Which headline will receive more clicks, likes, and shares?:
The Breathtaking Geometry of America from Above
America From the Sky
This is not one of those situations where I say that “there’s no right answer”. There is a right answer, and it’s A (and luckily Time thought so too).
So what makes headline A so much more compelling over headline B? And what does this have to do with your business?
Well, headline A follows a set of specific and effective rules for headlines to entice the target audience to click. And since often your target audience’s first point of contact with your business is through your content, and your target audience’s first point of contact with your content is it’s headline…
That means that if you don’t maximize the potential of your headlines, you’re leaving traffic, conversions, and customers on the table.
Don’t worry. If you’re new to headline writing - or even if you’ve flexed your headline muscles before but want a comprehensive, sumo-sized guide on everything you need to know to write an irresistible headline - we’ve got your back.
A word of warning: When you’re crafting a headline for your content, it’s easy to go overboard. It’s crucial that your headline actually matches what is on the other side of that link. In your business, you always want to under promise and over deliver.
If your headline is “The Only Guide You’ll Ever Need to Read About Intermittent Fasting”, that better seriously be the only damn guide your readers ever need to read about intermittent fasting. If your headline makes a promise that falls flat after it’s clicked, we have a special term for that…
Now that you’ve read the small print, let’s get into the headline formulas.
|The How to Headline||How to [Achieve a Desired Outcome]||How to Run Faster|
|The Ultimate List Headline||[Large Number] of Ways to [Achieve an Outcome]||28 Ideas for Content Upgrades To Grow Your Email List|
|The Ultimate Guide Headline||The Ultimate Guide to [Achieve a Desired Outcome]||The Ultimate Guide to Eating Healthy on a Budget|
|The Fearmonger Headline||Warning! Are You [Something Undesirable]?||Warning! Are You Eating This Food That Could Kill You?|
|The Rally Cry Headline||[A Call to Arms]||Let’s Stop Eating This Poisonous Food!|
|The Proven Methods Headline||[Number] Proven [Actions/Ways] to [Achieve Desired Result]||18 Proven Techniques to Build More Muscle in Less Time|
|The Mistakes Headline||[Number] Mistakes Most People Make When/With [Common Action]||11 Mistakes Most People Make When Washing Their Hair|
|The Secrets Headline||[Number] Secrets to [Achieve Desired Outcome]||7 Secrets to Becoming a Digital Nomad|
|The Outrageous Headline||[Outrageous/Controversial Claim]||Why Canadians Are Actually Evil|
|The Lessons Learned Headline||[Number] Lessons I Learned When/From [Experience]||7 Lessons from General Assembly|
|The Social Proof Headline||[Social Proof] [Desired Outcome||The Tool Over 283,000 Websites Use to Grow Their Traffic|
|The Testimonial Headline||[A Quote From/Summary of a Testimonial]||How SumoMe Changed My Business|
|The Objection Preemptive Headline||No/Yes, You [Pre-Empt Objection] to [Achieve Desired Result]||No, You Don’t Have to Count Calories to Lose Weight|
|The Question Headline||[Provocative Question]||Are You Still Eating Dairy?|
|The See What Happened Headline||[Person] Did [Unusual Action] [Timeframe]. Here’s What Happened||I Did Yoga Every Day for 6 Months. Here’s What Happened|
|The How/Result Headline||How [A Seemingly Inconsequential Action] Can [Undesirable Result||How Your Morning Coffee Can Lead to Heart Disease|
|The Celebrity Headline||How to [Achieve Desired Outcome] Like [Celebrity]||How to Sing Like Adele|
|The How to Without Headline||How to [Desired Outcome] Without [Unpleasant Action]||How to Increase The Traffic to Your Website (Without a Marketing Budget|
|The Silver Platter Headline||[Number or How to] Simple/Easy Ways to [ Desired Outcome]||14 Easy Ways to Save $100 This Month|
|The Analysis Headline||We Analyzed [Number] [Measurable] And This Is What We Learned||We Analyzed 100 Million Articles (And This is What We Learned)|
|The Tutorial Headline||A [Power Word] Tutorial to [Achieve Desired Outcome||A Comprehensive Tutorial to Make a Budget|
|The Hacks Headline||[Number] Hacks to [Achieve Desired Outcome]||25 Hacks to Save More Money|
|The Explainer Headline||Why [Thing] [Outcome]||Why Spirulina Makes You Smarter|
|The Steps to Result Headline||[Number] Steps to [Achieve Desired Outcome]||Inside The Porn Industry's Reckoning Over Sexual Assault|
|The WTF Headline||[An Odd or Funny Claim]||John Cena And His Giant Hands Playing With A Tiny Tortoise|
|The Quiz Headline||Quiz: [Which/What/How] [Quiz Topic]?||Quiz: Which Harry Potter Character Are You?|
|The Hot Button Headline||[Controversial Claim or Story]||People Called This Mom An "Exhibitionist" After She Took A Breastfeeding Pic With Santa|
|The Fortune Teller Headline||[A Claim as if You Know the Future]||You Won’t Be Able to Lose Weight in 2016.|
|The News Headline||Breaking: [Story||Breaking: Whooping Cough Outbreak in Your City|
|The Command Headline||[Strong Command||Stop Selling Out|
|The Reasons Headline||[Number/”Here’s Why] [Outcome]||16 Reasons You’re Fighting With Your Spouse|
|The Imagination Headline||Imagine [Desired Outcome]||Imagine Becoming a Millionaire|
|The Little Known Methods Headline||[Number] Little-Known Ways to [Desired Outcome]||15 Little-Known Ways to Actually Reach Your Goals This Year|
|The Ignorance Avoidance Headline||What You Should Know About [Topic]||What You Should Know About Your Roth IRA|
|The Snackable Headline||[4 Words or Fewer Summarizing Topic]||You Aren't That Special|
|The Pattern Interruption Headline||[Claim That Goes Against What Most People Think is True||How Fruit Will Make You Fat|
|The Solutions Headline||Why [Problem] (And What to Do About It)||Why You’re Not Getting Traffic to Your Website (And What to Do About It)|
|The Expert Roundup Headline||[Number] [Expert] Share [What]||14 Nutritionists Share Their Favourite Plant-Based Recipes|
|The Reminder Headline||Reminder: [Claim or Truth]||Reminder: Your Weight is Not a Reflection of Your Health|
|The Comparison Headline||Are You More Like [X] or [X]?||Are You More Like a Tiger or a Lion?|
|The Trivia Headline||Can You [Find/Spot/Answer/etc]||Can You Find The Problem With This Photo?|
|The Keyword Headline||[Keyword]: [Supporting Keywords]||Healthy Eating 101: How To Eat Healthy on a Budget|
|The Promise Headline||[Promise of What Your Business/Content Will Do]||We Can Help You Boost Your Traffic By 20%|
|The Results Headline||How We [Desired Result] in [Timeframe]||How We Boosted Our Traffic by 20% in 6 Weeks|
|The Teaser Headline||These/Find Out Which [Thing] Could/Will [Desired Outcome]||These 6 Foods Could Help You Lose 15 Pounds|
|The Sidenote Headline||[Headline] ([Sidenote to Tease One of the Points]||7 Lessons We Learned from General Assembly (#2 is Our Favorite)|
|The Branded Headline||[Headline Formula] [Unique Branding]||123 Ways to Get More Website Traffic: A Sumo-Sized Guide|
|The Urgency Headline||[Action] NOW!||Fix Your Conversion Rate NOW|
|The Audience Headline||[Audience]! Are You [Undesirable/Desirable Outcome]?||Bloggers! Are You Leaving Traffic on the Table?|
Now that we’ve given you a ridiculous amount of headline formulas, you need to put those bad boys into use.
And even though we’re calling them headline formulas, you don’t just have to plug them into your blog post titles and call it a day. Why not try them out in these creative places?
This might come as a surprise to you…
But once you choose a headline for your content, you don’t have to stick to that headline until death do you part.
In fact, you shouldn’t. How will you know what works best with your audience if you don’t test what they respond to?
The best way to do this is with Buffer. Use Buffer to test different headlines on social media. We’re testing the Command Headline, the Objection Preemptive headline, the Sidenote Headline, and the Audience Headline in our Twitter feed:
Then, use the Analytics tab to find out which of the headlines your followers clicked on the most.
Your email subject lines are simply miniature headlines.
Think about it. Subject lines have all the properties of a headline. They are the first point of contact between your subscriber and the content inside of the email.
They are used to compel people to click and consume. And they describe what the person will be consuming once they press the button on their mouse.
So that’s why it’s so crucial that you use solid headlines in your email subject lines, too.
Paula Pant from the financial freedom blog Afford Anything uses a headline formula in one of her most recent emails, creating a clickable and compelling attention-grabber, which rises above the rest of the boring subject lines in the inbox:
I didn’t have to look far to find this poorly written headline that I sent straight to trash without reading:
How spammy does that look?
You don't want your emails to go straight to the trash box without ever being read.
It’s sadly often assumed that only written content like articles and blog posts require strong headlines.
I’m here to set the record straight, though. Every single thing that you want more eyes on needs a strong, compelling, and irresistible headline.
That includes all of your content…
When most people think of headlines, they usually think of articles in tabloids, newspapers, or magazines.
The momentum your reader gains from reading a well-written headline translates over reading your articles.
Do like the pros and use strong, compelling, click-worthy headlines in your articles:
Of course, to avoid “click bait”, make sure the article delivers on the promise.
When people are scrolling through those podcast episodes in iTunes, you want to catch their attention, right?
After all, they have thousands of options in any given topic. You want them to choose your podcast rather than the thousands of others they could choose.
That’s where a compelling headline comes in.
Let’s say you were looking for a podcast episode on healthy eating. Because it’s the new year, and you have resolutions to achieve!
Which podcast episode are you more likely to listen to? This one, titled “Healthy Eating”:
Or this one, called “11 Healthy Eating Habits of the Super Fit”?
I don’t know about you, but I’m far more likely to listen to the latter.
Often, people overlook the power of great headlines for videos.
Perhaps it’s because videos are more involved to create, and the headline is simply easy to set and forget, but ignoring the importance of a powerful headline in your videos is a huge mistake.
On a platform with over 400 million videos, you need yours to stand out from the crowd.
An example of a strong headline for a video is one of Gary Vaynerchuk’s usage of a Teaser Headline, “The Most Important Word Ever”:
Keywords are the most important thing to focus on for SEO, right?
It’s the keywords that helps you rank in Google, land on the first page and get your content seen by more people, right?
While this is absolutely true, the key word (pun intended) in that sentence is people. While you absolutely need to optimize your content for keywords, it’s humans that are searching for those keywords. When Google drums up the results for them and they’re scanning the first few options of results to click on, you need to entice them to click on your content first.
How do you do that?
You guessed it! Headline formulas.
While your headline in your content may (and should) differ from what you set as your meta headline, it’s still important to incorporate those keywords into something that search engine users actually want to click.
For example, I just typed in “easy healthy recipes” into Google, and these results came up:
Just because you need to use keywords in your meta title doesn’t mean you should ignore headline formulas, like Best Health Mag must have done in their non-compelling result.
Take a look at your podcast title on iTunes and Stitcher, your Youtube Channel name, or your blog title in WordPress or Squarespace. Just because most people just use the name of their business, blog, channel or podcast in their title doesn’t mean you have to follow suit.
Use headline formulas after your brand’s name in your titles to draw interest, like Nathan Chan does with the Foundr Magazine Podcast:
If there’s one place that a rock solid headline is absolutely crucial, it’s your sales page. Do not overlook this opportunity for increasing not only your traffic to your sales page, but also your conversions.
Nathan Barry uses the Objection Preemptive headline formula on his sales page for his product Authority to catch the potential customer’s attention right away.
Jon Morrow uses the Tutorial Headline formula in his sales page for his membership website, Serious Bloggers Only:
In our recent guide about using power words in your marketing, I told you about how your visitors do not read every word of your article.
It’s actually just the opposite. Your visitors scan over that content you worked so hard to put together, and to throw salt in that wound, they also judge you in less time than it takes to take a bite of their breakfast tacos - about 10 to 20 seconds.
But what if you can capture their attention? What if you could make them actually read your content rather than just scanning over it, making a snap judgement, and hovering their mouse over the “x” button?
Good news! You can by including headline formulas in your subheads.
Subheads break up the text on your page, add visual interest, and a strong subhead will capture interest.
Your email list is crucial to the health of your business (and the wealth of your wallet).
Instead of letting your list grow at a snail's pace like most entrepreneurs, give your opt-ins boost by including headline formulas in all of your opt-in opportunities:
Whether you’re offering an opt-in bribe in your Welcome Mat, or just inviting your visitors to subscribe, creating a swoon-worthy headline will boost your conversions like crazy.
Which would you rather subscribe to...
This offer that falls flat?
Or this opt-in worthy headline from BloggingTips.com?
I know which one I’d choose.
Let’s be honest for a second…
Pop-ups capture attention pretty well already. That’s why they’ve been known to double conversion rates.
So you might think they don’t need help from headline formulas to do their job, right?
Your List Builder absolutely does capture attention of your visitors. But it’s what you are offering that encourages them to enter their email addresses. And there’s no better way to describe what you’re offering than a powerful headline that packs a punch.
Your Smart Bar is meant to capture attention when somebody lands on your website - and therefore, capture emails as well.
Your lede (the opening paragraph for an article, sales page, or other written resource) is meant to capture interest, attention, and draw the reader down the page or screen.
You know what does just that?
You guessed it! Headline formulas.
While you most commonly see these headline formulas on things that support a headline-like format, you can harness their power into a great lede, too. In fact, great ledes often read like great headlines - or maybe vice versa.
For example, in this Xconomy article, the lede uses a strong headline formula (and actually would have made a far stronger headline than the one they chose):
When you’re writing the opening sentence or paragraph for your next post or sales page, consider how you can weave a headline formula into it.
Can you imagine how effective a testimonial would be if it had a badass headline attached to it?
You could use the Testimonial Headline as your headline formula for your...testimonials page (that was a mouthful). Or, you could use a different formula to draw attention to those solid testimonials you worked so hard to earn and obtain, like this LeadPages page demonstrates:
You could just identify your testimonials by titling them “Testimonials”. Or, you could use something like “Over 10,000 Customers Believe The Language System is the Best Way to Learn a New Language”.
Using the Social Proof headline like a boss.
One opportunity for interest, conversions, and sales that most people overlook is their product names.
We showed you how to use power words in your product names (and gave you 355 of them), but don’t just stop there. Use one of these headline formulas, too.
See how Kimra Luna does this with the Command Headline in her product name Rock it With Webinars?:
You don’t have to use a long headline formula in your product names, but you may be losing out on conversions and sales if you fail to capture your audience’s attention with a strong and compelling headline.
We just covered a lot of ground.
I demonstrated exactly how headlines are so effective; I gave you the properties of a strong headline. I went over every formula you’ll ever need to write a click-worthy headline. And then I showed you exactly where to use these formulas in your website and marketing.
But all of this was pointless if you do nothing with this information.
To start, choose one of the options in the list of places to use headline formulas from this post. Then, scan through the list of headline formulas to find one that resonates with you. Apply the formulas in your chosen area.
Don’t be afraid to test different formulas with different areas of application. Testing is the fun part!
Let me know in the comments below… what’s your favorite headline formula (or, do us one better and send over the best headline you’ve seen lately).