The Cosmo Headline Technique for Content Inspiration

Beyonce Cosmopolitan Cover

Ever come up completely blank for a blog topic?

You’re itching to get a quality post out, something that attracts attention and enhances your blogging profile. But you just can’t seem to come up with anything compelling.

Here’s a technique that may work for you, and you’ll owe your success to that bastion of respectable women’s journalism, Cosmopolitan.

Back during the Magnetic Headlines series, I wrote an article entitled Why You Should Always Write Your Headline First. The idea is that your headline makes a promise that your sales copy or content must fulfill, so a smartly written article headline tells you exactly what the content must provide to the reader in order to keep the promise you made.

Writing your headline first might not work for everyone, but you can get ideas for articles and posts by looking at compelling headlines and adapting them to match your topic.

That’s where Cosmo comes in.

It doesn’t have to be Cosmo, of course. Stop by a news stand and check out the headlines on the cover of any consumer-oriented magazine. They’re all written by pros who make good money getting people to pick up periodicals and drop them in the grocery basket.

I like Cosmo because the subject matter is so lurid, it makes things fun. So let’s see what blog topics we can come up with from the December 2007 issue of Cosmopolitan, and hand them out to various bloggers to see if they can come up with the corresponding post.

Cosmo Headline – “The 22 Best Relationship Tips Ever”

Hey, Brian Gardner… can you write us this post?

My 22 Best Design Tips Ever

Feel free to change the number if you need to, but I’m betting you’ve got 22.

Cosmo Headline – “Guys Spill: White Lies They Tell Women All the Time”

Jim Cronin, dare to write this one?

Realtors Revealed: The Little White Lies We Tell Clients (And How to Stop)

Remember, I used to be a broker, so I’ll know if you’re holding back. :-)

Cosmo Headline – “Get Ahead Faster: 12 Brilliant (and Slightly Badass) Ways to Do It”

As I recall, Ryan Holiday is an avid runner. I run only if chased, but I’d still like to see this one:

Run Faster: 12 Effective (and Slightly Badass) Ways to Just Do It

Bonus points if one of the tips involves smoking while sprinting (you’ll understand that one when you visit Ryan’s blog).

Cosmo Headline – “Your Sexual Health: Crucial New Facts Your Gyno Forgot to Mention”

Hey Roberta Rosenberg, where ya been? How about this as a Copyblogger guest post?

Headline Help: Crucial Tips That Brian Clark Forgot to Mention

The things I won’t endure to motivate guest writers are getting fewer and farther between.

Cosmo Headline – “A Shocking Thing 68% of Chicks Do in Bed”

I got a bit stuck on this one, and had to actually read the article. It’s a sex survey of women that reveals all sorts of interesting information.

68% huh?

Sweet.

What About You?

Can you take one of these Cosmo headlines and apply it your blog topic? If so, write it up and drop your link in the comments here.

For more on headlines, check out the Magnetic Headlines series.

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Reader Comments (243)

  1. says

    Work, work, and more work – that’s where I’ve been. Some of it on my next Maven Makeover (look for it this week!)

    And why do I get the gyno thing … is it because I’m the only girl on the list?

    Anyway, you’re on! (Hanukkah starts tomorrow eve and I’m on latke duty,) but the challenge is my first priority for Wednesday.

    Now if if I can just extricate myself from these stirrups ….

  2. says

    Your series of articles on striking headlines have opened my mind towards a different way of thinking while writing.

    I used to write 3 word headlines which now look not only confusing to me but also dull. Now I have started to write headlines like how to… and 7 ways …. They re not perfect yet but they look more attractive for sure.

    Thnks for this one. cosmo headlines definitely succeed in forcing me to open the magazine. But I never thought of getting blog inspiration from that…
    way to go..

  3. says

    Hey, no holding back. What exactly do 68% of women do in bed? My subscription to Cosmo expired unfortunately.

    Every time I’m in the checkout line at the Supermarket I read the headlines on the magazines for inspiration. Oprah’s magazine usually has good titles.

  4. says

    Well, I’ve been using this technique for ages … it works regularly for me … It works for posts as well, but it takes some more care …

    ———————————————————–
    http://www.newmediatype.com – web entrepreneur’s blog..

  5. says

    I was awake in the middle of the night, new and better headlines crowding the pillow. I was forced out of the cozy zone and to the computer.
    Thanks for the inspiration on headlines though I hope it doesn’t keep me from sleeping!
    Cynthia

  6. says

    And here I thought Cosmo never offered anything worth reading! 😉

    I really like the headline formulas you’ve picked out here – I once read somewhere that it should take you half the time you wrote the post (or more) to develop a killer headline. I’ve always had trouble with “grabbing” headlines, unfortunately.

    So I’ve decided to take your challenge… It’s not *exactly* the formula of the Cosmo headlines you’ve supplied, but very close:

    5 traits of successful people and how to apply them in your life

    Chanel
    chanelwood.com

  7. says

    Let’s face it, “22 Best Tips” for anything but relationships is not the same as “A shocking thing 68% of chicks do in bed.” Some fields are better suited to this approach than others. Hmmm… I’d need something like “Sex, Drugs, and Lost Dogs: Character Education in Middle School Unveiled.” Or maybe “12 Shocking Ways to Get Teens Really Excited about Math.” “Eureka: Things Philosophers Have Thought Up While Naked.” Okay. I think I’m getting the hang of it.
    My blog would definitely be banned in schools if I did that, though.

  8. says

    Rebecca, the idea is to take the structure and then make it tone-appropriate for your subject matter. For example:

    12 Easy Ways to Get Teens Excited About Math

    Eureka: A Real Life Guide to Practical Application of Major Philosophical Principles

    And so on… Anyone can use this technique, as long as they have an open mind about it.

  9. says

    Hey Brian, that’s a really useful piece of advice.

    I don’t know if this has already been mentioned or not… but you can access just about any magazine cover you want without leaving your chair.

    Just go to:

    http://www.magazines.com

    And click on the covers.

    You’ll get the current month cover of any magazine they sell — including Cosmo.

  10. says

    Hey Brian,

    It’s definitely a great headline “cheat sheet”.

    Another one is to go to google.com, click on “images” and then type in “Cosmo”. That’ll also give you a bunch of good headlines to look at.

    Both those resources make finding great headline ideas super fast and easy.

  11. says

    Ben, that is a fantastic tip, thanks so much for posting it!

    And thanks to Brian for this inspiration, as that ad agency post has been getting a lot of nice attention.

  12. says

    Okay, Brian … here’s my headline:

    “Your Copy Career : Mega Performance Secrets Your Creative Director Forgot to Mention … But These Porn Stars Will!”

    I didn’t call my post this because I didn’t want salacious Google Adsense ads appearing :=)

    In Praise of Older Women: Reframe the Perception, Refresh the Persona »

  13. says

    Anything with CIA in it is a Cosmo headline I suspect…

    Here is one attempt, heading up the recent waterboarding interview techniques reported by the Washington Post recently.

    “We are Better Behaved These Days” – CIA

  14. says

    Thanks for the tips. This technique made the posts almost write themselves! Here’s one from my blog
    Debt Collectors Revealed — Five Lies We Tell Consumers (And How To Stop Them)

  15. says

    Your (Employee) Engagement Guaranteed! Ask and Answer These 4 Questions.

    That’s the title. It’s a takeoff on Cosmopolitan’s online “Your Orgasm — Guaranteed!
    We have seven positions that have been tweaked and tailored by sex experts to help you reach the peak every single time — plus, a few extra tricks so the road to bliss is even more of a sure thing.”

    Whew.

  16. says

    Great article and so inspiring! Love the approach, next to finding it seriously entertaining. Especially good to overcome the seriousness one can drop into when feeling all creativity is dried up. Thanks!

  17. says

    I’m a new reader who just completed the Cosmo remix so I thought I’d go back into your archives and complete the original challenge. I changed the number to 25 because I couldn’t restrain myself.

    The 25 Best Pedicure Tips Ever

    I’m usually reject the urge to make unsubstantiated claims like “best” in my content out of hand, but I have to admit: “The 25 Pretty Darn Good Pedicure Tips At Least Some of Which You Probably Haven’t Heard of Before” just isn’t as catchy.

  18. Mary Sheahan says

    Assuming you find at least one appropriate survey or study –or can create one — that “shocking” headline would work great in our industry! Try these on for size:

    “A Shocking Thing xx% of Telecommuters Do on the Clock” …for an ethics article.

    “A Shocking Thing xx% of Writers Do When They’re Behind Schedule” …for an article on improving your efficiency.

    “A Shocking Thing xx% of Reviewers Do With Your Documents” …for an article about working with engineers & product managers.

    I can’t wait to try writing email subject headers this way…

  19. says

    I try to keep away from magazines like Cosmo as much as possible, but their headlines are really good. Thanks for putting those headlines together – they’ve given me some ideas without having to dig through that glossy.

  20. says

    Is it a coincidence that Perry Marshall also uses Cosmo for great headlines? Luckily for me my girlfriend has a bunch of these mags laying around so I don’t have to buy them myself. haha.

  21. says

    Wow! Those are excellent. I’ve got a few blog posts scheduled to go up. I’m going to tweak the titles using these examples and work on the content a little more to suit the titles. This is a great challenge.

  22. says

    i think its really good thing to make a good headline
    but if have a web site or blog with more competitive topic then how can i optimize my headline..help me i have no traffic to blog..

  23. says

    What a great idea–find an article title that makes you want to read it, then reuse it, but apply it to my niche. Brilliant. I’m learning that the idea of copying other people is not as bad as I was taught it was as a child–the key to doing it in an “okay” way, or rather, to making it work for me rather than against me, is to hone the skill of making somebody else’s idea my own, of putting my own spin on it. That’s really hard to explain; I wonder how hard it’s going to be to put it into practice. Sounds like a blog post waiting to happen!

  24. says

    This is a great idea! Cosmo here I come to look for some mind boggling headlines to incorporate into my article writing. I’m going to challenge myself to use each of the headlines above in an article that applies to my niche.

  25. says

    I like this on: Cosmo Headline – “Guys Spill: White Lies They Tell Women All the Time”
    I will definitely use it.
    BTW I’ve never realized that reading this junkcan be very beneficial for me and that I can learn how t owrite better headlines this way. Thanks a lot for that.

    Vaclav Gregor

  26. says

    Hey Brian and Sonia,

    I just started the IMSP series, and it rocks. I’ve taken some of the things I’ve learned from the first few lessons, as well as several of your other articles here on Copyblogger, and I’ve already noticed a huge difference. I wrote a list of 10 Best Ways to Read on a Budget, and literally overnight gained 21 subscribers to my blog. This is amazing, because previously I had ZERO subscribers. 😀

    You guys have me on the road to my dream: making money by reading and sharing books and comics. Thank you so much for everything!

    PS: I’m really thinking about buying that Premise theme. I’m a web designer but coding a WP theme from scratch takes entirely too long, especially now that I’m no longer freelance and work all day.

  27. Jay Walker says

    I haven’t written a blog yet but I am working on my writing skills. Although there isn’t any educational requirements to blog I kind of feel that writing is only half the battle. I want to design my own page and learn how to do some online marketing. Lately I’ve been taking online classes at http://www.emagister.com/ which offers a variety of course needed to enhance any blog.

    Hey if your going to do it…do it right the first time.

  28. says

    HI Brian,
    Great article. I love your creativity

    A great book where I get a lot of ideas from is
    “As One Mad with Wine and other Similes”

    The more one stands out, the more one gets noticed :)

    Thank you for your contribution,
    Jeff Faldalen

  29. says

    This is has been quite helpful. I started blogging without much experience and have just been using simple headlines which did not attract much traffic. So I believe what you’re stating in your blog will go a long way in helping some of us improve on our blog posts.
    Keep up the good work. You’ve been a source of inspiration and motivation to bloogers.
    Cheers.

  30. says

    I loved your article and took it seriously. I changed the title of yesterday’s post on my blog from “Morning Outing on Lake Baringo” to “Huge Croc Surprised on Lake Baringo”–it happened, so that’s the way I wrote about it, with all the exciting stuff right at the top. I almost wrote it as “Croc Attack on Lake Baringo” but that would have been overboard, not true as it implies that someone was injured or killed by a croc here. That has happened in the past, so it’s not prudent to tempt fate.

    Anyway, thanks a bunch for giving such super advice. I’m going to be writing HOT titles from now on!!

  31. says

    Oh yes, I changed one of the Cosmo headlines above to “Weight Loss Help: Crucial New Facts Your Doc Won’t Tell You”. So much better than my boring headlines!


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