An incomplete guide to writing better headlines

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The four functions of a headline

The first thing that the reader sees when they come across your blog post, article, press release, case study or other marketing content is the headline. The headline is more than the title of your content – it has a job to do. Actually, a headline has four functions:

  1. Grab the reader’s attention – if they’re not interested in the headline, they won’t read the rest of the content
  2. Select the audience – you want to appeal to people you want to reach, and screen out people you don’t
  3. Deliver a complete message – make a complete statement, including a selling promise
  4. Draw the reader into the body copy

Types of headlines

You can write headlines in a nearly infinite number of ways. Most headlines can be classified under the following eight categories:

  1. Direct headline – state your selling proposition directly
  2. Indirect headline – make your point in a roundabout way, arousing curiosity and raising questions answered in the body copy
  3. News headline – provide news about a product or service, such as the release of a new product, improvement in an existing product or a new application
  4. How-to headline – show how to do something, and promise good information, sound advice and solutions
  5. Question headline – ask something that the reader wants answered
  6. Command headline – tell the reader what to do
  7. Reason-why headline – list what will happen or what the reader will learn
  8. Testimonial headline – relate what a customer experienced and how they are satisfied with your business

Formula for writing headlines

When writing a headline, consider using the four Us:

  1. Urgent – give the reader a reason to act now
  2. Unique – say something new or in a different way
  3. Ultra-specific – tease the reader with a mystery
  4. Useful – offer a benefit

Eight ways to create engaging article titles

Esther Ilori from Craft Your Content wrote a great post on eight ways to create great article titles that will engage your audience. She suggests doing one of the following:

  • Highlight a solution to a problem
  • Employ the AIDA (attention, interest, desire, action) method
  • Use facts and data
  • Use the how-to method
  • Be creative
  • Use a figure of speech
  • Make it personal
  • Think about what your audience wants

Links to my other blog posts on writing headlines

Have some suggestions on writing headlines? Need help with writing your headlines? Let me know –


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