10 Sure-Fire Headline Formulas That Work Every Time

Test tubes and other recipients in chemistry lab

Image by Horia Varlan via Flickr

Do you know how to write a great headline? Believe it or not there are sure-fire headline formulas that will grab your readers’ attention every time.

Why does this matter?

Because without a great headline, nobody will read the rest of your ad or your article. The headline is the first thing people see.  Write a great one and you’ll pull them in to read more.  Write something dull and  you’ll scare them away before they’ve read a single word.

And, of course, the fewer people who read your article or ad or post the fewer subscribers you’ll have and the lower your sales will be.  Not good.

It can be hard to be brilliant every day though. For those times, when your brain is stuck in neutral, try one of these never-fail headlines.

1. Write a headline with a contradiction

Eat More and Still Lose Weight

Heat Your Home (Without a Furnace)

Something that doesn’t seem to make sense will attract more attention. We think that if we eat more, we’ll gain weight, not lose it.  Since most people want to eat more, they’ll read on.

2. Make an exclusive offer

Dinner with Michael Jordan (Diamond Card Exclusive)

Something that people can’t get elsewhere. Of course, a “diamond card” (which I just made up), also promises exclusivity.  Not everyone can have one.  Especially if there are real diamonds in it.

Pick an offer that that your audience actually wants  though.  Don’t promise a free colonoscopy.

3. Offer an irresistible guarantee

Create Websites 5 Times Faster – or Your Money Back

This promises a big benefit (get more done in less time) and also reduces the perceived risk in buying the product.  If you don’t like it or get the results you want, you get a refund.

4. Make something hard look easy

The Lazy Employer’s Guide to Hiring

Take something that’s difficult and promise to show readers how to do it without a lot of hard work.

5. An unmissable value

$300 in Free Gifts with Your Order

Not only do you get what you are actually paying for, you get an extra $300 worth of gifts.  This is the thinking behind those informercials that make a double offer (not one, but two sets of ginzu knives).  Pile on the value, so people would be crazy not to take you up on it.

6. Help the reader get something they want

You Can Have a Dazzling Smile

Get the Best Price for Your Used Car

Show readers how they can be more attractive or earn more money, or save time.

7. Promise inside information

Little Known Ways to Lower Your Taxes

This offers both secret tips and a clear benefit. Nobody wants to pay more.

8. Appeal to their curiosity

20 Tricks You Didn’t Know Your Dog Could Do

You can’t find out what the tricks are unless you keep reading.

9. Ask a question

Do You Make These Common Marketing Mistakes?

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Make sure it’s a question that they can’t answer right away.  Or, a question that poses a challenge.  People may think they know what the common mistakes are, or they may have no idea.  The only way to find out what the mistakes are, or the error in the picture, is to keep reading (sense a pattern here?).

10. Answer questions

7 Questions to Ask Before You Hire a Copywriter

If someone is hiring a copywriter, and isn’t sure how the process works, this headline promises to help sort that all out, and avoid making the wrong choice.

How to Make Your Software Registration Process Foolproof

This one promises more signups, and fewer people abandoning your demo or purchasing process.  It’s appealing because it offers the promise of more sales and higher revenue.

2 thoughts on “10 Sure-Fire Headline Formulas That Work Every Time

  1. It’s like the title of a book. If it looks crappy, no one will pick up the book and even waste time trying to read the book.

    Great post!

    • Very true. I was in a bookstore yesterday and saw a book that seemed to be intended to help break bad news to small children (a good idea), but the title actually repelled me. It was called “Grandma is Dead.”

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