Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

5 Easy Tricks to Help You Write Catchy Headlines

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On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar. 
—David Ogilvy

In a world full of noise, how do you get people to actually read what you write? It takes more than good content or great design. The most important part of writing an article is the headline.

5 Easy Tricks to Help You Write Catchy Headlines

The same principle applies to blog posts, book chapters, and so on: The title is where your focus should be. You should begin and end every article with the question: “Would this make me want to read on?”

If not, don’t publish until you’ve got a catchy headline. Concentrate on this, and you’ll get more readers, more buzz, and more love.

How to write catchy headlines

Too often the headline is the most neglected part of writing an article. People just gloss over it without taking much time to consider it. In their minds, it’s the cherry on top. No, friends; it’s not. The headline is the sundae.

I sometimes deliberate over titles for 30–60 minutes before settling on one that works. And I often go back and change them. This is what it takes to write a good headline.

If you need some help concocting catchier headlines, here are a few simple tricks (you can also watch me walk you through this in the free video and checklist.that accompanies this post).

Use numbers

There’s a reason why so many copywriters use numbers in their headlines. It works.

Do an experiment: Go to the grocery store, and scan the magazines in the checkout lane. Look at the front-page article headlines. It doesn’t matter if it’s a fitness magazine or a tabloid; many of them will be using numerals to start off the headline.

There aren’t really any rules (as far as I know) regarding what numbers work best, but people typically only remember three to five points. That said, sometimes a really obscure number like 19 or 37 can catch people’s attention.

Use interesting adjectives

Here are some examples:

  • Effortless
  • Painstaking
  • Fun
  • Free
  • Incredible
  • Essential
  • Absolute
  • Strange

Use unique rationale

If you’re going to do a list post, be original. For example consider the following:

  • Reasons
  • Principles
  • Facts
  • Lessons
  • Ideas
  • Ways
  • Secrets
  • Tricks

If possible, never use things. Please, for the love of Pete, don’t use things. You can do better than that.

Use what, why, how, or when

These are trigger words. I typically use “why” and “how” the most, because I’m often trying to persuade or enable someone. Typically, you’ll use either a trigger word or a number. Rarely does it sound good to do both.

Make an audacious promise

Promise your reader something valuable. Will you teach her how to learn a new skill? Will you persuade her to do something she’s never done before? Will you unlock an ancient mystery?

What you want to do is dare your reader to read the article. Without over-promising, be bold. Be seductive (in the most innocuous way possible, of course). Be dangerous. And then deliver what you promised.

Try this formula

Here’s a simple headline-writing formula:

Number or Trigger word + Adjective + Keyword + Promise

Example: Take the subject “bathing elephants.” You could write an article entitled, “How to Bath an Elephant” or “Why I Love Bathing Elephants.”

Or you could apply this formula and make it: “18 Unbelievable Ways You Can Bathe an Elephant Indoors”

Another (more serious) example: Take a bold promise like “selling your house in a day.”

Apply the formula and you get: “How You Can Effortlessly Sell Your Home in Less than 24 Hours”

People don’t want to be tricked into reading something boring; they want to be drawn into something exciting. Make it worth their while.

Take extra long time to consider what headline will grab people’s attention the most, and make sure that it describes your content in an honest, but attractive, way. They won’t regret it, and neither will you.

You can go grab the downloadable checklist that accompanies this blog post right here.

What tricks for writing catchy headlines do you use? Share in the comments.

About Jeff Goins

I write books and help writers get their work out into the world. I am the best-selling author of four books, including The Art of Work. Each week, I send out a newsletter with free tips on writing and creativity.

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    Such great tips. I find my most popular posts do indeed start with numbers in the title.

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    the infomation on making a promise was awsome!
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    I AM AN INDIAN AND THANK YOU JEFF FOR SUCH NICE TIPS THAT YOU SHARED WITH US. YOU ARE TRULY A HERO FOR THE PEOPLE WHO ARE STRIKING THEIR HEADS FOR CATCHY HEADLINES…. YOU HAVE A NICE NAME

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  • James Mondry

    Jeff – this is great content, so I want to start with a big thank you for it. But, I am seriously wondering if we are giving up the art of headline writing when it’s being reduced to “1 Way to Create Remarkable Headlines”. Most of my favourite books have titles that mean something once you know the content: Bird By Bird (Anne Lamott), Infinite Jest (DFW), Daring Greatly (Brene Brown), The Art of Work. I ask this in an honest spirit of inquiry – which is in better service of the writing craft, turning it into a one sentence summary, or going for something deeper?

    • If you go for something deeper, you run the risk of someone ignoring it especially if it’s on the web. We’re trained to filter as many irrelevant headlines as possible when browsing the web, so having a deeper meaning headline, while awesome once they get the context, would probably not get the attention it deserves.

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  • Aren Ordonez

    It really is good for me to understand. As a headline writer, I have difficulties making out the best headline for a certain article. But the formula with the has been given, I can easily make a headline appropriate and catchy for my readers.

  • Really great post Jeff, everyone needs to learn more about the benefits of having a catch headline for all blog posts and articles no matter what niche they are working in. Creating a good headline can be good for SEO, as well. Here is a blog post that talks a little about SEO benefits in headlines and more on what to shoot for in creating a good headline.

    http://www.marketingjinx.com/

  • Catchy headlines made easy! Thanks a lot 🙂

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    amazing, mindblowing, this help me a lot in writing my posts, thank you.

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    Really interesting catchy headlines writing tips!

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    Having free in the headline is also putting you at risk for getting filtered out as a sales or spam.

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  • Super useful. Sometimes you get numb and have to refresh your writing 101 knowledge. PS. And I actually used “how to write catchy headlines” to find this article. 🙂

  • Jay

    Useful article. It narrows down writing itself to a repetitive process. In my case it appeared to be a huge time saver. 🙂
    Previously to overcome my block I was reviewing a swipe file with literally tons of headlines gathered into one doc. Found there: http://bit.ly/1EeQUqE
    Both methods combined give me great results. 🙂

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    It really helped me Thank you ^_^

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    Great article! I searched “how to write catchy headlines” and came upon this. I noticed that the posts which have the most views of mine are the ones that either talk about making money as a broker or easy fixes for my clients. Thanks for sharing the formula! I’m about to utilize it right now.

  • Jeff, great post man. One way I’ve used to write catchy headlines myself is by using Quick Sprout’s tool and looking at the most shared posts from a similar blogger’s website and kind of tweaking it to fit whatever I’m writing about.

    Also, I’ve got a swipe email address and look at the catchiest headlines that actually make me click through and I like using those.

    I really love your style of writing and thanks for the list of adjectives, great job man.

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    I like how you included your own advice in your own headline for the article.

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  • Dave Booda

    Been researching headlines and your article sounded really familiar, seems like you ripped it off from quicksprout.com (http://www.quicksprout.com/2014/07/03/the-formula-for-a-perfect-headline). Is integrity a key to building a good blog too? Apparently not.

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