How to Write Headlines: 10 Best Practices

Shane Barker
Mar 25, 2021

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Your headlines are a critical aspect of whatever you write, be it a blog post, ad copy, or a newsletter. This is because people will only read your content if your headline is powerful and catchy enough to grab their attention.

Now the question is:

How can you write headlines that work?

Your headlines should make people want to read more, buy the newspaper or book, and click the link to your content marketing. It should capture attention and compel readers to act right away.

In this article, I’m going to share some of the most effective headline writing tips that every content marketer, blogger, and writer can benefit from.

Let’s get started.

Types of Content You May Need to Write a Headline For

Headlines are not limited to the articles you publish on your blog. You may also need to write a headline for:

  • Guest posts
  • Ad copy
  • Newsletters
  • Ebooks
  • Magazines
  • Social media posts
  • Email copy
  • Landing page copy
  • And more

While they are all different types of content with different target audiences, this article is a perfect guide on how to write headlines that work. Remember, the right headlines can help improve the results of your content services, so it’s well worth putting plenty of time and effort into them.

10 Tips on How to Write Headlines That Attract Readers

Do you keep publishing articles that no one reads? Or, does your email open rate suck?

If you want to get more people to read your content, make sure your headline and copy are optimized for conversions.

Let’s discuss the most effective tips and tricks that can help you write headlines that both your readers and the search engines will love.

1. Write for your readers (not just for search engines)

First things first: you should understand who your readers are. Only then will you be able to write headlines that can capture their attention.

You should research:

  • Who is your target audience?
  • What do they want to read about?
  • Are they looking for any particular solutions?
  • Do they need tips on a specific topic?
  • What type of content do they engage with the most? Is it how-to guides or easy-to-read listicles? Or, will well-designed and insightful infographics be more appealing to them?

Your headline should address the target readers’ pain points and convince them that your content has the solutions they need.

For example, if you want to publish a post about the best blogger outreach tools, here are two options:

  • Best Blogger Outreach Tools
  • 9 Blogger Outreach Tools to Get More Links in 2022

While both titles will help search engine crawlers understand what your page is about, the latter will appeal more to readers.

Pro tip: Include the main keyword to satisfy search engines and help them rank your content better. But, otherwise, write headlines that talk authentically to readers.

This tactic can help improve your click-through rate, which will inform search engines that your content is authentic and valuable for users.

2. Include a target keyword

Include your target keyword in the headline to help readers and search engines understand what the article is about.

It will help readers relax and be more likely to check out your content whereas it will help search engines like Google place your content higher in relevant search results.

How can you choose the right keywords?

You should pick keywords that have a good search volume and low competition. They are easier to rank for than keywords with high competition. The best idea is to look for a long-tail variation of the main keyword that correctly summarizes the content of your article.

Pro tip: You should place the keyword at the beginning of your headline for better results. But don’t do any keyword stuffing. It should fit naturally in your headline.

3. Write headlines that are unique

Nobody wants to see 3-4 posts with the same headline. So, copying an existing headline is a big “no-no” if you want to attract and engage readers.

Duplicate headlines will not only confuse your readers but may also give search engines an idea that your content is copied.

You should come up with headlines that are unique to your brand and content. They should also align with what your audience wants to read about.

When writing headlines, search for your main keyword on Google. Look at the titles of the existing posts, and make sure that your headline is different from all of them.

For example, if you search for “content marketing statistics,” here are the headlines of top-ranking posts:

Image via Google

Possible unique title options include:

  • 30 Content Marketing Statistics to Help You Stay Relevant to Your Audience
  • Become a Better Marketer with These Content Marketing Statistics
  • 30 Content Marketing Statistics You Need to Plan Your 2022 Strategy

Pro tip: When writing headlines, you should make a list of all the ideas that come into your mind. Don’t use the initial obvious ones. Instead, choose a headline from the latter ones in the list where you were forced to think more creatively to bring out new ideas.

4. Make your headlines easy to read and understand

This is an important tip when talking about how to write headlines that work well with readers. If you want your headlines to appeal to people, they need to be easy to understand.

Don’t use fancy words that a layman cannot understand. Nobody is interested in reading an article that they need a dictionary to decipher.

However, including a few powerful words such as “effective,” “awesome,” and “successful” can help you entice readers. You can use tools such as CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer to check the effectiveness of your headline.

Image via CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer

This tool will help you analyze the distribution of different types of words in your headline and provide suggestions to improve it. You can also use it to test multiple headline ideas.

You may have noticed that search engines such as Google typically display the first 50–60 characters of a title tag. If your titles are longer, then they may not be displayed completely, which will make users guess the remaining part.

Image via Google

Make sure that your titles are short and crisp to avoid this.

Also, use either title case or sentence case to write your headlines. Don’t capitalize words randomly in your headlines, making them difficult to read.

I recommend using title case, but some publishers prefer using sentence case as well.

5. Use a number in your headline

Numbers always work great in headlines.

For example, many of the top-ranking posts for “content writing tools” are listicles that have a number in their headline. Here’s a screenshot from the Google search results:

Image via Google

Pro tip: Odd numbers work better than even numbers. While there is no specific reason behind this, it just works. That’s why many of the listicles you see are in odd numbers.

6. Write headlines that generate curiosity

Another way to write headlines that scream for attention is to add an element of curiosity.

You can replace a noun in your headline with words like “this,” “that,” “these,” and “secret” to make readers curious about what it refers to.

For example:

  • Have You Done This on Your First Date?
  • Here’s the Secret Recipe You Need to Succeed at Content Marketing
  • Are You Making These Mistakes in Your Career?

7. Use common terms

The best way to engage readers is to give them what they are looking for. Most people search for tips, tricks, ideas, and ways to do a certain thing better, which is why creating content with this in mind can help you gain traction.

Some of the common terms that you can include in your headlines are:

  • Tips
  • Mistakes
  • Secrets
  • Lessons
  • Strategies
  • Facts
  • Reasons
  • Tricks
  • Ideas
  • Ways

Using these words will convey that your article, infographic, or ebook includes information that will help readers do things better. Just make sure that your content doesn’t disappoint those who visit your site or download your ebook.

Some examples include:

  • 7 Effective Tips to Improve the Open Rate of Your Emails
  • 6 Product Page Mistakes You Should Avoid to Boost Sales
  • 11 Reasons Why Surfer is a Must-Have Content Marketing Tool

8. Make your headline convey a sense of urgency

Use the fear of missing out (FOMO) technique to get people to read your content.

Certain words can encourage readers to take action faster than others. Using them can help you improve your content’s click-through rate and increase your chances of conversions.

This tactic works really well when writing headlines for landing pages, emails, ad copy, and pop-up copy.

For example, when writing email subject lines, you can create a sense of urgency using terms such as:

  • Limited time offer
  • Don’t miss this chance
  • Register while it is still available
  • Sale ends today

Along with adding these terms into your email headlines and subject lines, you should maintain the momentum in your email copy to drive conversions. Follow other best practices as well to make your email marketing campaign successful.

9. Focus your headline on helping readers instead of selling

Instead of selling your product or service, you should write headlines that focus on helping your target audience. Your headline should be able to get people to read your copy and your copy should focus on driving conversions.

Write headlines that focus on solving a problem in the easiest, fastest, or best way. This tactic works well for creating landing page headlines as well.

For example, you could go with:

  • How to Improve Your Health Using an Apple Watch
  • How to Build High-Quality Links with These Backlink Analysis Tools
  • 5 Tips to Ensure Safe Solo Travel Around the World

You can also offer added value to readers using words like “free.” Most people are interested in free products, services, and resources, which can help increase the click-through rate of your headline.

Here are a few examples:

  • How to Collaborate with Influencers (+ FREE Outreach Templates)
  • How to Start a Blog and Make Money [A Free Guide for Beginners]

10. Make readers question themselves

Another way to write headlines that engage readers is to make them question what they are doing in life. You can do this by suggesting ways to make their lives better, easier, or more successful.

You can create headlines, such as:

  • Still Stuffing Keywords? Stop While You Still Can
  • Stuck In an Unhappy Relationship? Here’s What You’re Missing
  • Not Building Links for Your Site? Your Search Rankings Might Suffer
  • Here’s What You Don’t Know About Social Commerce

Are You Ready to Write Compelling Headlines?

The right headlines can help you get people to read your content and increase your chances of driving conversions. That’s why many content creators spend more time on writing headlines than on creating the content itself. This includes headlines for all types of content.

I hope the tips mentioned above will help you craft compelling headlines that positively impact your content marketing ROI.

Do you need help writing the perfect headlines for your content? Feel free to discuss the challenges you may be facing in the comments below. I’ll be happy to help you overcome them.

Hand off the toughest tasks in SEO, PPC, and content without compromising quality

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Written by Shane Barker on March 25, 2021

Shane Barker is a digital marketing consultant who specializes in influencer marketing, content marketing, and SEO. He is the co-founder of Attrock, a digital marketing agency. He has consulted with Fortune 500 companies, influencers with digital products, and a number of A-List celebrities.