10 Sure-Fire Headline Formulas That Work

Magnetic Headline Formulas

So, you’re seeing too many of those “how to” and list headlines, and want to try a few different angles?

Let’s move beyond those common headline formulas you see over and over, and add some new blood to your attention-grabbing arsenal.

1. Who Else Wants [blank]?

Starting a headline with “Who Else Wants…” is a classic social proof strategy that implies an already existing consensus desire. While overused in the Internet marketing arena, it still works like gangbusters for other subject matter.

  • Who Else Wants a Great WordPress Theme?
  • Who Else Wants a Higher Paying Job?
  • Who Else Wants More Fun and Less Stress When on Vacation?

2. The Secret of [blank]

This one is used quite a bit, but that’s because it works. Share insider knowledge and translate it into a benefit for the reader.

  • The Secret of Successful Podcasting
  • The Secret of Protecting Your Assets in Litigation
  • The Secret of Getting Your Home Loan Approved

3. Here is a Method That is Helping [blank] to [blank]

Simply identify your target audience and the benefit you can provide them, and fill in the blanks.

  • Here is a Method That is Helping Homeowners Save Hundreds on Insurance
  • Here is a Method That is Helping Children Learn to Read Sooner
  • Here is a Method That is Helping Bloggers Write Better Post Titles

4. Little Known Ways to [blank]

A more intriguing (and less common) way of accomplishing the same thing as “The Secret of…” headline.

  • Little Known Ways to Save on Your Heating Bill
  • Little Known Ways to Hack Google’s Gmail
  • Little Known Ways to Lose Weight Quickly and Safely

5. Get Rid of [problem] Once and For All

A classic formula that identifies either a painful problem or an unfulfilled desire that the reader wants to remedy.

  • Get Rid of Your Unproductive Work Habits Once and For All
  • Get Rid of That Carpet Stain Once and For All
  • Get Rid of That Lame Mullet Hairdo Once and For All

6. Here’s a Quick Way to [solve a problem]

People love quick and easy when it comes to solving a nagging problem.

  • Here’s a Quick Way to Get Over a Cold
  • Here’s a Quick Way to Potty Train Junior
  • Here’s a Quick Way to Backup Your Hard Drive

7. Now You Can Have [something desirable] [great circumstance]

The is the classic “have your cake and eat it too” headline — and who doesn’t like that?

  • Now You Can Quit Your Job and Make Even More Money
  • Now You Can Meet Sexy Singles Online Without Spending a Dime
  • Now You Can Own a Cool Mac and Still Run Windows

8. [Do something] like [world-class example]

Gatorade milked this one fully with the “Be Like Mike” campaign featuring Michael Jordan in the early 1990s.

  • Speak Spanish Like a Diplomat
  • Party Like Paris Hilton
  • Blog Like an A-Lister

9. Have a [or] Build a [blank] You Can Be Proud Of

Appeal to vanity, dissatisfaction, or shame. Enough said.

  • Build a Body You Can Be Proud Of
  • Have a Smile You Can Be Proud Of
  • Build a Blog Network You Can Be Proud Of

10. What Everybody Ought to Know About [blank]

Big curiosity draw with this type of headline, and it acts almost as a challenge to the reader to go ahead and see if they are missing something.

  • What Everybody Ought to Know About ASP
  • What Everybody Ought to Know About Adjustable Rate Mortgages
  • What Everybody Ought to Know About Writing Great Headlines

Find these headline templates useful? Pick up our comprehensive ebook on Magnetic Headlines as well as a full content marketing library … for free. You can click here to learn how.

About the Author: Brian Clark is founder and CEO of Copyblogger Media. Get more from Brian on Twitter.

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Comments

  1. Nice post. Really simple stuff.

  2. Great article. I do get tired of the same old headlines.

    Thanks for the tips.

  3. Brian – great post and great blog. I’ve blogtipped
    you for August

  4. Have I mentioned yet how much I love this blog? Great stuff.

  5. Great list Brian! Other non-benefit types of headlines to try are:

    Testimonial: Heart Surgery May Be A Thing of the Past

    Skeptical: That’s Why I Told My Wife Brokerages Are a Waste of Money

    Suspicion: I Wonder If Scientists Really Can Control The Weather?

    Story: As They Got Closer We All Thought They Would Kiss

    There are a few other types of headlines that are equally effective. Try a few different styles and leads…have fun and test, test, test.

    Again, great list!

  6. Great tips Brian!

  7. Tap. Tap. Tap.

    I hesitated before writing this. I am a big fan of Copyblogger, but all I can say to this particular post is … ew?

    Do I really want to sound like a supermarket tabloid? “The Secret of Getting Your Home Loan Approved?” That’s even worse than a tabloid; that sounds like spam.

    Who reads headlines like this and believes them? “What everyone ought to know about making money fast?” Is that the type of audience you really want to attract? Or is that what you think of your current audience?

    These headlines distance you from your audience. They try to set you up as the rich expert who will provide the secrets of your success to the uneducated masses.

    It’s not that I don’t think that headlines should be snappy and intriguing; I do. And it’s not that I don’t think that presenting yourself as an expert is bad; I don’t. But I think a headline shouldn’t create so much space between you and the reader. It should work as a dialog, as a shared piece of news, or as a relationship. It should make the reader also feel smart, and that your advice is a new way of looking at something. Unless you’re really catering to tabloid readers.

    Not “Get Rid of Your Unproductive Work Habits Once and For All” but “Ten ways to help you get rid of unproductive work habits”, “How to get rid of unproductive work habits”, or simply “Getting rid of unproductive work habits”.

    Even if you are an expert, you don’t want to sound like you are Mr Big and they are the little ones. You have to leave room for the reader to feel like they are welcome to comment.

    Just my 2 cents.

    Yehuda

  8. Do what works for you Yehuda. The point that I’ve tried to make over and over is to *study* headlines that work, and all of the headlines that these “templates” are based on did, in fact, work. Quite well actually.

    In fact, you’re actually advocating a writing style that *you* like, rather than truly focusing on the reader. Your (or my) opinion doesn’t really matter when it comes to knowing what works and what doesn’t, because the only way to know what works for your readers is to test, not speculate.

    But everyone has their own style. No one’s forcing you to do anything. And the advice is still free. :)

  9. This style of headline absolutely reads like Cosmo, but hey, they grab attention! They also provide an instant structure for the reader.

    My sentiment is this style should be used with a healthy mix of headlines that don’t have that ring of marketing-speak to them. I don’t think Brian is telling us ALL of our headlines need to be of this ilk.

  10. Danny, absolutely. The great thing about blogging is you can experiment, and no single post is going to make or break you. Take what you learn and craft your own more subtle headlines, and don’t feel like every post has to have a “formula” type title.

    I’m even a bit tired of them from writing this series. :)

    But when you have a really great post that you hope will get above-average attention, it pays to take the time to apply a headline structure that has been proven to work.

  11. Just about every copywriter in the world will tell you you’re wrong, Dan. And when it comes down to pure word choice and sentence structure, creativity doesn’t matter that much. Your creativity comes into play when developing the story you’re trying to tell in the first place.

    And again people, these are examples to *learn* from. I’ve given about 25 examples in the Magnetic Headlines series, and will be doing periodic headline “remixes” in the future. But the key point is to become a *student* of headlines. Formulas are just handy ways to understand what words and structures people find attractive.

  12. Who else wants to annoy a customer by using the same formula everyone else is using?

    Honestly guys, using canned formula wording just tells me that the author is a copier and has no creativity.

    Just write something- then read it and see if makes you want to know more. All the headline is supposed to do is get people to click on that link. It’s not that hard.

  13. I liked this list, and I am a sucker for the headline “The Secret to …” despite blogging extensively against it when used as a deceptive practice. But I still cannot resist knowing yet another secret.

  14. Great list. I hate the idea that these formulas get me in. I also know that we are all not that much different under the skin, or that much different from our grandparents. If we want to write for ourselves we can use whatever headlines we want, but if we want an audience and especially if we want sales then it’s smart to use what works.

  15. I think I see where this argument is coming from. To the business oriented blogger, traffic and the sales, ad revenue, or general notoriety it brings are the ultimate objective. If one headline brings more traffic or converts more visitors, then it’s “better,” regardless of how corny it sounds.

    But to some bloggers, it’s more about self-expression or finding your voice. Effectiveness is still a concern, but it’s ultimately secondary to being genuine. If a headline pollutes that genuine voice, that it’s considered unacceptable, regardless of the effectiveness.

    On the one hand, I agree with you: effectiveness is extremely important to any business venture, including blogging. On the other, as I get older, I start caring more about fulfillment and expressing myself through work than the money it makes. I write plenty just for the enjoyment of it.

    In the end, I suppose it depends on your objectives as a blogger.

  16. Yep Jon, I think you’re right. Even though this blog has always been aimed at people looking to ultimately “sell” with their blogs (says so right up top), I’ve attracted a lot of other types of bloggers as well.

    And I’m glad that they are here — don’t get me wrong. But I guess I wish they would realize the commercial focus of this blog, and cut me a break on the days when something rubs them the wrong way. People are free to express themselves any way they want to, even if it’s bitching at me for doing nothing more than delivering what I promised to do with this blog from day one. :)

  17. Thanks Brian, I’m currently writing a salespage for a new product so this post is perfect for me.

    Andrew

  18. I was surprised at how many people seemed to raise their noses in the air at the type of headline writing you suggested for sales professionals.

    Frankly, it works. I know you know that, as I do. But I question the people who reply with comments like “it seems like a supermarket tabloid” style of headline and copy writing. Nothing could be further from the truth. This style is great for salespeople who want to make a more immediate, emotional connection with their prospects and customers through great headline writing.

    For those of you who don’t believe in it, fine…but those of us who are respected business and sales professionals, and use creative copywriting like this to build our own little empires, will stick with the format thank you very much.

    Great tips…I’ve recommended your blog at LandingTheDeal.com and linked back to your post.

  19. Awesome… Simple stuff…………..
    Great Job!

    Mark
    http://www.InternetVideoPro.com
    http://www.MyVMworld.biz

  20. who else want to beat your headlines. I love your writing so much.

  21. I’ve got to agree with Yehuda’s earlier comment … both that I generally find your posts insightful, and that I’m not so sure about the formulaic headlines.

    The key, I think, is the “…That Work” at the end of this post’s headline. To the degree that the headline is an attention getter whose purpose is to get the potential reader to click the link, you’re probably right; titles which appeal to those core human desires buried way down on the brainstem are likely to trigger more clicks, leading (in theory) to more customers.

    But a blog post, commercial or otherwise, is the starting point for a conversation. If the post’s title smells other-than-genuine, I’m going to be disinclined to dig deeper, and I don’t think I’m alone in this respect. If getting your headline to *work* means growing a community of regular readers and active discussion participants (read: customer base), I see a benefit in baiting the hook with something less canned and more remarkable.

    Then again, I’ll be the first to acknowledge that I’m *way* out on the Long Tail, myself. :)

  22. Prescott, this headline works because of “10″ “sure-fire,” the subject matter (headlines) and “that work.” All tried, true, and, in your book, unremarkable.

    I won’t bore you with the number of bookmarks, links, visitors, new subscribers, and page views this post has generated.

    The point is, you’re here, you read, and you’re adding to the conversation.

    Mission accomplished.

  23. The more I read “how to write a good title” article/post, the more convinced I am that the titles are not for the reading people. How attractive is a headline to a seasoned blogger: “Eight tips on how to improve your AdWords conversions and bid costs at a time”? They may be attractive for people looking for a solution, but not for experienced Web readers. Switching to normal random titles for good.

    I guess, and the discussion above goes along this way, too, that it depends on the purposes you want to achieve with your headline. If you use it for a sales page, sure, fire anything you’ve got from the list. But if your target audience is more or less sophisticated, you don’t need to be a salesperson to provide great content.

    Any rule can only be applied to the situation it was derived from. Any other, different, situations will, most likely, be exceptions.

  24. Cheers to Brian…Headline Headliner
    Head and shoulders above the rest.
    More meat on the bone than 99% of blogs.
    I love eating here :)

  25. I shall use them all!

  26. the articles of Brian were great. in fact if you are just starting to appreciate copywriting, these are the articles you need to read first. it creates enthusiasm to continue learning it…kudos to you Brian…