Three Quick Ways to Write Great Headlines

Men and a woman reading headlines posted in st...

Image by The Library of Congress via Flickr

David Ogilvy said that ““On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”

When writing copy, he spent most of his time writing the headline.

Why spend so much time on a few words?

Because the  headline is the most critical part of your article or ad.  That’s where the money is.

Write a crummy headline and nobody will look at the rest of your content.

Write a great one, and people will eagerly keep reading.

But how?

How to easily write great headlines

Luckily, there are some formulas for this. All you have to do is take one of them and fill in the blanks.

Use an extreme:

The 10 Worst _______,

The Five Biggest _______,

The Best ________

Use a number:

10 Ways to _____________,

27 Secrets of  ___________,

101 Free ____________.

Larger numbers are more likely to be bookmarked (who can read 101 Blogging Secrets all at once?)

Promise something useful:

How to ______________,

The Complete Guide to _____________.

While I was looking for a photo to illustrate this post, I found a photo with images of newspaper headlines trumpeting the success of the Salk vaccine, “The Salk Vaccine Works!”, “Polio Vaccine is Safe and Effective!” That was certainly great news, but it was poor headline writing.  Those headlines give the entire story away.  Once you see the headline, there’s no need to pick up the paper, or click the post to read the rest of the article. There’s no suspense!

Have you struggled with writing headlines?  Which do you spend more time writing? The headline or everything else?