “stay at home dad” which is what I am, plus something more practical and achievable to be my best headline. Like. “Stay at home dad”… makes $1000 in less than 90 days. Another headline “just like you” seems to be driving my opt-ins higher as well. “Just like you” there are thousands of people looking for an online business.

    These two headlines have a sub-title….something like, 3 simple steps that I know you can do!

    These headlines are real to me. I have achieved everyone of them, so I can actually teach it…so remember to keep it real!

    Enjoy your day,

    EltonCarr
    EltonCarr recently posted…The Key To Starting Your New Online BusinessMy Profile

  • Profile photo of Husni Ahamed Profile

    Hey Harry,

    I would like to say this post is absolutely correct, I am following these methods when I’m going to write an article. As you mention in the article “get time to write a headline before heading to the article” I totally agree with it harry, personally I’m doing this. These methods are still working well by the way great post, keep it up with yours great work.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Profile photo of Thabo Nkomo Profile

    Hello Harry,

    First, of course your tips are still relevant. Think about this: one of the greatest headline of all time is “To Be Or Not To Be”. That said, here are my thoughts.

    After the image, the headline is often the most important part of a copy or ad because it gives the reader the first solid information about the story or product.

    Thus, the most effective headlines appeal to the self-interest of the reader–the “what’s in it for me?” The writer must decide what appeal is being made and what benefit is being offered.

    Above all, headlines should involve the reader in the ad or copy quickly. They may do this by asking a question [ “When will you get an opportunity like this again?”], offering some information [ “How to save money”], or making a provocative statement [“Not all men are created equal”].

    Also, a very big caution. Inappropriate headlines can destroy the writer’s credibility with the reader. In short, be creative but be careful.
    Thabo Nkomo recently posted…Wholetunes Review–Music for your healthMy Profile

  • Profile photo of darrellantonio Profile

    Hello Harry

    You did a great job and yes the headline is the most important part of copy.
    One of my favorites is by the numbers,I know I am always wondering how many or how much?

    What you have here are all very interesting and is going to help me take my “headlines” game up a notch.

    I usually get help with my headlines by using http://titlegenerator.com.

    I will definitely save and bookmark this post for futur reference.
    Thanks for sharing my friend.
    darrellantonio recently posted…57 Tools to Step Your Blogging Game Up !My Profile

  • Profile photo of James Ling Profile

    Hi Harry,

    You sure have given me inspiration on how to improve my headlines. I think the idea behind the best headline is their ability to convert successful. In this vein, I would be looking out for simple, short but intriguing words that would be catchy. Thanks for awesome share.

  • Profile photo of Amit Sharan Profile

    Hello Harry,

    Its interesting that we actually have more options when it comes to headline tips.

    The truth remains that the type ideas we trying to convey and the kind of response we expect will define the headline we are to use.

    This post is worth bookmarking because it contains a groundwork for all basic headline formulas that inspire action!

  • Profile photo of Black Profile

    Hey Harry,

    I like to keep my headlines simple and short. This has always generated the right clicks and conversion for me.

    In addition to KISS (keeping it short and simple), I always ensure that it drives curiosity and sparks genuine interests i the reader!

    This is my take after going through this piece.

    Thanks for reminding us about the importance of writing ‘good’ headlines’

  • Profile photo of Winford Moore Profile

    Hi Harry,

    A good headline promises positive expectations from the main body of a piece of writing.

    It becomes important that the writer positively gets holds of headline writing.

    If the headline is clear enough, then there would be no difficulty in deciphering what the remainder part of the writing is talking about.

    A simple and clear headline is always what I go for – whether it is in question form, in command form, or in statement form!

  • Profile photo of Paul Profile

    Hi Harry,

    Headline is the gateway to the message of an article. Every writer must be specific and clear with it.

    There are many strategies employed to write a persuasive headline but keeping it short and simple makes good impact. This is the approach I always adopt to compel the reading of the rest of the article!

  • Profile photo of Carl Profile

    Hey Harry,

    I have learned of different types of headlines after going through this post. The piece was informative and instructive.

    My best takeaway are the examples that accompany each of the tips and types shared. They revealed a lot about what impact every bit of headline makes.

    From this knowledge, I intend to improve on my headline. 😉 Thanks for sharing this piece. I have bookmarked it for future reference!

  • Profile photo of steven Profile

    Headline choices is very crucial. They reflect what the entire post is saying.

    A good headline gives the reader a foretaste of what to expect anytime the whole content spread for digestion.

    The best headline tips should be clear on the ‘main’ message shared. Headlines explaining processes usually are my favorite!

  • Profile photo of Gavin McDonald Profile

    Hi Harry,

    My headline writing tip will be to check top selling offline publications to and learn from their style of writing headlines.

    They do an amazing job of attracting readers with their headlines.

    The same headlines that work very well offline can also work very well online.

    An example is the New York Post newspaper headline image you used in this post, :)

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