The Power of the Double-Whammy Headline: How to Increase the Chances of Your Content Being Read

Image of Batman and Robin at a Computer

Laurel and Hardy. Batman and Robin. Superman.

Which of these doesn’t quite fit?

Yup, it’s the guy who can’t handle Kryptonite. If Superman is in trouble, there’s almost no one to rescue him. But Hardy or Batman can get into all kinds of crazy trouble, and they’ll always have a nice partner there, ready to back them up.

The same applies to what I call the “Double-Whammy Headline.” It’s just like the usual compelling headline that draws in your reader … but it’s got backup.

Let me explain …

What’s a Double-Whammy headline?

A double whammy headline is a headline with a sidekick. And, like most partnerships, one partner takes on a slightly bigger role.

Let’s jump right in with a few examples:

Why Every Small Business Needs a Sales Analysis — And How to Complete it in 20 Minutes

Why Quarterly Analysis can Increase Business by 50%: The Three Key Steps

The Rumiddha Method: 4 Steps to Achieving a Thriving (and Profitable) Online Forum

The Keyboard Wheel (And How it Helps You Decide the Right Colour for Your Website)

Why Small Businesses Don’t Grow — And How to Use Autoresponders to Increase Your Business by 27% Every Year

The first part of a few of these headlines could almost stand alone …

Why Every Small Business Needs a Sales Analysis

Why Quarterly Analysis can Increase Business by 50%

The Rumiddha Method

The Keyboard Wheel

Why Small Businesses Don’t Grow

Some of them actually work quite well by themselves.

Technically, that’s the goal. To write one part so well that the first part is already a complete headline. Yes, all by itself. It could steal the show without having the add-on.

How does the double-whammy headline work?

In the examples above, the “Rummidha Method” and “Keyboard Wheel” tell you nothing. But they pull you in.

Their job is not to be a complete headline. It’s to pull you in, while the second half of the headline knocks you out!

It uses double the power to get your attention. And once it’s gotten your attention, you can’t help but want to click to read the rest of the article.

And of course, you can use colons, question marks, parentheses, or the em dash — or a host of other punctuation marks — to create the bridge that builds these powerful headlines.

Should you use double-whammy headlines all the time?

Should you take your umbrella out all the time? Of course, not.

You can write a headline like this:

Why the Most Attractive Headlines May Not Bring the Greatest Conversion

And that headline, despite not being a double-whammy, works well. But from time to time you want to mix up your headlines with a bit of power and surprise as well.

That’s the context in which double-whammy headlines can really work.

Don’t overdo it …

You can try so hard to stuff your headline with terms that it may be impossible to work out what you’re saying. So yes, double-whammy headlines can be too whammy, and end up being clammy.

Here’s a good example of what to avoid:

Why Focusing on Advanced Placement Guarantees Career Failure (and How to Avoid that Fate, While Still Getting Great Grades)

You may scrunch your eyebrows in confusion, but it’s common to see writers eagerly overdoing the double-whammy headline, to the point where it becomes hard to understand.

Keeping your double-whammy headline simple is critical to getting your idea across effectively.

In summary: Two headlines can sometimes be much better than one

The principles of headline writing that actually works are known.

I’m suggesting that — every once in awhile — you should mix it up, and see how those principles work for you at double-strength. You’ll really grab the attention of your audience, and like I said at the beginning of this post, it’s always nice to have a backup when you need it.

Just like TweedleDee and Tweedledum!

Do you have any examples of your own double-whammys, or ones you’ve seen out in the wild? Drop them in the comments below …

About the Author: Sean D'Souza offers a great free report on 'Why Headlines Fail' when you subscribe to his Psychotactics Newsletter. Be sure to check out his blog, too.

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Comments

  1. Thanks for the very clever post :) I’m almost ready to publish the next tutorial on my blog and think I’ll look at trying one of your double-whammy headlines.

  2. Just realizing how ‘meta’ this post is. Using a ‘Double Whammy’ headline for a post about ‘Double Whammy’ headlines.

    Well played sir. Well played.

  3. Great points! Looking back at my own posts I can definitely see a difference. Thanks for the tips!

  4. I agree with Jamie. I was just getting ready to queue up my autoresponder email to go out tomorrow but I am going to add a double whammy to my headline. Thanks!

  5. Great post Sean!

    I’ve personally had a very good time using such headlines. They give the reader a pretty good idea about the post (if the post is good itself of course)

    But as you rightly said, over dose should strictly be avoided :)

    Cheers

  6. That’s a Great Article – and I’m Going to Use It!

    Next can you do one on When to Use Capitals in the Headline?

  7. Thank you Sean. This advice is a perfect compliment to your “breath test” post for Copyblogger.

    Question – usually when I read a double whammy headline I hear in my head the voice of a fast talking salesman.

    Don’t you think this headline style is overused in direct sales, and gives your reader a bad impression?

    • I can’t say if it’s being used at all. I use it, but then I’m looking to get specific information and getting curiosity going. I do this naturally, and not with some agenda in mind. The only reason I wrote this article (and teach this method) is because clients ask me to explain what I do.

      So yes, it’s possible that I’m a fast-talking salesman, but I doubt it very much.

  8. I have a post going out on Wednesday and will give this a shot.

    I’m always worried about my titles being too long though! I guess just like eating donuts — everything should be done in moderation! But, like Jawad says, it gives tells the reader exactly what to expect!

  9. I’ve heard that keeping headlines under 71 words is good advice. Maybe this will help keep us writers from over doing it :)

  10. Love it – particularly the examples.
    I’m just putting a post together and this has landed at a perfect time for my title!

  11. This is a remarkably useful post … it teaches a simple headline concept that everyone can use.

    (That was my attempt at a double-whammy comment. How’d I do?)

    • Nice one Jerod.
      Title of my next post will be…

      Accelerate your Search Engine Optimisation: Harness the power of the flywheel effect

    • Um, there has to be curiosity. Without curiosity it’s just a line. Read the headlines above and you’ll notice they’re loaded with curiosity.

  12. Great post Sean,

    I came up with a great double whammy headline for my latest golf post.

    “How to Get the Proper Golf Swing Plane & Fix a Steep Downswing”

    Is this the type of headline you are talking about?

    Cheers

    • I know nothing about golf but I’m assuming that getting a proper golf swing plane and fixing a steep downswing are related.

      In that case the double whammy headline I would write…..

      How to Get The Proper Golf Swing Plane – 3 Things You Can Do to Fix a Steep Downswing

      Or

      Struggling to Get The Proper Golf Swing Plane? Here’s How You Fix a Steep Downswing.

      Hope that help!

    • Yes, but having grammar inserted makes a difference. A comma, an em dash (different from an en dash) makes a difference because it forces the brain to pause.

      And yes, use “and” not “&”.

  13. As I was reading this article, I was think how much this sounded like something Sean D’Souza would teach. :)

    I’m using what I learned in your Article Writing course constantly now.

    • Ah, been a while Ms. Mueller :) I trust you’re doing well. We’re not far from you right now. We’re in Budapest, and I was given 5 minutes to answer these posts before getting back to vacation. Yes, Renuka’s orders.

  14. Nrupen Masram | An Affiliate Marketing Blog :

    That’s really nice advise. By the way I have already used this kind of headlines (Traffic Monetization : Converting Visitors Into Money ) but I wasn’t knowing it is known as Double Whammy headlines.

  15. Hi Sean,

    I am just writing a really important post for my blog and Your guidelines will help me to write a better headline for it . Here is try from me to the double whammy headline :

    How To Be A Great SEO – An Advanced Guide To Your SEO Success

    How is it ?

  16. Okay, I’ve used a few of those double whammy guys, but what do you put in the SEO title down below? There’s not room in that box for those long headlines.

    • The double whammy title is to catch the attention of readers, the SEO title can be keyword rich for the bots.
      In Genesis SEO you can use a different title to the one you put in the post.

      Same applies if you use All in one SEO pack.

  17. great read except i always get distracted when i see the word “whammy” thinking back to the press your luck tv show, maybe “big bucks no whammies” but then that wouldnt fit the content of the posting now would it?

  18. I’m a real estate agent and part of the content on my web site are video reports on the Cape Cod real estate market. I just did a blog post announcing an updated report I call Water $ Water $ Water — which breaks down the Cape Cod real estate market into four segments based on proximity to water. My Post Email headline was: “Water Water Everywhere — but closer is better.” Would you consider that a double whammy headline? Should I try more factual headlines and less whimsical?

    • No, I wouldn’t. The key to a headline or any content for that matter is specificity. The headline you presented lacks specifics. So yes, the whimsy doesn’t help.

      Remember (or expect) that your headline will be just one of 300 headlines that the person will read in that day. Well, which one would you pick? Your headline should be good enough to get the attention of the person even on the busiest day.

  19. Awesome post. Will definitely start to implement this technique, seems like a great way to give the reader a sort of inside look into the post.

    Thanks for the post.

    Jake

  20. Great post and examples of the double-whammy post.

    Another example is, “Why Lead Nurturing Is Like Hosting a Dinner Party (and Nine Ways to Do It Right)” http://www.marketingprofs.com/articles/2013/10562/why-lead-nurturing-is-like-hosting-a-dinner-party-and-nine-ways-to-do-it-right#ixzz2VrSPHkEK Not only is it a fun post about lead nurturing, but it packs a one-two punch.

  21. I will always listen when someone tells me to keep it simple; that’s pretty much my mantra – ‘Keep it simple, stupid’. And the double whammy headlines mean you can keep it simple – and generate greater intrigue, interest and goodness within Your readers. Great post, thankyou!

  22. Love the post – it was so useful I used the technique on an article I was writing.

  23. This is perhaps the best tip I got today. I’m at my weakest when it comes to titles and learning about double-whammy headlines certainly enlightened me. I guess I should increase my headlines’ word-count limit and add the spice that double-whammies provide from time to time.

    • Agree with you Winnie, This is something everyone should be keeping in mind after reading this post. made me read twise to make sure every bit of words are absorbed before publishing my next article at my blog.

  24. Great post! It stresses what I’m thinking already a little while: how to have an interesting headline on the one hand and a headline that represents the content well enough on the other hand at the same time.

    A headline of one of my recent posts was: “Leer je klant écht goed kennen: bouw een maquette in 30 seconden”. It’s Dutch, so here’s the English translation: “Know your customers well: build a scale model in 30 seconds”. It’s a combination of a methaphor and content at the same time. Or in other words: something for the left-side and right-side of the brain together.

  25. Hi,

    I’ve done this a few times on my blog – one I used was “How to read faster – simple speed reading strategies that work”.

    As you say, it’s not something you want to repeat with every headline, but it can be very effective – the trick is to ensure it doesn’t make your title too long-winded.

    Sue

  26. I’ve been playing around with a few double headlines on a few of my guest posts lately. They can be very effective as those posts @ Self Stairway and The Change Blog have received great feedback.

  27. Nice post Sean. Really enjoyed it and love your use of examples.

    Also definitely agree that the double whammy headline can be great for SEO purposes. It allows you to get a keyword-rich phrase in there (towards the beginning of your title) and still have it be attractive to users.

    Will be sharing via Twitter (@wiredimpact) in a bit. Thanks for the post.

  28. Great blog post – I read it again and again today at work. It works both in business blog posts and in personal ones. As a side question, does it matter how many characters does a title have? I think 80 is more than enough, but if you use one of these double-whammy headlines, you will easily go over 100 characters…

  29. Old School Batman, I love it!

    Thanks again for all the great info. This post came through as I was preparing to write my next article on private money loans. (real estate)

    I wasn’t even aware that I was packing the 1-2 punch of the double-whammy…

    Private Money Loans: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

    However, neither part would stand effectively on its own. The first part would be a title, while the second part would have Clint Eastwood fans scratching their heads.

    Am I correct, or did I miss the whole point?

    Respectfully,

    Chris

    P.S. In taking the advice of Copyblogger, this article will hold its place as a cornerstone educational piece on my site.

  30. Great way of hooking readers, I think–really makes you think!

  31. Really great article. I’ve been looking more into how to write better headlines for my articles and this came at a great time.

    I have tried double headlines in the past, not a lot, and they did get me more traffic. So I’ll be looking into using them more often now (but not overkill of course).

  32. Amazing news to hear after experiencing a massive improvement in traffic and rankings by using long tail keywords.
    I’ve personally experienced this by using titles like you have mentioned above at FERNANNDO BIZ blog, and just wrote an article on “Why using long tail keyword titles help SEO – The secrets to get you more website traffic?
    **Will publish it today even.

    Thanks for the amazing content strategy Sean.

  33. Looking forward to trying out a few double-whammies here shortly. Thanks for the inspiration!

  34. Hey Sean,

    Great headline advice. I actually find writing headlines to be the hardest part of writing. It can take me 30 minutes or more to figure out a good enough headline that I think will compel the click.

    The best formula is to write something that gets attention then add a benefit a reader will find irresistible. Not always so easy to conjure up quickly, at least not for me :-)

    Liz

    • Liz,

      Great point! One of the A-ha moments I learned on here was to include the benefit into the compelling headline.

      Not only does it tell you what the article is about, but it also tells you what you will get.

      I guess that’s why the How-To’s are so simple and powerful.

      Brilliant…

      Respectfully,

      Chris

  35. Getting the headline right for any piece of content is important. In the example where readers will be viewing and browsing through a trail of blog posts, you need to instantly gain their attention in the short amount of characters you have available.

    The idea of a double whammy headline can attract your audience as it normally has two separate parts, so in this sense you are offering them more value. These headlines can be used every now and again to really capture your audience and give them a more detailed insight into what your content will tell them.