10 Classic Headline Formulas and Why They Work

In the digital world, you have about 7 seconds to get a reader’s attention. That’s why it’s essential to construct an attention-grabbing headline, regardless of whether you’re sending out emails, creating marketing copy, or writing a blog post.

But, what goes into crafting a copy writing headline?

The Anatomy of a Winning Headline

During searches, while looking at a content index, or browsing a page, headlines are one of the first things you see. When well-constructed, they draw the reader in and provide them with a brief overview of the post’s contents and topic.

But, it isn’t enough to just say “Here’s an article about [insert topic here]. Enjoy!”.

Within a very few words, and even fewer seconds, you have to create copy that compels the reader to want to dive deeper into the content, to learn more about the subject. Great headlines also help search engines make sense of your content so that it can be properly evaluated, ranked, and presented to your ideal audience.

In fact, the right headline can increase your traffic by up to 500%.

Headline writing is really pretty basic.

First, it should appeal to your target audience.

Next, it should offer them something of value. Whether that something is information or entertainment depends on your audience and the purpose for creating the content.

Lastly, you have to sex it up a little.

Not literally, of course. But, the headline should be alluring and interesting.

Here are the top 10 headline types and why they work.

1. “How to” Headlines

How many times have you encountered an issue in your life and turned to the internet to find a solution? When people search for content on the internet, it’s usually because they have a problem and they’re looking for answers.

The “How to” headline tells them in no uncertain terms that your content is going to tell them how to relieve a pain point. The more specific your how to subject, the more likely your content is to rank high and help your audience find it.

“How to Remove Red Wine Stains From a Carpet.”

How to Get Your Child to Eat Vegetables”

How to Improve Your Memory”

2. “Best” Headlines

Sometimes, it isn’t enough to know how to do something. You want to know the best way to get it done.

“Best Content Marketing Tips for 2021

“Best Vacation Ideas for for Summer”

Best Shoes for Hiking”

“Best Way to Organize Your Closet”

3. Listicle Headlines

Listicles, which are just content presented in a numbered list form, play to our need to make sense of things or keep track of them. You’ll recognize this type of headline because it usually has a number in it, such as the article you’re reading right now. You can even up the appeal of this type of headline by adding “Best” just before the number.

“10 Things You Need to Know Before School Starts”

“5 Best Hair Care Products”

“7 Surprising Things About Having a Baby”

4. “My Story” Headlines

Everyone loves a good story. It’s how we evaluate the world around us and relate to others. When done well, it inspires us or lets us know we’re not alone.

“How I Lost 100 Pounds in 6 Months”

“What I Learned When I Lost my Father”

“I Changed my Life and You Can, Too”

5. “Fastest” Headlines

Maybe your audience already knows how to do something, but they don’t necessarily want to know the best way. They want the fastest way. I mean, there are only so many hours in a day, amirite?

“Quick Tips to Get Those Nails in Shape”

“The Fastest Way to Improve Your Credit Score”

“Get Your Work Done in Half the Time”

6. Cost/Benefit Headlines

This type of headline tells readers what kind of benefit they’ll receive by simply putting in a little effort.

How You Can Quit Your Job and Earn More Money From Your Side Gig”

“Improve Your Life by Investing Just 25 Minutes a Day in This”

“Get More Web Traffic by Implementing This One Simple Tweak”

7. FOMO Headlines

No one wants to miss out on something new or exciting. Instill the fear of missing out in your headline if you want to create urgency in your audience.

“Why Waiting to Buy a Home is Big Mistake”

“How to Get in on the Craze That’s Sweeping the Country”

“Are You Overlooking This Big Tax Credit?

8. Problem-Solving Headlines

This is a variation of the how to, often with a little dash of “best” or “fastest”. However, this type of headline tackles a problem directly and promises a solution.

“Get Rid of Pests Once and for All”

“How to Beat a Migraine and Prevent the Next One”

“Break Bad Habits by Replacing Them With Healthy Ones”

9. The Warning Headline

Somewhere deep inside, we’re all sure that danger lurks around every corner. The warning headline is a way to grab the reader’s attention when you want to convey important information that could change – or save – a life.

“6 Early Warning Signs of Cancer”

“Is Your Boiler About to Blow? 5 Signs it’s Time for New One”

“Warning: Your Marketing Strategy is Outdated”

10. Headlines That Solve a Mystery

Everyone loves a good mystery, so why not use that fact to construct your next headline?

“Why 40,000 People Suddenly Quit Their Job”

“How 1961 Paved the Way for the Tech Bubble”

“The One Thing Your Should Never Say to Your Daughter”

Using the above headline writing techniques as a template, you can brainstorm endless variations of your own. Need a little help with your content marketing strategy? Consult with a digital marketing professional today.

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Today's Author

International SEO consultant is my title…but who cares about those? What I love is creating strategies that include marketing, social, SEO, relevance, ruffling feathers and starting revolutions. What you read on this blog will hopefully inspire you to continue the conversation. When I’m not multitasking around Level343 I sneak away and go sailing. I’m crazy about pistachios, and of course Nutella.

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