Headlines are the first step in customers engaging with your marketing content. In this article, I’ll share 5 rules for writing them, and formulas in which to apply them. Effective headlines get viewers reading your blog posts, emails, or clicking on your ads. From there, it’s the job of your content to build trust and sell to your audience, but that won’t happen if they don’t click first.
Marketing Expert Neil Patel presents 5 guidelines to writing headlines in this video. They can be applied to the headline formulas presented later in this article.
- Write and Test Multiple Headlines: If you’re running ads or sending emails, write multiple headlines for them and A/B test them. Track which headlines get better click-through rates, and use them as models for future headlines.
2. Be Specific: You’ll need to thoroughly research your target market beforehand and find out what specific problems they need solving. Also, be exact with your numbers and/or results. “How I saved $1,382 on Insurance” looks much more authoritative than “Save over $1000.”
3. Use Words That Drive Action: As a business, you want customers to buy from you. That means you need to motivate them, so solve their problems, make them excited, and give them a path to doing business.
4. Be Creative With Adjectives: This just means, don’t be boring. Use words that grab attention, show confidence, and are fresh and not overused.
5. Timely Information/Sense of Urgency: Headlines need to address the current circumstances of readers. This might be affected by current events or trends, but they can also be seasonal, or based on age or life events. Another way time impacts your headlines is urgency. People may have a fear of missing out, or they may not be motivated to act unless there is a time limit on your offer.
“How To___”: This is the most basic headline, and several other examples are variations of it. You’re addressing your audience’s pain points in this opener. Dan Lok notes that people are more often motivated to ease their pain than to pursue something positive.
“Mistakes So-And-So Make”: Continuing with the idea of relieving pain, this headline alerts readers to mistakes and pitfalls they would want to avoid. The way to avoid those mistakes, ideally, is by buying from you, hiring you, or reading your article and trusting you in the future.
“The Real Secret to ___”: A variation on “How To ___,” this is an example of creativity with your words. This headline entices readers with an exclusive benefit for reading your article or opting in to your emails. Alternatively, it may sound revolutionary, like making the secrets of the elites available to the masses.
“The Way To ___”: Again with the “How To___” example, this headline implies a process. There are further variations on this formula, such as “the fastest way, “the best way,” and “the new way.” These play on timeliness and urgency, and they drive action. You can also use, “Here’s a shortcut for ___”
“How I did ___”/ “Allowed me to ___”/ “How they did ___”: This is a powerful headline formula because it combines “How To” with social proof. If you or someone else has gotten positive, provable results from a business or product, that makes it easier to promote. If you’re new to your business, or otherwise don’t have personal experience with your process, you can point to other people who have. This headline also sets your content up for storytelling, which is a very effective strategy.
“I have a question about your ___”: This headline uses your own curiosity to spark curiosity in your reader. This is a good email subject line to a single prospect, perhaps someone you have studied or had contact with already. The headline can say, “I have a question about your website,” or “about your air conditioning.” You can offer to improve whatever your prospect has in the body content of the email.
Numbered Lists: This is a fun one because it promises content that’s easy to read. Your list can spell out a process, offer guidelines, or list products you want to sell. Some examples are, “3 strategies,” “5 steps to ___,” “9 hacks for ___,” “15 best apps.” This type of headline is great for blog articles and lead magnets for email opt-ins.
Benefit Builders: This is something Jason Whaling suggests in his video. These are modifiers for the previous examples that let you get more specific. They include, “in ___ minutes/days/weeks,” “even if/without,” “so you can___.” Your headline can read, “How to paint your living room in less than 3 hours,” or “The Secret To Texting Girls Without Being Creepy.” Benefit builders have a way of offering solutions while addressing people’s objections.