5 Tips to write great headlines

On 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.

 —David Ogilvy

In an ad, the headline determines everything.

It is why some copywriters are known to spend 50% of their time on just the headline.

Producing an attention-grabbing headline is perhaps the most essential part of writing copy. It’s also fun to create one.

The same concept applies to magazines, blogs, business articles, book chapters, and so on: The title is where your focus should be. You should begin and end every piece with the question: “Would this make me want to read on?”

If not, don't publish until you've got an attention-grabbing headline. Concentrate on this, and you'll get more readers, more stories, and of course, lots of love.

How To Create a Great Headline

Many times the headline is the most neglected part of writing an article or a blog. People just gleam over it without taking much time to consider it. According to their emotions, it's the cherry on top. Trust me; it's not. The headline is the ice cream.

From time to time, I go through titles for 30–60 minutes before settling on one that works. And I usually go back and change them. This is what it takes to write a great headline.

  1. Use numbers to give solid takeaways.
  2. Use emotional objectives to explain your reader's problem
  3. Use a distinctive rationale to demonstrate what the reader will get out of the article
  4. Use what, why, how, or when
  5. Make a bold promise

The invisible layout of a persuasive headline

Powerful headlines have three parts:

Pre-head. A short sentence which is at the top of the copy. Often including the people, you’re trying to reach. For example, Attention Dog Owners!

The main headline. The ad for your ad. This should make people want to read more.

Decks. Short bullets are introducing added benefits. All the components must work together and take directly into the first few paragraphs.

Writing a headline should be an easy and simple process.

Simple is clear.

The complex can be confusing and irritating — and confused readers don’t buy, they just leave.

Check out this video on how to write catchy headlines that convert:


1. Use numbers to give concrete takeaways

There's a good reason why so many copywriters use numbers in their headlines. It works.


Go to the grocery store, and scan the magazines in the checkout lane. Look at the front-page article headlines. It does not matter if it's a fitness magazine or a tabloid; almost everyone will be using numerals to begin the headline.

There aren't any rules (as far as I know) regarding what numbers work best, but people typically only remember three to five points. That said, sometimes, an unknown number like 19 or 37 can catch people's attention.

Warning: don't overuse numbers or use them arbitrarily. If your article has some key takeaways, adding a number to the headline can help make the takeaways more digestible. But if the article doesn't, stop, no need to force it.

2. Use emotional adjectives to narrate your reader's problem

Here are some examples:

  • Effortless
  • Painstaking
  • Fun
  • Free
  • Incredible
  • Essential
  • Absolute
  • Strange

3. Use an exclusive rationale to illustrate what the reader will get out of the article

If you're going to do a list post, always be original. For example, consider the following:

  • Reasons
  • Principles
  • Facts
  • Lessons
  • Ideas
  • Ways
  • Secrets
  • Tricks

If possible, never use things. Please, for the love of Pete, don't use something. You can do better than that.

4. Use what, why, how, or when

These are trigger words. I usually use “why” and “how” the most because I'm often trying to convince or enable someone. Usually, you will use either a trigger word or a number. Seldom it sounds good to use both.

5. Make a bold promise

Promise your reader something valuable. Will you teach them how to learn or master a new skill? Will you convince them to do something they have never tried before? Will you unlock an ancient mystery?

What you want to do is challenge your reader to read the article. Without over-promising, be bold. Be captivating. Be dangerous. And then deliver what you promised.

Try this formula

Here's a simple headline-writing formula:

Number or Trigger word + Adjective + Keyword + Promise

Example: Take the subject “bathing cats.” You could write an article entitled “How to Bath an Elephant” or “Why I Love Bathing Cats.”

Or you could apply this formula and make it: “18 Unbelievable Ways You Can Bathe a Cat In Your Shower

Another (more serious) example: Take a bold promise like “selling your car in a day.”

Apply the formula, and you get: “How You Can Easily Sell Your Car in Less than 24 Hours.

Be clear in what you’re writing.

People don't like to be tricked into reading something dull and monotonous; they want to read something interesting and engaging. Make it worth their while.

Take as much time to consider what type of headline will grab people's attention the most, and make sure that it narrates your content in an honest but attractive way. They won't regret it, and neither will you.

Make your writing easier by following Headline templates 

As soon as I finish my research and it’s time to write, I plan out a headline from one of the templates I’ve accumulated over the years. Many of these are from Dan Kennedy’s classic copywriting book, The Ultimate Sales Letter.

Following proven layouts that are simple to adapt to your own promotions. Yes, I give you the permission to borrow.

Before using a template, always keep in mind that headlines grab the attention of the candidate by:

  • Making a promise.
  • Drawing a picture.
  • Stating a fact.
  • Asking a question.

Let’s check out the template

Classic formulas

1. Are you ____________ ?

Are You Ready for the Most Thrilling Adventures in the Himalayas?

Important note about question headlines: I only use them when the answer is obvious to the reader. I never use open-ended question headlines.

2. “How I _______________”

How I Overcame My Cancer and Came Back in the Game of Life.”

3. “How to ______________”

As you observed, this template is a classic direct response copywriting formula. You can lop off the “how-to” if necessary.

How to Make the Perfect Coffee”

4. “Secrets of ____________”

“Secrets of Creating a Great App Revealed…”

5. “Millions, now ______________, even though they ________________.”

“Millions of aspiring investors are beating the ‘down market blues’ by listening to this Warren Buffets advice…even though they know nothing about stocks and bonds.”

6. “Warning: ___________________.”

A difficult one to use

“Warning: a simple change in the law will make it complicated to manufacture batteries. Here’s what you can do right now to keep making batteries…

7. “Give me _____________ and I’ll _________________.”

Give me 5 minutes right now and I’ll show you how to sell your car for the full value in the current complex market.”

8. “__________ Ways to ______________”

“50 Ways to Move on Right Now.”

The Collected Benefit Headline

When you want to highlight various important benefits, you can collect them as part of the headline. For example, this formula has converted admirably:

Great news for Fishermen!

“I’ve discovered a new fishing boat that’s perfectly priced and provides all these advantages…”

  • Super-comfortable for all-day fishing
  • Quick turns so you get to the fish faster
  • Cost-effective with fuel so you spend less on gas and more on bait
  • Great balance so it’s simpler to land the big fish

The Simple Benefit Headline.

Kiss Goodbye to your Knee Pain in Just 20 Minutes!

The Offer Headline

Buy one Jeans...get two free!

The Discount Headline

Save 50% on Groceries but only for 24 hours…

The News Style Headline

New Smartphones Selling for Just $199 but Only a Few Remain

The Bonus Headline

Free Shipping PLUS a Free JBL Bluetooth Speaker When You Purchase a New Laptop on Monday from Croma

The Testimonial Headline

Getting my diploma in Data Science from Dry Creek Community College helped me get a great job.”

Important Note: You can use this with a celebrity.

The Shocking Headline

37-year-old footballer dribble pasts 4 defenders and scores with a perfect finish wearing the revolutionary ADIDAS FOOTBALL X GHOSTED.4 FLEXIBLE GROUND BOOTS. He was about to retire last season but now he’s pummeling the young guys.

Headlines with ‘Free’

FREE VEG BURGER on Wednesday at Macy’s Kitchen in Churchgate.

The Guarantee Headline

An extremely effective headline—especially in the service space.

A personal guarantee from Robert Jones, owner of Nuclear Cockroach Services.

If a cockroach appears in your home up to three months after we provide our special ‘Nuclear Deterrent’ service, we’ll provide the service again absolutely free. AND write you a check for $200.”

In about 20 minutes of searching, you can find other headline templates but the ones mentioned above give you plenty of conversions horsepower.

In no less than 10 minutes of Google search, you can find other headline templates but the ones mentioned above provide plenty of conversion horsepower.