Do These Headlines Work For You?

Let’s take a break from the headline remixing, and look at some of the submissions that I thought worked “as is.” Often the key to great editing is knowing when to keep your hands off, despite the fact that we might have taken a different approach ourselves. Feel free to voice contrary opinions in the comments—I always love to hear suggestions on how to make any headline better.

Let’s start off with the strong headlines that I didn’t even try to rewrite. In fact, I suspect that in these five cases, Jim, John, Jim, Maki and that anonymous guy at Engtech fully knew their headlines rocked, and only wanted to hear us confirm it.

Great work guys. It should be noted that the last post is actually satirical, which makes the fact that he nailed the headline even better.

These next headlines are also very good. I contemplated rewriting them, but ultimately decided in each case I didn’t think I would add any clear value over what was already there.

To me, that means it was the right headline for the content within the context of the site itself. Some of these would also work in other environments, like Digg, while others would need to be re-written to better match up with a different audience.

Let me know what you think out there. It’s time someone else started re-writing headlines so I can go watch basketball. :)

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Reader Comments (28)

  1. says

    Doh! I really thought it could be better. I’ll work harder to not do so well. Thanks Brian.

    This was a very smart and well done promotion for you and your blog. Good case study on how to be a thought-leader and earn respect.

  2. says

    I really did like my headline a lot but wasn’t entirely sure that it was perfect. Always had a nagging suspicion that I could improve it even more..

    As everyone here would agree, your confirmation is very important indeed.

    Thanks, Brian! :)

  3. says

    “I Think My Husband Is Flame Retardant” has the added benefit that if you read it too fast you’ll think it says “My husband is a flaming retard”.

  4. says


    Yes, I’ve had several people point out that they misread my post title in some fashion.

    Considering I often gush about how awesome my husband is, perhaps I should have changed the title as that’s certainly not what I wanted to communicate.

    Oh well. I’m quite pleased that Brian found it good enough not to rewrite, though.

  5. says

    Thank you the the review Brian!

    Of course you still deserve all of the credit – where do you think we all learned to write headlines like these?

    I would love to see a little face off for headline/content tips + re-writing kinda like the 5 link devel expert interview.

  6. says

    I’m going to be a contrarian and ask whether some of those titles aren’t just plain too long? For example, the “One simple technique…” headline is a full 79 characters.

    I’m usually drawn to snappy titles, short and direct, and am wondering whether there are some ‘rules’ to decide when to shorten or lengthen the titles? I.e. when does a title convey enough meaning?

    Maybe that’s a whole new post waiting to be written!

  7. says

    My 2cents:

    “Why Every Customer is a Potential Competitor” definitely sounds better.

    If you make it “8 Tips & Tools for Picking a Domain Name” reader might expect “Tips & Tricks” phrase.

    When I first read “One Simple Technique to Help You Overcome Procrastination and Start Writing Now” that “Now” in the end made me lose the rhythm of the headline. But when I re-read it now it sounded OK. What do you think?

  8. says

    Thanks Brian – good to get feedback from you on that headline…The trick now is to see if I can repeat it with all the rest of my posts!

  9. says

    Thanks Brian, I have been reading quite a few of your posts, have learned at least to distinguish a few characteristics on how to write good titles and content for the Web. I handed your site to our copywriter for reading.

  10. says

    Hi Brian

    Thanks for the validation. I struggled with this one quite a bit. But in the end I felt it would pretty difficult to improve on Rumi! And as you point out, my target audience will certainly resonate with the line from his poem.

  11. says

    Brian, I hope you will continue to do the headline re-mixing at least a couple times a year. I have been doing some headlines-opps for PayPerPost for a couple months now, and I come back here often to keep up on what works and what doesn’t.

  12. says

    > “My husband is a flaming retard”

    My wife’s blogging now? I had no idea.

    If I see one titled “101 Ways to Make Noise When Your Husband’s Watching 24″ then I’ll know it’s her.

  13. says

    I’m reluctant to comment on other people’s headlines…but for me the Rumi headline could be strengthened with a more direct appeal to the reader – this would also reflect the theme of the post.

    Maybe something like “Wake up! The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you”

    On the other hand the existing headline got me intrigued enough to read the post!

  14. says

    Joanna. I don’t mind your comments at all. In fact, your thought/feeling that the headline could be strengthened was exactly what I struggled with when I posted this entry. On the other hand, as I mentioned in my previous comment, it’s hard to improve upon Rumi. There also seems to be a fair bit of search engine traffic on various permutations of “the breeze at dawn rumi.” And if folks are searching for that phrase they’ll most likely enjoy the post and my blog. So it probably will end up being the smarter choice to have stayed with that headline.

  15. says

    Actually… I don’t know if this is OK to say.. but I spend more time thinking on my title that on the post itself.. taking that time to do that instead of being the #1 to post, or things like that have helped me on my blogs.

  16. says

    After reading the comments about the “I think my husband is flame retardant” and how thay read it I think that headline is hitting close to number 1 on my list. Why? Because even what the person thought they saw (i.e., husbank a flaming retard) is attention getting.

    But as I rewritten and bring the site I listed and bring it into the 21st century layout I do have a very powerful new headline on new site but I have also learned your opening line of copywrite is very very important too.

    Simply put, as you probably know, most web visitors are scanners. The article is right-on about headlines and using them also as links. But once your visitor arrives because of the attention getting headline the first sentence they read before scanning had better be an attention getter itself. It usually gets them to slow down their scanning.

    Otherwise you are open to the “X” factor as I call that little icon in the upper right of the browser.

    Again, another great article with great examples.

    Continued success to all of use readers and implementors.

  17. says

    Maybe it’s just me but these headlines sound like all the online marketing headlines I read and all the get-rich-quick schemes . . .

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