Seven Easy Ways to Write Great Headlines That Convert

newspaper headline image There are times when the perfect headline jumps out of your brain and types itself out on the page.

Other times, it’s like slogging through molasses (no progress, and your brain feels like it’s bogged down in something sticky).

What do you do when inspiration fails to strike?  A recent post on Copyblogger got me thinking about ways to write great headlines that convert (sometimes without even really writing at all). Wouldn’t it be great to have tips on how to write great headlines? Stuff that you could just rework a bit and still get great results?

Here are some ways to easily write great headlines, without doing a lot of work.

1) Let Google do the work for you

Try searching for your topic on Google.  See what ads or sponsored links pop up.  This can be a great source of ideas.  Plus, they’re already search-engine friendly.  Check the number of results to see how popular the topic/wording is. Or, type something into the address bar (the one on the very top, where the URL is).  See what the suggestions are.

2) Swipe ideas from banner ads

Someone else has paid for those banner ads to come up on relevant sites.  See what headlines they’re using, and adapt them.

3) Look at magazine covers

This works especially well with women’s magazines. They’ve been using attention-grabbing headlines for years.  Copyblogger particularly recommends Cosmopolitan, and I agree. You don’t even have to leave your desk; you can check out the latest covers at  Plus, if you’re a guy, nobody has to see you picking up Cosmo!

Don’t use the headlines directly, but modify them to fit. For instance, here’s a sample headline from a magazine: “Five Words That Get the Truth Out of Men.” That won’t work as is, but you can change it to “Five Words That Get Clients to Pay Overdue Bills.”

4) Use a formula

There are formulas for this.  Direct marketers have been using them for years (because they work).

a) Set up a contradiction

“Earn Money While You Sleep”

b) Promise information
“How to Avoid the Biggest Mistake You Can Make When Buying a Camera”

c) Answer questions or objections

“10 Things You Should Know Before You Hire a Web Developer”

5) Look at newsletters you get from other people

I just got one titled: “Write a Profitable E-book in One Hour”

(This makes a promise, offers success, and sets up a seeming contradiction).

6) Keep a “swipe” file

Tear out ads from magazines, save direct marketing letters, print out ads you see online, and scribble down headlines from TV or a blog.  Keep them all in a big folder (virtual or actual) and pull them out when you need inspiration. Keep a small notebook with you to jot them down.

7) Don’t try

Sometimes trying too hard or thinking too much can freeze your brain.  Step away from the computer or the paper and go do something else.  Send an email to a client, take a walk, get coffee.  I often find I get great ideas walking down the street.

Oh, and if you think the headline in the paper is far-fetched, a few days ago I saw a cat chasing a dog the size of a Labrador.   This is a tough town.

Photo:plenty of ants

2 thoughts on “Seven Easy Ways to Write Great Headlines That Convert

  1. You are right. Cosmopolitan is the source for many of my headlines. I once saw a headline titled “The real reason why men cheat – by a man”. I simply changed it to “The real reason why IT Sucks – by an IT professional”.

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