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Catchy headlines can make or break your content. There are infinite ways to write a headline. You can combine the principles of headlines to get even more possibilities. In the following post, I will give you tips and tricks have proven themselves for many years. Next time you have to write a catchy headline, use these easy and powerful headline formulas.
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Great headlines give you an edge and convince your audience to read and respond to your copy. These headline examples will inspire you to get creative and write headlines that work for you.
Good headlines will make people click your content. They will also read longer and share even without reading.
On the average, 5 times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent 80 cents out of your dollar. – David Ogilvy
First I will start with seven general principles:
1. Keep it simple and direct
Direct headline goes straight to the heart of the matter. Do not try to sound intriguing or clever. Direct headlines don’t try to explain, play with words, or make a joke. Get to the point! Use for strong offers bringing out clear benefits of products and services.
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2. State clearly what’s the big benefit
Always transform the benefit that your post offers into a headline. The readers want to satisfy a certain need. The promise in your headline motivates them to click and read. The headline has to convince them that tour content contains the answers. Put the big benefit in your headline, and they will read your copy. To create a headline like this you need to know your target audience. The result is that even if they don’t visit your website, they’ve at least seen your best selling point.
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3. Announce exciting news
It’s in our nature to be curious. Bring the exciting news to your readers in the headline, and it will grab their attention. What you discuss in the post doesn’t have to be a new topic it can just be a new way of presenting existing material. Cover recent events, with images, takeouts, interviews, etc.
The same applies when writing headlines for product or service advertising copies. You can introduce new options, offers, discounts, and pricing strategies. Write attractive headlines that imply news to the reader.
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4. Appeal to you reader’s “how-to” instinct in the headline
Most people want to improve their life in some way. You can write a headline that focuses on these needs and wants we have and promise to fulfill them. Make sure the headline highlights the final benefit or result.
Do not include the process into the headline since it tends to sound like a lot of work. Target the end result and reader’s real motivations.
Headline examples: instead of How to start a full-time home job? write How to make money while working from home?
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- Write headlines that make people share your content
5. Ask a provocative question in the headline
Questions get your readers involved. Using questions in a headline can’t be random or clever. A question in the headline should relate directly, and to the story, your post tells. In the case of products and services, you offer the question needs to tie into their major benefits.
Questions in the headline should make the reader answer with Yes!
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6. Tell your reader what to do
Create a headline with a command in it! Be direct, provide a benefit, and tell your readers what they need to do in a way that’s acceptable to them. These headlines aren’t conversational and have proven very effective. Commands make people ask “why.” So you have to command them to do something to get a benefit.
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7. Offer useful information
You might think that people are eager for more information. This isn’t completely true. What readers want isn’t more information. They want results and solutions to the issue at hand. Practical tricks, steps, hints, rules that lead to results, a sense of order and predictability. Something that will help them reach their goals.
Your readers will appreciate if you offer value in the headline and deliver as promised in the content.
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One more thing before we continue! There’s an awesome tool from coschedule.com that helps you hone your headlines to perfection: Blog Post Headline Analyzer. But that’s not all! If you want concrete examples and formulas to create catchy headlines I will show you 9+1 simple formulas to create killer headlines that work every time:
9 Formulas to Create Awesome Headlines + You
Interestingly, a lot of your shares come from people who just read the catchy title. What makes the headline informative and intriguing enough for people to click and share? There are repeatable formulas for that.
Make your headline to stand out and make people click. Here are nine formulas that help you write headlines that make people pay attention, read more, and share.
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1. Who else wants [something]?
A classic headline format that is built on social proof. By beginning with “who else wants” you show that people already do want.
- Who else wants to work less and get paid more?
- Who else wants a free social media marketing training?
- Who else wants to work from home and get $500 per day?
2. [Number] Secret(s) of [something]
Another great headline formula is playing on your curiosity. Who wouldn’t want to know the secret? The reader assumes that they get access to inside information and this makes the headline work.
- Secret of successful blogging
- Secret of effective time management
- 10 Secrets of better search engine rankings
3. Here’s how [somebody] [does something]
Simple, straightforward, personal. Make readers recognize themselves by replacing [somebody] with your target audience. Make sure [something] is a benefit they want to achieve.
- Here’s how marketers get results from social media
- Here’s how women can look younger
- Here’s how you can get more leads.
4. [Number] Little known methods [to do something]
Similar to the “secrets” and “how to” but works on the idea that if it’s little know then you may get an advantage over the people who do not know.
- Little known methods to gain more followers
- 8 little-known methods to avoid stress
- Little known method to reduce your gas consumption
5. [Number] quick solution (or ways) to [something]
Instant gratification! Most people want things to happen yesterday and headlines that promise fast results get our attention.
- 5 quick ways to fix your search engine rankings
- Fast solutions to your money problems
- 10 quick methods to get rid of spam comments
6. Now you can have [good thing] and [other good thing]
These are two good things that have not been previously possible together. Who wouldn’t want the cake and eat it, too?
- Now you can have your Mac and use Chrome
- Now you can eat more and lose weight
- Now you can beat the pros without hard work
7. How to do [something] like [world class example]
Identify what your target audience wants and combine that with the best example. You can also use a number in this headline to give a list of more than one way of doing things.
- How to blog like Seth Godin
- How to dominate the market like Microsoft
- How to sing like Robbie Williams
8. All you need to know about [something]
This headline implies that there’s not much effort involved and intrigues people to find out more.
- All you need to know about Facebook advertising
- Everything you need to know about getting fit
- All that you need to know about writing headlines
9. [Number] [superlative] [something]
People love lists! Lists are easy to scan and read. List of X best things works like a magnet if you know what your audience is interested in.
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10. Add You!
Here’s a bonus idea that will make all these headlines even better: make the headlines personal by adding just one little word – you.
Find out more about headlines, titles and copywriting here:
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Image: “Funny Camden Chronicle headline MACHETE ATTACK MANIAC HUNTED” by Cory Doctorow
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by John Floyd
So what's in a title? Is it really that important?
You bet it is. Would you rather your job resume say "salesperson" or "marketing representative"? "Clerk" or "service specialist"? "Repairman" or "technician"? One sounds commonplace; the other sounds impressive.
Let's go a step further. Imagine Boys' Life billed as Youth Experiences. Or Nightline as Ted's Late News Roundup. Loses a little something, right? And it's hard to picture 007 introducing himself as "Dinkins. Arnold Dinkins."
The same thing applies to story titles. An enjoyable short story or novel might never get read by the public (or, more to the point, by an editor or agent) if the title doesn�t do its job. In the publishing world, a good title is like a good opening paragraph: it should be interesting. It should attract the reader's attention. At the very least, it should be appropriate to the rest of the piece.
And remember this, too: the title will be what represents your work to the rest of the world, now and forever. When people see your story in bookstores or in an anthology, take it the beach with them, and talk about it to their friends the next day, the first thing they'll read or speak will be the words in your title. Choose it wisely.
But that's pretty vague advice. The question is, how do you do it? What makes a good title?
A Few Rules of Thumb:
Titles should not be dull. When you browse a shelf full of novels, or a collection of short stories, aren't you drawn first to the more unusual titles? So are editors, when they look over a stack of submissions. Not that "The House" or "The Tree" won't be a good story; but titles with a bit more originality stand a better chance. Examples: Gone with the Wind, The High and the Mighty, "The Tin Star," The Silence of the Lambs, The Maltese Falcon, Watership Down, "The Snows of Kilimanjaro," Fahrenheit 451, The Color Purple, Atlas Shrugged.
Titles should be easy to remember. It's hard to tell a neighbor or a colleague about a story if the title's too long and complicated, or hard to pronounce. It's a good idea to keep things clear and simple. You might consider Murder on the Wzcyiubjekistan Express the best writing you've ever done, or The Tallahatchie Backroad Honky-Tonk Boogie your literary masterpiece, but I doubt either of them would sell. They probably wouldn't ever make it out of the editor's slush pile.
Titles should be appropriate. Don't name your science fiction story "Trouble at Dodge City" just because that's what the starfleet crew calls your space station. Editors will think you've written a Western. Similarly, Lawrence Block mentions, in one of his books on writing, a Charles McGarry espionage novel called The Secret Lovers. Block says its title (which refers to spies, who love secrets) led some readers to believe it would be a romance instead. Examples of titles that "fit" their subjects: Raise the Titanic, The Firm, "A Rose for Emily," The Caine Mutiny, Presumed Innocent, Love Story, In Cold Blood, Riders of the Purple Sage, The Amityville Horror.
That should help you narrow the field a bit as you try to decide on the right title for your story. But the question remains: How exactly do you find a good title? Where do you begin your search?
A Few Sources to Jog the Imagination:
- A title can be a popular expression. Gone for Good, Something's Gotta Give, The Horse's Mouth, The Usual Suspects, Good As Gold, The Whole Nine Yards.
- A title can be a play on words. (Sometimes a "twist" of an existing expression.) Burglars Can Be Choosers, The Cancelled Czech, You Only Live Twice, Live and Let Die, The War Between the Tates, A Hearse of a Different Color.
- A title can have a hidden meaning, later revealed in the story. The Green Mile, Rain Man, Dances with Wolves, Catch-22, Hearts in Atlantis, Cool Hand Luke, The Shipping News.
- A title can come from an existing work. (The Bible, Shakespeare, etc.) The Grapes of Wrath, The Sound and the Fury, The Sun Also Rises, Absalom, Absalom, All That Glitters, Something Wicked This Way Comes.
- A title can be a person's name. Hannibal, Goldfinger, Carrie, Hondo, Rebecca, Doctor Zhivago, Shane, Forrest Gump.
- A title can be a place name. Cold Mountain, Cimarron, Peyton Place, Jurassic Park, Lonesome Dove, Mystic River.
- A title can be a possessive. Portnoy's Complaint, Angela's Ashes, The Optimist's Daughter, Charlotte's Web.
- A title can be an association of ideas. Often these are words that have a "double meaning," and refer to more than one thing in a story. The Eye of the Needle, The Dead Zone, Misery, Silver Bullet, Lie Down with Lions.
- A title can be an "event" or "activity." (Use "ing" in the first word.) Pleading Guilty, Romancing the Stone, Waiting to Exhale, "Riding the Bullet," Raising Helen, Finding Nemo.
- A title can be a memorable line from the story itself. To Kill a Mockingbird, Tell No One, Sleepless in Seattle, The Eagle Has Landed, They Shoot Horses, Don't They?
- A title (if long) can have a "rhythm." Another kind of "play on words," this makes a longer title more pleasing to the ear--and easier to remember. The Spy Who Came In from the Cold, The Sins of Rachel Cade, At Play in the Fields of the Lord, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia.
- A title (if it fits the story) can be simple. Jaws, Shogun, Cathedral, The Exorcist, Ragtime, Lolita, Deliverance, Airport, "The Swimmer," Roots, Centennial, It, The Godfather.
In fact, it has been said that most titles on bestseller lists are no more than three words long. (But they have to be the right words.)
A number of famous writers have come up with a way to make their titles do extra work for them. How? They create titles that follow a pattern unique to their particular "series" of stories.
- Janet Evanovich uses numbers: One for the Money, Two for the Dough, Three to Get Deadly, Four to Score.
- Sue Grafton uses letters of the alphabet: A is for Alibi, B is for Burglar, C is for Corpse, D is for Deadbeat.
- For James Michener, it was one-word titles: Chesapeake, Space, Hawaii, Caribbean, Alaska.
- John D. MacDonald chose colors: The Lonely Silver Rain, The Dreadful Lemon Sky, The Long Lavender Look.
- John Sandford's trademark is the word "prey": Silent Prey, Mind Prey, Mortal Prey, Sudden Prey.
- Martha Grimes used names of English pubs: The Old Silent, The Dirty Duck, The Old Contemptibles, The Anodyne Necklace.
- Robert Ludlum's thrillers had three-word titles: The Bourne Identity, The Matarese Circle, The Rhinemann Exchange.
- James Patterson chooses nursery rhymes: Roses are Red, Jack and Jill, Three Blind Mice, Along Came a Spider.
This kind of approach is of course not required to sell or publish your books and stories. But, especially if you've considered writing a series, it never hurts to have a recognizable "signature" of some kind, a bright flag that your fans can look for in the bookstore. Titles can provide that.
And don't worry too much about giving your stories titles that have already been used. At least on that piece of literary ground, you're on firm footing.
Titles are not copyrightable. If your title is fairly common, and doesn't deal with the same subject matter as another story with the same name, you shouldn't run into any legal problems. I once wrote and submitted a short mystery called "Nothing but the Truth," and didn't realize until after it was accepted and published that that same title had been used before, by at least one other author.
But that should not be done intentionally. Why run the risk of confusing a reader into thinking your story is someone else's? Besides, you don't want the reading public (or your potential editors) to think you're unoriginal. It's just as easy to come up with a new title as to re-use an existing one--and a lot more satisfying.
Whatever the source for your inspiration and whatever title you choose, remember that it needs to be a perfect fit for your story. If it isn't (and even, sometimes, if it is), it can get changed.
Unless you're a well-known author, the title of your accepted novel is likely to be changed prior to publication, and editors sometimes change the titles of short stories as well. Most of my published stories have retained their original titles, but seven of my nineteen short stories in Woman's World were renamed by the editors before the issues containing those stories appeared on the stands. Were the new titles better? Who knows. But Woman's World's editorial staff are probably familiar with what their readers like, and want. And history will show that changed titles are sometimes a good thing. Case in point: the original title for The Great Gatsby was Trimalchio in West Egg. Yuk.
Since changes are known to occur, should you submit several alternate titles along with your novel or story? No. Select the best title you can, and leave it at that. Sending in a list of second-string choices makes you appear indecisive, and less confident.
But does the fact that the editor may change your title mean you shouldn't spend a lot of time creating a good one of your own? Absolutely not. According to Pat Kubis and Bob Howland in The Complete Guide to Writing Fiction and Nonfiction, "You need a good title to attract an editor's eye. Remember, it's the first thing he or she sees of your work--and the editor who likes your title will begin reading your manuscript in an optimistic frame of mind."
And we writers need every advantage we can get . . .
- Seduce Your Reader with the Perfect Title, by Anne Marble
- Titles for Your Texts - Victoria Grossack
- Titles Sell Books! by Judy Cullins
- What Every Writer Needs to Know About Article Titles - Julie K. Cohen
This article may not be reprinted without the author's written permission.
Mississippi writer John Floyd has sold morethan 500 short stories and fillers to 100+ publications, includingStrand Magazine, Grit, Woman's World, Alfred Hitchcock's MysteryMagazine, and Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. His stories have beennominated for both the Pushcart Prize and the Derringer Award.