How to Craft a Killer Headline

Researchers say that eight out of 10 people will read a headline, while only two of them will read the content that follows.

A headline is probably the most important thing you write–if it doesn’t generate interest and intrigue, your content is worthless.

But don’t worry. Creating great headlines isn’t as difficult a task as you might think.

The number one rule when writing headlines is that you must include a promise that your content is a worthy trade for a reader’s time.

Once you’ve settled on a promise, you must shift your efforts to structuring the headline so that it grabs the reader’s attention and drives him to read the rest of your content.

The following are three of the most successful headline templates.

And make sure you stick through to the end to learn the number one headline mistake bloggers make that turns readers off.

1. Ask a question.
One of the best ways to generate reader investment is to ask a thought-provoking question.

Several years ago I published an article in Details magazine titled “Is Your Workout Making You Fat?” The online version of the article has been shared on Facebook nearly 1,300 times.

What is it about the title that generated so many shares?

It was highly provocative because it asked a question that turned a popular concept on its head—that exercise results in fat gain, not fat loss. The headline also made readers wonder if their workout was actually making them fat.

Here are some other examples:

* Are You Making This Major Investing Mistake?

* Is Facebook Killing You? (I used this once, to great success)

* Do You Want to Spend More Time With Your Family?

What question can you ask your reader that is provocative enough to get them to click through to your blog?

2. How to . . .
The most successful bloggers that turn browsers into readers regularly use the “how to” headline approach.

According to market research the top search phrases worldwide begin with the simple words, “How to.”

When someone wants to learn something, it’s likely he will preface the query with “how to.” This is true for direct searches–according to market research the top search phrases worldwide being with the words “how to”–and indirect searches–our innate desire for self-improvement makes us hardwired to notice those words while browsing Facebook or Twitter feeds.

If you’re writing a post on gluten-free bread, your headline could be: “How to Make Gluten-Free Bread.” You can also increase potential readership by adding an extra benefit to further entice readers. For example, “How to Make Gluten-Free Bread That Actually Tastes Good.”

If you’ve ever had gluten-free bread you’ll know why adding the words “That Actually Tastes Good” makes for an even stronger headline.

Here are a few variations on the how-to headline:

* How I learned Spanish in 30 Days

* How to Write a Blog That Converts Readers to Customers

* How to Make Friends and Influence People (ever heard that one before?)

3. Lists
People love lists. For one, lists appeal to a person’s short attention span. They also promise the reader that he will learn multiple solutions for a particular problem. Lists offer a better bang for the buck, as they say.

Here are examples of list-based headlines:
* 5 Ways to Build Muscle Fast
* 30 DIY Car Tune-Up Solutions
* The Top 10 Easiest Paleo Recipes
* The 5 Tactics That Made Me a Faster Reader

You have three headline templates that you can use to convince others that your blog is worth reading. All you have to do is replace some of the words with your own.

For example,

Are You Making This Huge __________ Mistake?

How to __________ and achieve __________

5 Ways to __________

Now, on to the mistake that will always cost you readers . . .

Bonus: The Biggest Headline-Writing Mistake
You have three very simple headline templates that you can use to attract readers. Here’s one hugely common mistake that will have the opposite effect.

You must give away remarkable content if you plan to set yourself apart from your competition and build a loyal audience. Unfortunately, many writers reveal the “punchline” way too early.

Take this headline, for example: “Green Tea Improves Heart Health.”

Why is this a poorly constructed headline?

It tells the reader everything he needs to know right up front, which means that he has no need to click over to your post. You might as well have not bothered wasting your time writing the article in the first place.

Quality headlines must always invite mystery that inspire readers to take that all-important next step: clicking on through to your website.


It’s now time to put what you’ve learned into practice and test headlines with your audience.

Are you interested in a little practice first? Try rewriting the green tea headline in the comments section below and I’m happy to provide feedback.

Happy writing!

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