5 Easy Tricks to Help You Write Catchy Headlines

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 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

To see exactly how I create blog posts that grab people’s attention, watch this video.

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):

  1. Use numbers to give concrete takeaways
  2. Use emotional objectives to describe your reader’s problem
  3. Use unique rationale to demonstrate what the reader will get out of the article
  4. Use what, why, how, or when
  5. Make an audacious promise

1. Use numbers to give concrete takeaways

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.

Warning: don’t overuse numbers or use them arbitrarily. If your article clearly has some key takeaways, adding a number to the headline can help make the takeaways more digestible. But if the article doesn’t, don’t force it.

2. Use emotional adjectives to describe your reader’s problem

Here are some examples:

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

3. Use unique rationale to demonstrate what the reader will get out of the article

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.

4. 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.

5. 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”

Here are some examples of my most popular articles and the headlines behind them:

When in doubt, be clear

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.

And if you don’t yet have a blog, check out my 8-minute video walk-through on how to launch a self-hosted WordPress blog.

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

365 thoughts on “5 Easy Tricks to Help You Write Catchy Headlines

  1. 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

  2. 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?

    1. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

    https://www.marketingjinx.com/

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

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  6. 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. 🙂

  7. 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: https://bit.ly/1EeQUqE
    Both methods combined give me great results. 🙂

    1. I would work on writing more coherent posts before you fuss about headlines too much. Running your posts through http://www.grammarly.com/grammar-check can help you with basic syntax, and http://www.hemingwayapp.com can help you with the finer aspects of compelling writing (by pointing out passive voice, etc). Once you’ve got that handled, you can learn a lot from Jon Morrow’s Headline Hacks, available here. https://boostblogtraffic.com/headline-hacks/

  8. 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.

  9. 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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  12. Very interesting read and pretty good advice. I really like the “Number or Trigger word + Adjective + Keyword + Promise” formula. I tried it on my blog post 4 Painstakingly Simple Mistake-Proofing Concepts to Reduce Errors https://bit.ly/1QYR2Lx

  13. Great article Jeff, thanks! The “what + trigger” works well too. The last workshop started as “6 ways to build your database”, and ended as “6 ways to build your database, without cold calling”

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  19. Hi Jeff,

    I always ask myself how to get readers coming back to the blog post, or looking out for the next one when shaping a new title. Adjectives are a great, but I find too many writers are using the same words and formulas which are making them all blend together, especially in the blogging space.

    I’m deeply interested in the shareability of modern headline tools with EMV ratings. The higher your score, the more your post will be shared – at least that’s what everyone says.

    Do you have any experience with them? I’m testing this theory right now on LinkedIn Pulse with my post ‘Unusually Easy Steps To Superior Headlines’ – it has a 133.33% EMV rating.

    Check it out? Here’s the post link which I’m also tracking >> bit.ly/2bZWnrW

  20. Hi Jeff,
    Thanks For such information. It will be of great help I found this through random search and I am glad that I found this informative blog. I usually write titles by doing research and by taking help from Experts of https://www.businesslabs.org/ They help me growing my business as well as improve, optimize my sales. Looking forward to reading more such tricks.

  21. Thanks for sharing Jeff, however i found its little bit difficult to apply this formula for news title, is there any suggestion formula for catchy news title?

    1. Yes I agree with this, I am writing an article on Access to Fresh Water any headline ideas?

  22. we changed our head line …our bounced rate changed a lot. We are going back and re-headlining all or blog post thanks from medqpillbox.com

  23. Great article Jeff, thanks! The “what + trigger” works well too. The last workshop started as “6 ways to build your database”, and ended as “6 ways to build your database, without cold calling”
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  24. Thank you very much for this, sir. I think it’ll help me out big time for tomorrow’s campus journalism. Again, thanks! 😀

  25. Great tips! I’ll be sure to try out your formula when creating headlines!
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