Content Marketing

The Ultimate Guide To Writing Incredible Headlines

By Reb Carlson February 7th, 2012

A headline might be the most important part of a blog post. It’s the first impression an article makes on prospective readers and is the determining factor of whether they bother to read it or not. In fact, eight out of 10 people read headline copy, but only two out of 10 read the rest of a post, according to Copyblogger.

These statistics are enough to scare any writer, but it only means that ample time should be given to writing a headline. Copyblogger refers to the 50/50 rule — a writer “should spend half of the entire time it takes to write a piece of persuasive content on the headline.”

Once you get used to cranking out awesome headlines, though, we’d bargain to say that it’s almost second nature. At least, we’re pretty sure the folks at The Huffington Post have mastered the art of headline writing. The publication’s provocative headlines have helped it boost traffic and become one of the most visited sites on the Internet. So, what’s the secret? Here are some starter tips:

  • The Huffington Post uses sensational headlines that are hard to believe, so you click through to the read the article.
  • It crowdsources some of its headlines from readers.
  • The Huffington Post knows how to harness Google by using terms that are trending at the time the article is published.
  • When The Huffington Post puts up a new story, it will often try out the post with two different headlines to see which one has a higher response rate.

Realizing the importance of great headline writing, we challenged ourselves to create the best roundup guides for writing incredible blog headlines. Below are some of the best resources in creating headlines, no matter your level of headline writing mastery.

Beginner Guide To Writing Headlines

For the inexperienced headline writer, we’d recommend reading the Magnetic Headlines series by Copyblogger. It will give you a great overview on why certain headlines work and get you on your way to writing catchier headlines.

  1. Why You Should Always Write Your Headline First
  2. The Cheater’s Guide to Writing Great Headlines
  3. Do Key Words in Post Titles Really Matter?
  4. How to Write a Killer “How To” Post That Gets Attention
  5. 7 Reasons Why List Posts Will Always Work
  6. Why Some People Almost Always Write Great Post Titles
  7. 10 Sure-Fire Headline Formulas That Work
  8. 9 Proven Headline Formulas That Sell Like Crazy
  9. 7 More Sure-Fire Headline Templates That Work
  10. Warning: Use These 5 Headline Templates at Your Own Risk
  11. The Art of Writing Great Twitter Headlines

Intermediate Application of Skills

After you have an idea of how to write a good headline, check out Entrepreneur-Journey’s guide on “How to Write Award Winning Blog Headlines” to understand why certain headlines work.

The guide points out top headline formats and why they work. Here’s a quick overview of what you’ll learn:

Top Headline Formats

  • The “How” Headline
  • The “Why” Headline
  • More Open Loops
  • The “Context Phrase: Headline”
  • The (Brackets) Headline
  • The List Headline

The Psychology Behind The Words

  • The Famous Name Technique
  • The Controversy Technique
  • Apply Alliteration And Cadence
  • Don’t Repeat Formats or Use Mainstream Phrases
  • People thrive on variety
  • Shorter Is Better
  • Avoid Passive Tense
  • Focus On The Reader
  • How About Keywords For Search Engines?

Advanced Practice of Headline Writing 

Once you understand what makes a headline work and why, here is a checklist to go through for every headline you write. Poynter’s “10 Questions to Help You Write Better Headlines” is definitely a resource worth bookmarking.

Here is a brief overview of the questions to ask, but for examples of each, read the full resource on Poynter.

  1. Is the headline accurate?
  2. Does it work out of context?
  3. How compelling a promise does it make?
  4. How easy is it to parse?
  5. Could it benefit from a number?
  6. Are all the words necessary?
  7. Does it obey the Proper Noun Rule?
  8. Would it work better as an explanatory headline?
  9. Does it focus on events or implications?
  10. Could it benefit from one of these 10 words? Top, Why, How, Will, New, Secret, Future, Your, Best, Worst.

Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned professional, it never hurts to double-check yourself to make sure your headlines are in tip-top shape.

Do you have a go-to headline writing resource bookmarked? If so, let us know about it in the comments below.

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