The aim of this guide is to help your writers learn the ‘art’ of headline writing. The examples are mainly of a more sensational nature, but they have been proven over and over again to work quite well in getting readers to click.

Whether we like it or not, headlines are the first thing that people see when they come to the site and often they are the first thing that people will see on sites like Twitter and Facebook when they decide to click through to read your story.

Increasingly, studies show that headlines completely dominate the chances that somebody will make the decision to read your story further than the headline itself. That means we need to put some effort into getting them right.

Your headline is the first thing you should worry yourself about. When you write an engaging and descriptive headline first, often it makes the process of writing the article far more straight forward. Your headline tells readers what they will get in exchange for their time.

Now if you write your article first, you need to go back and think of how to present it to a new reader. On the other hand, if you make a promise in the headline, you can write to fulfil the commitment made in it. This is massively helpful for a writer in keeping their articles to-the-point and easy to read.

Fortunately for us, there are a heap of things we can do to improve our headline writing.

Advertising people have been studying headlines and their effects on readership for over 70 years and there are a lot of ways we can incorporate their knowledge into our own work. Luckily, the findings aren’t really too difficult to understand or implement. Often times it’s simply a matter of adapting one of the many “headline formulas” that have been proven to work for other people.

In general, if your headline encompasses the following elements, then it will probably be quite successful in drawing user engagement.

  • Useful: Is the promised message valuable to the reader?
  • Ultra-specific: Does the reader know what’s being promised?
  • Unique: Is the promised message compelling and remarkable?
  • Urgent: Does the reader feel the need to read now?

Here are a few of those formulas or templates. Just replace [blank] with whatever topic you want to write about.

  • If You Don’t [blank] Now, You’ll Hate Yourself Later
  • The Lazy [blank’s] Way to [blank]
  • Do You Recognize the [number] Early Warning Signs of [blank]?
  • See How Easily You Can [desirable result]
  • You Don’t Have to Be [something challenging] to be [desired result]
  • Do You Make These Mistakes?
  • 
Who Else Wants [blank]?
  • The Secret of [blank]
  • Here is a Method That is Helping [blank] to [blank]
  • Little Known Ways to [blank]
  • Get Rid of [problem] Once and For All
  • Here’s a Quick Way to [solve a problem]
  • Now You Can Have [something desirable] [great circumstance]
  • [Do something] like [world-class example]
  • Have a [or] Build a [blank] You Can Be Proud Of
  • What Everybody Ought to Know About [blank]
  • Warning: [blank]
How [blank] Made Me [blank]
  • Are You [blank]?
  • 
[Blank] Ways to [blank]
If You’re [blank], You Can [blank]

Here are some examples of solid headlines based off these formulas for a photography-oriented website:

  • Give Me 3 Hours and I’ll Give You Professional Level Off-Camera Flash Skills
  • If You Don’t Shoot It Now, You’ll Hate Yourself Later
  • The Lazy Photographer’s Way to Post Process
  • Do You Recognize the 7 Early Warning Signs of Photography Addiction?
  • 
See How Easily You Can Make Your Portraits Pop
  • You Don’t Have to Be a Pro to Get Amazing Landscapes
  • Do You Make These Mistakes in Wedding Photography?
  • Who Else Wants Powerful Black and Whites?

You get the idea. Now don’t feel it’s necessary to stick to these exact formulas for everything you write, but remember that they have been tried and proven and it’s a great way to almost force readers onto your articles.

A Note About “Keywords” and Headlines

Keywords are the currency of search engines and it certainly helps to know a little bit about them.

Many stores ONLY go after search engine traffic, but we are a little different. But that doesn’t mean that we want to totally ignore the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) effects of keywords

Now, we don’t want to get carried away here and we certainly aren’t as technical about this process as many websites. We want your articles to be readable for people, not search engines and that is where you should concentrate.

However, a few things to remember:

  • Think about what people might type into Google to find your story
  • Try to include your keywords in your headline (preferably towards the beginning)

Please read this blog post about keywords to get a better understanding of using keywords, but just remember that for our stores we will favour the headlines that appeal to humans over the headlines that appeal to search engines most of the time – if you can strike a headline that does both then that is fantastic!

Writing Headlines That Get Clicked

Double the Ritz!

A very simple strategy to use in writing hugely popular “how to” articles is to teach people how to do two things instead of one. The classic example of this is “How to Win Friends and Influence People” which we are sure you have heard of. The power of that headline really came from the fact that the second benefit (influencing people) followed on logically from the first (winning friends).

There are many potential articles that use this exact formula that could be written about photography, just to use it as an example:

  • How to Impress Photo Editors and Get Your Work Published
  • How to Print Your Photographs Professionally and Get Them Hung in Galleries
  • How to Photograph Frogs and Help Save a Species
  • The possibilities for this type of “how to” article are exciting and up to your imagination.

Add An Extra Benefit

Another common and very effective tool for writing “how to” articles is to add an extra benefit to the headline (and then fulfil the promise of the headline in the content of course). The general formula for this is:

  • How to [Mundane Task] That [Rewarding Benefit]

Again, this exact formula has many possibilities:

  • How to Take Photos That Will Win Photography Competitions
  • How to Shoot Headshots That Will Get You Repeat Business
  • How to Make Landscape Photographs That Will Wow Your Peers

You get the idea.

What About Just “How” Articles?

It’s true that just “how” (rather than “how to”) articles can also work very well. Something about the word “how” has a deep connection to people’s desire to know about things. A couple of famous headlines are these:

  • How I Improved My Memory in One Evening
  • How I Made a Fortune With a “Fool Idea”

Now the important part about writing these type of articles, as we mentioned before, is to fulfil the promise that you made in the title. There is no use having a great and compelling title if you don’t actually teach people what you promised.

With a bit of sculpting though, it is possible to craft a story that will have people referring to it for years.

Full List of Headline Examples

Some blog headlines are more effective than others. Following is a list that shows effective blog/article headlines. Use these as inspiration and a guideline to generate new ideas for store products and blog articles

  • Do You Recognize the 7 Early Warning Signs of High Blood Pressure?
  • 10 Ways to Beat the High Cost of Living
  • Five Familiar Skin Troubles
  • Six Types of Investor — Which Group Are You In?
  • How to Give Your Children Extra Iron — These 3 Delicious Ways
  • Free Book Tells You 12 Secrets of Better Lawn Care
  • 76 Reasons Why It Would Have Paid You to Answer Our Ad a Few Months Ago
  • Who Else Wants [blank]?
  • The Secret of [blank]
  • Here is a Method That is Helping [blank] to [blank]
  • Little Known Ways to [blank]
  • Get Rid of [problem] Once and For All
  • Here’s a Quick Way to [solve a problem]
  • Now You Can Have [something desirable] [great circumstance]
  • [Do something] like [world-class example]
  • Have a [or] Build a [blank] You Can Be Proud Of
  • What Everybody Ought to Know About [blank]
  • Give Me [short time period] and I’ll Give You [blank].
  • If You Don’t [blank] Now, You’ll Hate Yourself Later.
  • The Lazy [blank’s] Way to [blank].
  • Do You Recognize the [number] Early Warning Signs of [blank]?
  • See How Easily You Can [desirable result].
  • You Don’t Have to Be [something challenging] to be [desired result].
  • Do You Make These Mistakes?
  • Warning: [blank].
  • How [blank] Made Me [blank].
  • Are You [blank]?
  • [Blank] Ways to [blank].
  • If You’re [blank], You Can [blank].
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