Better headlines in 5 easy steps!

You want to write another magnificent post for your blog, you do meticulous research and sacrifice valuable hours, but then you get stuck at the most important part: the headline

How hard can it be? It seems easy enough to write a solid headline: just string together five to ten words – done!

This article first appeared in the AWMpro #16

This is the first mistake: if you expect to quickly write a headline you will only get annoyed if you are not great at writing headlines. Quite a few of the best writers in advertising suggest spending as much time on the headline as you would need for writing the whole article. Even legends such as David Ogilvy do not come up with a headline on the spur of the moment. He has changed the headline for one advertising text more than a hundred times until he was satisfied with his work.


If you spend more than two minutes fretting about a headline, this is totally normal and not a reason for concern. As long as you are mindful of the most important facts of your text and follow my suggestions you will be able to write great headlines. Why are headlines so important I hear you ask? Statistics show that headlines get read by 80% of a website’s visitors, but only 20% read the text. There is potential for more readers, if they can be convinced to read the whole post by using appealing headlines. To use this potential all you need to do is pay attiention to these pointers.

  1. The ultimate formula

A good way to approach a task is to divide it into parts, which is exactly what you should do with a headline. The parts are as follows:

  • number
  • adjective
  • keyword
  • promise

Numbers in a headline are a proven way of atitracting the reader’s attention.
They evoke a sense of structure in the reader, since the content gains structure through numbering. Furthermore, the reader can anticipate what the text will be about by reading the headline. It is best to write the number as digits and not as words, because digits get recognized as numbers more easily when read quickly.


The keyword, in combination with a fittng adjective, sheds light on the topic of the article. This keyword should be well-thought-out. On the one hand, potential readers can get an idea whether the article is interesting, on the other hand keywords are relevant for search engine optimization.

The promise is part of the headline, making the reader sit up and take notice. By “promising” to deliver something extraordinary, the reader wants to find out more. Try to build up suspense without keeping important information from the reader.

  1. Over 9.000 reasons why lists are cool

Well, maybe not exactly 9.000, but there are still enough good reasons for working with lists. As previously stated numbers attract the reader’s attention. Lists have another advantage: They are easy to read and understand and they are shared often. An analysis of over a million headlines showed that posts with lists are most commonly shared on social media channels. The same analysis found out that only a minority of articles is actually written in the form of lists. So for you this means: write more articles in the form of lists!

  1. How do I write meaningful and interesting headlines no one can resist?

Another variation of the above mentioned formula is a “How to” headline. It promises a guide or instructions with genuine added value for the reader. The headline consists of an activity, or a process, and one single advantage.

This type of headline almost writes itself, if you have written the article beforehand. The activity or process you write about only needs to be expressed in a pleasant way. Then you need to think about what the added value of the activity described is. Concentrate on your reader’s point of view. List all potential benefits and look for the one most crucial to your target audience and then try different versions of the headline.


  1. Mistakes in headlines you should avoid

Curious? Then you already experienced what this paragraph is really about. We are not going to concentrate on mistakes that might occur, but more on the word mistake as such. Be honest: You did want to know which errors you should avoid, right? No worries, that is perfectly normal, most people are afraid of making mistakes.

If you see a headline which includes the word mistake, you are going to make sure you are not making the same mistakes. You can harness this insecurity by trying to come up with possible mistakes which your target audience would find helpful. As is the case frequently, mistakes usually never appear alone. You may be writing about several different mistakes that can happen easily. If you combine the term mistake with a list this will increase the range even further.

  1. A simple way of dealing with headline problems once and for all

There is good and bad news. The bad: for a topic as complex as “Writing a good headline” there is usually no simple solution. The good news is, that you have already got four approaches for tackling this problem. And now you are learning a fifth one. The secret is to identify the reader’s needs and to enable them to satisfy or fulfil them. People prefer simple solutions, so do not overcomplicate things and try to respond to the needs you identified beforehand as concretely as possible. As mentioned before, catchy headlines are an important stimulus for the click rate and thus for the search engine rank.

You just learned five different approaches for creating such a headline. But be careful: Do not go over the top. There is a thin line between an appealing headline and clickbait. Clickbait is what headlines are called that were made only to get readers to click on a text to increase the CTR. These headlines generally lead to false expectations and important information is often omitted, leading to articles which are usually less exciting than the headline.

This is not only frustrating for the user but can also result in negative consequences for the webmaster. Facebook has recently announced a new algorithm aimed at drastically reducing the number of clickbait headlines. That is why you should only use authentic headlines without deceiving your readers in order to increase the CTR. With these five suggestions, you will be able to.

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