Can You Resist Clicking These 3 Headlines? (One is So Good I Had to Copy it)

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If this headline were a woman, I’d marry it.

That’s an odd thing to think, no?

Back in the day, my friends and I used that phrase to denote something inanimate that we were particularly fond of. “This pizza is so good, if it were a woman I’d marry it!”

That was a long time ago. I can’t remember the last time such a thought flashed into my head. Which is what made it so weird when it happened last week.

Especially after reading a headline about … video streaming quality and Internet service providers.

But what can I say? The headline was that good.

As were a few others I happened upon since the last edition of Headlines That Work.

Let’s break them down, including one so irresistible I had no choice but to copy it.

Here’s why I’d marry this headline

I love a headline that just comes out right and smacks you in the face with its promise.

This one does just that:

Here’s why Netflix streaming quality has nosedived over the past few months

Part of the reason this headline hit me so hard and fast was timing.

The previous night, I had experienced the sudden HD-to-standard-definition shift (while watching House of Cards) that many Neflix users had recently endured. I even received a text from a friend inquiring what was up with Netflix.

Everyone who uses Netflix (a large and growing number) is in the target audience for this article. That’s a lot of folks. The article clearly articulates the answer to a question so many of us were asking: “What’s up with the streaming issues?”

So the just-come-right-out-and-say-it headline style works perfectly here.

As does starting it off with the word “Here.” Because it signifies that you’re going to get right to the point.

When your article provides information on a hot current issue that involves a big brand name, especially if the issue is a problem, don’t beat around the bush.

People want answers and solutions. And if it’s a big brand, you can bet you have a big potential audience.

Use your headline to tell people exactly what problem you’re going to solve or exactly what solution you’re going to provide … and the clicks will stream in quickly and clearly. (You know, like Netflix videos used to.)

Is this next headline the best ever?

I’ll end the suspense: No, it’s surely not.

And I bet now you’re feeling a bit let down, like I overhyped this section with the subhead.

Well, I did. And if I had used this subhead as the actual headline for this article, I bet a lot of your eyes would have glazed right over it in our blog feed, on Twitter, or elsewhere.

We’ve been so inundated on the web with “Best Ever” this and “Best Ever” that, that such hyperbolic headlines have lost their mojo … when they are left general and not specific.

A great example of this is a headline I came across recently at Marcus Sheridan’s blog, The Sales Lion.

The Best Example of Brand Storytelling Ever: The Lego Movie

With this headline, Marcus chose to not rely on cliché and general curiosity. He makes the bold statement of “best example ever” … and then tells you exactly what it is: The Lego Movie.

In addition to the specificity lending some weight to his claim of “best ever,” he allows himself to capitalize on the national buzz about The Lego Movie.

I haven’t seen it, and perhaps you haven’t either. But it’s permeated pop culture, so I have had a few separate conversations about it. And I know that a lot of people — ranging in age from kids to older adults — love it.

When I saw the headline, I wanted to see if my guess about what made The Lego Movie the “best example of brand storytelling ever” was the same as Marcus’ explanation. It was.

And you know what? Marcus might be right. The Lego Movie really might be the best example of brand storytelling ever. At worst, it’s not a ridiculous conversation … so the headline doesn’t leave you feeling duped from overhype.

But had he just used “The Best Example of Brand Storytelling Ever,” I doubt I would have clicked. It would have come across as generic click bait.

Specific is good, especially when specific will actually pique more curiosity.

This isn’t always the case, of course. Sometimes holding back is good … but not when big brands or big names are involved. You are almost always better off using them in your headline.

But should you always give more in a headline?

Of course not.

“Give ‘em more” has become the theme of this post, but I should note that more is not always advisable when it comes to headlines.

Look no further than right here at Copyblogger.

The big man himself, Brian Clark, is a master at using very few words to both promise a benefit and pique curiosity with a headline. His headlines do not use one letter more than necessary to get their point across (and get you to click).

This is a good lesson, but the lesson isn’t simply that “shorter headlines are better.” The lesson is that every word in your headline had better contribute to promising a benefit or provoking curiosity (or better yet, both), or it should be axed.

No fluff. No flab. No dead weight.

So if you are going to write a longer headline, especially if it is going to include a (gasp!) second sentence, you better be damn sure it’s worth it.

“That extra little thing”

A tip of the cap to Ramsay Taplin for the email he sent me a few days ago that reminded me of a headline technique I’ve been meaning to discuss.

It’s “that extra little thing,” and Pat Flynn describes it perfectly in #1 here.

How does it work? Ramsay’s example in his email referenced this post:

12 Of The Most Stunning Asian Landscapes. The Last One Blew Me Away.

(I actually prefer Ramsay’s Clarkian, pared-down version of this headline: “12 Asian landscapes. The last one blew me away.”)

This isn’t a technique you want to use too often, because your audience will start to tune it out, but it can be very effective when sprinkled in from time to time.

Other examples include Pat’s post that I linked to above:

5 “Five-Minute or Less” Blogging Tips That Yield Big Results. I’m Using Tip #1 in This Title.

Or this, from Ramsay’s own site:

9 Things No One Tells You About Blogging. One of Them Really Sucks.

(In a fitting bit of coincidence, I had clicked on Ramsay’s post via a tweet before I got his email. And I had clicked specifically to see what the one that “sucks” was.)

Though we try at all costs to stay away from hype-y headlines here at Copyblogger, we’ve used subtle versions of this technique in the past. In fact, one of the articles in the Popular list over there in the sidebar uses this technique:

How to Build an Audience with Story (From America’s Greatest Living Playwright)

Without the parenthetical, that headline would get a lot of clicks — because people (especially our readers) yearn for knowledge about how to build an audience with story. But that post undoubtedly got even more clicks because people were curious about who America’s “great living playwright” is.

Again: don’t use this technique too often, or with a post that doesn’t have a payoff, because it will actually work against you.

But timed right — as I have hopefully done with my own headline for this post — it can be quite effective.

Your turn

Which of the three headline techniques discussed here do you plan to use next?

And how would you have written the headline for this post? I’d love to hear your suggestions below.


Want a headline-writing cheat sheet?

Download our ebook How to Write Magnetic Headlines. It includes 38 time-tested, proven headline models — plus explanations for why they work, so you can apply them properly.

About the author

Jerod Morris


Jerod Morris is the VP of Marketing for Copyblogger Media. Get more from him on Twitter or . Have you gotten your wristband yet?

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Comments

  1. Wow! I would use this one – “12 Of The Most Stunning Asian Landscapes. The Last One Blew Me Away.”

    No doubt this kind of headline takes any visitor to the 12th one first and then brings him back to the first. Now he finishes reading that particular post (a double hit for 12) and may even hit those social button if the headline really suits the post.

  2. I think I’m gonna put a ring on the “Here’s why” headline. : ) Like you said – it gets straight to the point, and if its something your readers care about, they’ll go for it without hesitation. I think this one will work especially cause people have so much to read and/skim through – so with this format they know exactly what they’re gonna get.

    Thanks for breaking down the anatomy of why certain headlines and techniques work. As students when we understand the why – it helps us use the tools and techniques more appropriately. Keep ‘em coming!

  3. Great post! I want to marry it (no). Sometimes I ask a question in the headline. The last few posts were like that so it was time to change it up. My latest post title is very to the point and without hype “The Importance of Updating your Will” kind of boring but a necessary message. The SEO title is 3 Reasons to Update Your Will. Also, I talk abut HBO’s Six Feet Under series in the blog and considered whether I should reference that somewhere in the title. Instead, I decided to leave that out and then it’s a nice surprise for the person who decides to read the post. They will think ‘oh, that’s interesting’. At least I hope.

  4. Love this post! Great headline I recently enjoyed, from journalism’s Poynter Institute — Worst News Ever: Negative Headlines Outperform Positive Ones. ;-)

  5. Hey Jerod!

    Intriguing headlines :)

    However, I think that success with headlines can not permanent.
    People need something new and fresh regularly.

    For example, simple “12 ways to make money online” does not work any more. But some time ago ti was a success and recommended all around the web in how-to-write headlines (“# ways to do something”, “How to do something” etc). Not

    However, some new tweaks, e.g. “13 ways to make money online (the last one is your last resort)” will probably work. For now. But soon people will get sick and tired of it too.

    So you need always to be creative. What works now will not work (that well) later.

    P.S.: my try of your headline:

    For analytically minded audience:
    Can You Resist Clicking these 3 Headlines? (Get To Know Why Most People Can Not)

    For emotionally-driven audience:
    I Could Not Resist Clicking These 3 Headlines! (Don’s Ask Me Why!)

    For action-driven audience:
    Can You Resist Clicking These 3 Headlines? (One is So Good I Had to Copy it Right Away)

    Just for fun:
    I Thought I Could Resist Clicking These 3 Headlines! (No No It Was Not Me, My Mouse Clicked Itself!)

    For the rebels:
    Don’t Ever Click These 3 Headlines

    • Michael, I agree completely! You have to keep it fresh and you always have to write your headline with the audience in mind. Writing without an audience in mind is like walking in a dark room without light. You might find the door, but more than likely you’re going to run into the wall.

  6. Hi Jerod,
    I may not have read your post had it not been your headline. Which means I’d like to marry the third headline strategy someday in my writing.

    Thanks for the three.

  7. Jerod,

    Have I told you lately that you rock out loud? I’d marry you. Jokes. Not really. Ha!

    I’ve followed copyblogger for f.o.r.e.v.e.r.

    Copyblogger has literally changed my blog, my writing style, my content :) Everything. I’m so grateful. I tell my peeps about copyblogger on my blog, all the live long day.

    Recently, I’ve been following you on G+ too. I just wanted to shout out and tell you how much I appreciate your awesome tips. You really are moving the dial, and making a difference helping others. Thank you !

    Are you going to SMMW14 ? I’ll be there and { hopefully } meeting Brian Clark. I hope he doesn’t run in the other direction.

    Cheers !
    Lynne

  8. I was ‘blown away’ (hah) by how many more readers I got when I added ‘ever’ to this title: Crochet the Cutest Valentine Hearts Ever. It was unbelievable to me even though I’ve been reading as much as I can on the importance of titles. Thanks for the valuable tips!

    • I think it worked because of specificity. No question the “ever” title is a proven winner. Just one of those wells you can only go to so often (as with so many other headline techniques) before it starts getting tuned out by your regular readership.

      • Thanks Jerod-that’s so true. My blog is only 4 months old and although I do numerous revisions to my posts prior to publishing, the title is always so so difficult. After all the hard work you just want it to be read!

  9. I think the relavnce of a headline is exponentially more important than how it’s written.

    Yes, magnetic headlines are a must. But getting a guest post on copy blogger is WAY more important.

    Some could argue that good teqnique is what gets you on copy blogger, but again, duh.

    As for my suggestion for a better headline than yours, how about this for a better headline and post…

    “The best headline EVER…”

    …does nothing without hard work.

  10. My favorite headline you mentioned in the “Here’s Why…”. In my opinion the 9 tips, 3 reasons, 7 ideas, blah blah headline was killed by ezine articles and just doesn’t work anymore. Just like Banner Blindness, I believe there is something called “Headline Blindness”, and that’s why fresh headlines will always outperfom time tested ones in my opinion. Even though “They laughed when I sat down at the piano”, or a version of it may work well, something new and different to break the persons skimming patterns and speak out to them will work better. Thanks for the ebook gonna read it now.

  11. Thanks so much for the shout out. Really appreciate it. I’m glad my title was so awesome! ;-)

  12. An article about click bait headlines, with it’s own click bait headline that I couldn’t resist clicking.

    Proof in the pudding?

  13. I used the “9 Things No One Tells You About Blogging. One of Them Really Sucks” approach on a comment in lifehacker the other day. (I had read about this approach on another copyblogger article a few days ago)

    Result?

    Massive spike in traffic!

    Merci beaucoup!

    P.S. Ramsay I love your work!

  14. I’m taking one of Jon Morrow’s courses and learning a lot about writing headlines, so I really appreciate the information in this post — especially since one of our assignments is to write headlines for an hour every day!

    My NEXT post will probably be “Here’s why paper clutter is so tough to deal with.”

    Thanks for the inspiration!!

  15. Heh, reminds me of the headline on a print ad for a local gentleman’s club – “Twelve beautiful girls and one ugly one” No matter how much one might deplore the ad, hafta admit, you wonder about that last girl…

  16. Nice post Jerod. Headlines make such a difference and can have a direct impact on click-through rates too, as I’m sure you’ve discovered for this post. The first example you give is pretty direct as it states “why” Netflix streaming quality has declined. As you mentioned this makes you click through to find out the details which you presume will be given to you straight away.

    Writers and marketers alike should use different tactics for their headlines and news pieces. Once they know what works they can then use this structure again later on.

  17. I read this and went back to a blog post scheduled for tomorrow and fretted over the headline for another 10 minutes – after the hour I’ve already spent on it tonight. Still not sure it’s perfect, but I’m a work in progress.

  18. Hii Jerod, the headline ‘Here’s why’ is really going to work better than the previous one we are using. Thanks for sharing and letting me know about the importance of headings.

  19. Excellent point about the Lego movie. Whether we played with Legos as a kid or not we are all very aware of them and what people can build with a box of Legos and some imagination. That title make me really interested. Has anyone ever done it better than this movie right here? I’m interested in finding out what exactly makes it the best.

  20. Nice tips :)

  21. Great headlines lol

  22. My idea for this one:

    The CopyBlogger Headline Award goes to:

    (and the reader should say at the end who is gold, silver, … and why)

    1. straight 2. big brand 3. “best ever” is implicit 4. the little extra is the post itself + 5. incl. the reader ;-)

  23. Success! You had me at “Can You Resist”? (No I can not.) I’ve noticed the trend on buzzfeed headlines lately of the “that extra little thing”. And you know what? Gets me almost every time. :)
    Georgia

    • Same here! The catchy headline drew me in to read the article, whereas I probably wouldn’t have read it.

      I’ve got to say. America loves lists. If I see any “12 of the……”, “Top ten…..”, or “5 of the coolest”. I’m sure to click on it. And I can guarantee most of the people surfing online will to.

      Thanks for the read!

  24. I know the “10 Things That Do Such and Such. #6 Made Me Have an Emotional Reaction.” template is big right now, but honestly it makes me cringe every time. Even if Upworthy hadn’t driven it into the ground, it would still feel so nakedly manipulative to me.

  25. It’s true, they work – but they also drive some people crazy. Heard of Upworthy? Check out the “Downworthy” browser plugin. If nothing more, it’s good for a laugh. :)