Proven Headline Formulas and Why They Work

magazine headlinesFriday, I gave some examples of killer headlines that grab your attention.

Sure, they’re formulas. They’ve been used over and over since the days of John Caples and Eugene Schwartz.

The question is, why do these headline formulas work so well? What makes us keep reading (or clicking)?


They make you wonder how something could possibly be true, or what the connection between two unrelated things could be. They set up a contradiction, like “Eat More and Weigh Less.” That doesn’t sound right, so you want to find out more about it.

Or, the headline asks a question, such as “Do you make these common marketing mistakes?” The only way to find out is to read more.


An easy solution to a tough problem. People struggle with weight, setting up a blog, getting rid of weeds, etc. A headline that promises that it can help you fix what’s bothering you will be very powerful.

Promises and inside information

Headlines that make big claims or promise you’ll learn secrets or inside tips. Headlines such as “Retire Early Without Being Rich” or “Secrets the SEO Experts Don’t Want You to Know” promise access to information that other people don’t have information that will help you get something you want, such as more money or a better ranking on Google.

What makes you stop and read a headline?

Image thanks to:  Robert Couse-Baker

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How to Write Headlines Your Readers Can’t Resist


reading the newspaper

I can’t read the text, but that newspaper must be pretty interesting if he wants to read it while swimming. If you want your readers to be as involved as he is, you’ll need a great headline.

Here are some tips for starting your post, your ad, or your email with a headline that’s so good, your readers will take it everywhere (even swimming).

Make them curious

Curiosity is bad for cats, but good for people. Write something odd, or unexpected, and your readers will want to find out more about it.

One way to do this is to put two or three things together in a new way. Or, combine subjects that don’t seem to belong together at all.

The Yogi Berra Marketing Guide
The only way to find out what in the world Yogi Berra has to do with marketing is to read the post.

The Pajamas, The Lizard Brain, and the Employee Manual. Certainly a strange combination.  The only way to find out what it’s about is to read on.

Ask a question (without a clear answer)

Are You Reading These Blogs?
Do You Make This Common Marketing Mistake?
Why Are Clients Like Fish?

Make a big promise

Tell people you’ve got secret, long-lost, or critical information.

The Number One Marketing Secret You Need to Know
Try This Timeless Copywriting Technique

Announce something new or solve a big problem

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Appeal to self-interest

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Photo compliments of: inju

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