Let’s talk about writing catchy headlines today.
As a copywriter, I’ve been given topics to write about quite frequently. Often, with headlines ready to use. But over time, I had to come up with topics myself and that means – good headlines were also my responsibility.
It’s a funny thing though, because what actually are catchy headlines?
Normally, you’d say it’s that kind of a headline which makes people click the link to your post. It’s a little bit like with subject lines for your newsletter. You’ve got to encourage people to notice your work.
And if you take a stroll around the web, you’ll find plenty of ‘how to write catchy headlines’ guides. I was one of those people who passionately saved all the fill-the-blank templates to never use them again.
For me, the most effective method of learning how to write catchy headlines was to peer at other blogs and websites. Today, I’ve found some cool headlines for you and I’m going to show you what I liked about them.
Copyblogger is my go-to source for copywriting and blogging knowledge. If you don’t know them yet, I recommend you check out what they do.
But meanwhile, here are some of their headlines that caught my attention.
So, what I like about this headline is how simple and down-to-earth it is. It gives you three pieces of information solely from looking at it:
That’s not a unique headline formula, but I like it for its simplicity. There are a purpose, a benefit and a small number that doesn’t intimidate the reader.
In this headline, Copyblogger takes something supposedly negative – being naive. Then, suggests that it can make you financially successful. They suggest that quality usually causing people to lose something, suddenly can make you hit the jackpot.
A natural reaction to such headline is “how can a bad quality give a positive result?” and a reader is quite likely to click through in search of the answer.
I believe that even if we’re ready to work hard, we’d rather not do it. Not because we’re lazy, but because we all prefer to get awesome results with minimum work. That’s why headlines that promise a lot for little are so enticing.
“15 minutes isn’t a lot but maybe it could be my game changer? Could my whole life change because of something I’ll do so quickly? I better read this to find out.”
This headline takes the recent public enemy of productivity (multitasking) and suggests it’s not the main cause for your lousy results.
Imagine you’re a person who struggles with productivity. You seek answers to how to fix that and you hear time and time again that you should stop multitasking. After a while, all productivity-related articles will sound the same.
You’re at the point where you’re feeling nauseous only at the thought of someone telling you not to multitask. And then, you see this headline.
An article that suggests your low productivity is something you didn’t read about before.
Of course, you’re going to click it, right?
So, that’s about Copyblogger. Check out their blog for more inspiration – and not only headlines but the amount of copywriting knowledge they’ve got to offer.
I’m also a big fan of Ubersuggest I frequently visit Neil Patel’s site to update my knowledge of SEO and online marketing. No wonder I decided to share some of his headlines with you.
Have a look!
So, when Neil touches on rebranding, this headline tells you these two things:
We love examples because they’re so much clearer than just dry instructions. Even more so, those examples promise that we will get things right if we just copy their course of action.
For me. this headline is particularly catchy for one reason: it plays on our feeling of safety.
It uses the word “stealing” which has an obvious negative connotation. Nobody likes to be stolen from. Even more so, if someone makes money from things they’ve stolen from you!
We can expect that people will love to find out who’s stealing their content. And, hopefully, they’ll also learn how to prevent it. That additionally drives them to read the copy.
This one reminds me of the example of getting big things done in a matter of minutes.
Well, you could work hard to get users attention. You could write thirty headline ideas but what if you could get them right by using only eight tricks?
Tricks are something we associate with brief but effective action. In this headline, it’s paired with psychology. So, the subconscious message we receive is “you don’t have to do things the hard way; you can play a scientifically-proven trick on your reader’s brain that will get them to read your stuff”.
The bit of science in all that makes the headline all the more credible.
Nobody likes to be spied on. Even more so, we wouldn’t want to be caught spying on someone else. But this article promises that we can get away with it.
But not only that – we can sneak around our competitors and learn their secrets as well.
Wouldn’t you learn that?
This headline makes good use of numbers.
6 simple steps give you 18 resources to use. It translates to: “you only need to do six things, but I’ve also found eighteen resources for you so you don’t have to search for them”.
It’s a double benefit for a reader. Not only do we get straightforward guidelines but we’re also being equipped with the tools we need.
Neil Patel’s blog is full of similar headlines. But not only – there’s a lot of inspiration in his podcast as well!
I already mentioned Ahrefs in my article about blog audit, but there’s more to that. Beside a good content, they’ve got a bunch of headlines anybody can learn from.
They’re making particular use of values and numbers, as we’ll see in a moment.
“Oh yeah? I bet I can do that too.”
“So you think you’re so special? Let’s see.”
That’s a little bit of a tease. You could say it’s sounding arrogant but it does attract people to check what’s so special about Ahrefs.
If it works, it works, right?
The key word here is “actionable”. A lot of guides online are vague, repetitive and not really practical. Ahrefs promises you the opposite – an actionable guide that will tell you exactly what to do.
It also notifies you the guide is updated for 2019 – which is important for the industry as ever-changing as SEO.
What this headline does, is basically telling website owners that their most desired thing is not worth it.
They might as well write a post about drinking water being overrated and I presume it’d have the same effect.
But not only that, but they also tell you they studied a 100k keywords to prove their crazy (?) claim.
So, if they’re so bold and claim to have a good reason for that, then why not to check it out?
This is a story. More, it’s a story with fifty-thousand dollars at stake.
If someone spends this amount of cash on something, then I obviously want to learn if they’ve got something from it. Maybe it will prevent me from repeating their mistakes?
I think that people love stories with something at stake. Losing big money is something every business wants to avoid. That means the stakes are real. And we all love stories where there’s something significant to lose.
What I noticed about Ahrefs is that they use numbers in their headlines. Often. Numbers give the reader a hint of how much content could they expect. There are people who believe including numbers in your headlines make them more appealing.
I like Medium for one particular thing. People there really put the value of their content in the first place. The platform has the journalism feeling that makes some of the pieces published there really one of a kind.
And so are the headlines.
This headline sounds negative. It makes you think it’s another article bashing social media presence or technology, or whatever. Or maybe another article that will tell you what downhill humanity faces.
Either way, it makes you want to click and check what’s the author got to say and how they support their grim-sounding claims.
So, you’re looking at this headline and you’ve got another thought like: “what do you mean it’s not? Sure it is!”. And then, you just click through to see what does the author means.
It’s similar to the case of Ahrefs claiming that ranking for #1 is overrated. The principle of controversy is used quite frequently. However, I’m always careful about it. By saying something people don’t agree with, you may end up sparking argues you don’t want to spark.
As much as we love good stories of conflict, I think we also love stories of mistakes. These are the “redemption stories”, as Melissa Cassera calls them in her interview at Amy Porterfield’s podcast.
It’s likely that we, readers, will simply read such copy to learn how to avoid mistakes. Or to check if we’re not making them already.
I could pull out more inspiring headlines from Medium. But, honestly, I believe you can do that on your own. And I promise you that one trip there will shower you in headlines that will – at times – prove irresistible.
On the bottom line, I think that there isn’t any magical formula for writing catchy headlines. When I’m writing mine, I’m trying to come up with several ideas – sometimes even as much as thirty. But to be honest, I’m never sure the headline will stick until I test it. And I think that’s what we’ve got to do as copywriters or bloggers. After all, every audience is different and experimenting is our way to go.
What are your favourite headlines like?