Why You Should Always Write Your Headline First

image of magnetic headlines

Want to write great headlines and even better content?

Start with the headline first.

You’ll of course have a basic idea for the subject matter of your blog post, article, free report, or sales letter. Then, simply take that basic idea and craft a killer headline before you write a single word of the body content.

Why?

Your headline is a promise to readers. Its job is to clearly communicate the benefit you’ll deliver to the reader in exchange for their valuable time.

Promises tend to be made before being fulfilled. Writing your content first puts you in the position of having to reverse-engineer your promise. Turn it around the other way and you have the benefit of expressly fulfilling the compelling promise you made with the headline, which ultimately helps to keep your content crisp and well-structured.

Trying to fulfill a promise you haven’t made yet is tough, and often leads to a marginal headline. And a poorly-crafted headline allows good deeds to go unnoticed.

You know, like your content.

“But that still doesn’t tell me how to write a great headline,” you’re saying.

No worries. That’s what the Magnetic Headlines series is all about.

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Comments

  1. Another great piece of info and a great way to start writing any piece of copy is to write headlines ( I prefer to call them bullets at that point ) first.

    When I advise someone how to come up with a piece of copy, I won’t go any further with them until they show me 100 bullets. Let’s me know they’ve done some research and are ready to proceed.

    Speaking of incoming links to Copyblogger – we used your RSS explanation page on a blog I’m being paid to do and it will be live this week.

    Great job with that and thanks.

  2. Brian, I learn something every single time you post – your headlines are always compelling and I’m learning (slowly but surely!)

    Great Job!

  3. Brian,I really like your blog:Quality content,nice design,great thoughts.
    Thanks for you nice job!

  4. in one of your best post on how to write great headlines you suggest to write headlines after the post.

    I guess that just goes to show how writing is a true art.

    with rules that can contradict each other

  5. Sound advice again! I have recently be stunned by the importance of headlines for adSense. How do we write good headlines that include our keywords? It’s very easy to be repetitive.

  6. Thanks Mike, Tammy and Richie.

    Ming, I’m pretty sure I’ve never said to write the content first. Don’t know why I would — because I always write my headlines first, for the very reasons set forth above.

    Geoff, adding keywords to headlines will be covered in the post after next.

  7. Just wrote a new blog and started with the headline first – then I read your email/ blog. Whoa – nothing is coincidence!!! Have you read Attracting Perfect Customers yet? It’s as if you read my mind.

  8. Brian and Ming,

    I said to write the article before the headline in one of my older posts (find it here). I have since changed my evil ways, and now I’m absolutely an advocate of the technique Brian prescribes above. Nothing is more important than that headline, and it should dictate the contents of the article (not the other way around).

  9. So you’re the culprit, Pearson! Way to walk away from the dark side…

    Ming, you left a comment on the post Chris is talking about, so I think that’s what you were remembering. Chris may have designed Copyblogger, but that’s all I let him do around here. :)

  10. there you go… thanks,

    i was looking for it too.

    good thing i only took chris’s advice once or twice;)

    great design i say again!

  11. ps: as a salesman, I often open with a verbal sort of headline, and most of the time it gets the job done! or at least i get listened to…

  12. I think I shall try this concept out.

    I usually don’t know what what the hell I’m trying to say until I’m done writing it. I wonder if writing the title first limits the creative process.

    I guess we shall see, shan’t we. Clearly, my next post must be titled “How to Discover the Top 10 Secrets”.

  13. Hey John, try it out. I think you’ll find that if you wrestle with the headline first, it more clearly defines, rather than limits, the creative process for you.

    And “How to Discover the Top 10 Secrets” contains 4 great headline elements, but is otherwise a terrible headline. :)

  14. Yesterday over lunch I was suggesting my wife to write headlines after body in her blog posts (what a geek couple uh?) but you have a very good point Brian. Makes sense.

    I’ll try writing my headlines first in my next post.

    Thank you for the always-in-time advice!

  15. Sounds good, but from an amateur writer .. this sometimes makes things worse. In my drafts, I have about 20 titles of great soon-to-be articles that I have never written. When I eventually get around to it, sometimes it helps me having the title to focus on the content. But, other times – after I finish writing lots of stuf – I realize that the title has nothing to do with my blog entry, and rename it.

    PS: I really like the text size and color in these comment Brian.

  16. What’s with all the comment spam?

  17. I have been writing a title for my articles, then after writing the article I usually have to go back and re-write the title.

    I always seem to get onto a new idea that doesn’t quite fit. While both ideas are good and related, they have obvious differences.

    I think I will try writing a title and sticking to it. No more reverse engineering my posts. =P

  18. Excellent article!

  19. Can’t agree with it when stated as such an absolute. The essence of your advice here is that articles need to stay on message to be coherent. Writing the headline first is a way of confining yourself so that you can achieve that, but it’s not the only way. I almost never write without a specific point to be made in mind, so I don’t the confines of a headline. But my headlines end up dull when I write them before the fact.

    I’m much better at promising something that I know the reader will get than at making a promise as a way to make myself deliver it.