18 evergreen rules to write remarkable copywriting headlines

A perfect and catchy headline is the key to the success of your ad campaign. It is he who determines whether a potential customer will remain on your page or go to competitors.

These 8 rules are great for:

  • creating texts in contextual advertising
  • preparing posts on social networks
  • choosing a subject line for e-mail marketing.

To make the information easier to perceive, we have designed this post in the form of infographics.


Headings determine the success of any text and are the key factor that determines whether the reader will pay attention to the text or not. 

It is the headlines that set the first stage of the AIDA marketing model in motion , and therefore require a special approach from the copywriter. History is replete with a mass of brilliant examples that have had truly fabulous success. 

Today we will look at what techniques are used to create the most effective, most effective and most catchy headlines, and also try to explain why they have such an effect on the reader.

Legendary header examples

If you want to get acquainted with real examples of headlines that have reliably entered the history of world marketing, then the trilogy “100 legendary headlines that brought their creators millions” will be useful to you.

Spectacular headlines: how they work

Before we start, a little lyrical digression. Truly effective headlines affect the psychosomatic system of a person through the so-called psycho hooks. In other words, such headlines evoke a psychological reaction in a person, which is expressed in increasing the activity of the brain and evoking the emotions the author needs. If a person’s headline does not catch on (does not contain psycho hooks), then there are no changes in the state of the reader and, as a result, the impact is reduced to zero.

Techniques for creating titles

So, let’s get to the point. Now we will look at several techniques for creating headings, examining in detail which psychohooks are used in them, and what effect they have on a person.

1 question

The question in the headline makes the person answer it. Subconsciously. The highlight is that in order to answer a question, you need to comprehend it, pass it through yourself. This means that regardless of whether he wants it or not, the reader pays attention to your text.

Questions can be rhetorical, they can be specific, they can be abstract. However, they are always united by one thing: directly or indirectly, they indicate that the answer lies in the text, but for this the text must be read.

Examples of headers:

  • Why are you dizzy?
  • Why can’t you afford a vacation in the Maldives?
  • How much time per day do you spend killing yourself?
  • Where is your conscience?
  • How do you see yourself in 5 years?
  • How much does an hour of your work cost?

Different questions elicit different reactions and focus the reader’s attention on different aspects.

2. Solving the problem (answer to the question)

Humans, by nature, are terribly lazy creatures. Of course, I am generalizing and exaggerating, but, in fact, this is how it is. If there is an opportunity to get a ready-made solution to an actual problem instead of looking for an answer on your own, then most people will take advantage of this. The answer to the question is a Klondike for any copywriter in terms of audience impact. The trick is simple: choose a problem, give its solution in the text, and in the title let the reader understand that the text contains the solution.

Examples of headers:

  • How to stop worrying and start living
  • Where to get a lot of money at once
  • How to get rid of back pain
  • How much is freedom

The most popular titles are those that start with the word “How.” The general stereotype assumes that behind the word “how”, by default, there is a practical guide, which is very, very useful, which is why readers have a special trust in this word .

Notice how people enter search terms when looking for lessons on something: “How to make a mask,” “How to send a boss,” “How to seduce girls,” and so on.

3. Personal experience

People always have more trust in those who have already done something, and not in those who are just talking about how to do something. Demagoguery and results are completely different things. Compare the two titles:

  1. How to make $ 1000 per week
  2. How I made $ 1000 in a week

Which of them do you have more interest and confidence in?

Examples of headers:

  • How I lost 20 kilos in 2 weeks
  • How I disassembled the toilet in the State Duma
  • How a Marlboro pack helped me in a fight with 5 hooligans

In addition, the title may include not only the personal experience of the author, but also of a third party. The more authoritative and famous this person is, the more trust you can inspire in the reader.

Examples of headers:

  • How Bill Gates made his first million
  • What does Schumacher do when his wheel punches
  • How bankers make money on the dynamics of the exchange rate

4. Mystery, secret, intrigue

People simply adore secrets and secrets, especially if these secrets allow them to get certain benefits. People also love other people’s secrets, even just like that, without advantages. By playing on human curiosity, you have a very high chance of drawing readers’ attention to your text.

Examples of headers:

  • The money you walk on without noticing
  • Nero’s Secret Secret That Made Him Great
  • The secret of making double profits for an entrepreneur in Ukraine

5. Numbers

The numbers in the headings act as a conditional quantitative indicator of the saturation or ease of assimilation of the material. In other words, numbers are a measure that allows a person to estimate a priori how much benefit he will take from reading a particular text, and how easy it will be for him to perceive the information offered. The larger the number, the richer the material, and it attracts with volume, and smaller means easier and more practical, and attracts with lightness and transparency. By introducing this certainty, the copywriter can manipulate the audience, for example, by mixing useful information with a commercial layer.

Examples of headers:

  • 100 and 1 ways to become the soul of the company
  • The book that makes you a superhero in 20 minutes
  • 5 surefire ways to find inspiration
  • 24 vices of novice programmers

6. Accents

Accents endow headlines with qualitatively new properties, amplifying them several times. By themselves, accents can be ordinary, inconspicuous words, but in conjunction with the headline, they increase its effectiveness. A distinctive feature of an accent is that it always points to something.

Examples of headers:

  • THIS rake will make your neighbors jealous of you
  • NOW …! You will start predicting the future!
  • Who STILL wants to make $ 1000 a month without making an effort?
  • Buy our alarm and your car thief will ALWAYS be behind bars
  • You lose hundreds of dollars a year due to ignorance of THIS nuance

7. Instilling fear

Fear is a very powerful motivating factor. If you fill your headlines with fear, they move the audience to read the body copy. It’s simple. A person instinctively tries to protect himself from all negative factors. If there is at least some chance that in the article he will find salvation and protect himself, then the person will read it.

Examples of headers:

  • You lose $ 3000 every year without this skill.
  • Mixing these products burns out the stomach in a day.
  • Just one word can save your marriage from ruin.

You can read more about fear and its effect on readers in the article ” Fear: a copywriter’s secret weapon, or how I increased the effectiveness of my text by 3.5 times “

8. Warranties

In essence, guarantees are a derivative of fear, only served under a different sauce. When a person feels protected, he becomes more loyal to the text that he reads.

Examples of headers:

  • 24 hours and your skin is radiant! Otherwise, we will refund your money!
  • You will forget about problems forever!
  • You will never need anything!

9 an out-of-the-box approach

In most cases, people have a filter for many of their titles because people basically know what to expect. Non-standard or contradictory solutions attract attention and are able to break through this filter.

Examples of headers:

  • I put you in a trance while you read this text!
  • Take your money!
  • Don’t you dare read what is written here!
  • Full house in a severe fiasco

10. “Salt on the wound”

Finally, the most powerful headlines are headlines that point and hit the person’s most sore spot: pride, pride, fears, problems, etc., which are relevant for this person. In this case, the success of the headline sharply oversteps the 90% mark.

Examples of headers:

  • Forget hair loss at last!
  • And how long will you still work “for your uncle”?
  • Tired of fighting weeds?

Partial conclusions

People are primarily interested in their problems and their needs. If your headline is directly or indirectly related to these needs, then it is very likely that a person will start reading the main text. Of course, in each case, the headline will have its own unique specifics, however, the general principles of influencing the audience, given in this article, can help you increase the impact of your headlines several times due to just one or a couple of words.


Examples of marketing headlines for SMM

Social media posts also require promotion. And a striking headline is one of the most powerful ways to make them stand out in your news feed. All the same key principles work here, but there is one more – brevity.

People will want to go to the social network to relax, so they are unlikely to waste time reading a long headline.

An example of a selling headline for a Vkontakte advertising post, clearly targeted at the target audience – parents of schoolchildren: 

A headline for VK with a promise of specific benefits focused on a specific target audience – parents:

Another headline with a specific benefit and a call to action:

Typically, these headlines are aimed at housewives. Specifically in this title, the promise to become independent (this is the pain of the target audience) and work without leaving home clings.

A headline from Instagram that will interest those who are trying to promote themselves on the social network:

An example of a bad selling headline for an Instagram post. It seems that there is urgency, and everything is filed correctly, but refusal to indicate a specific type of vacancy will “wash out” the target audience. People simply won’t understand who they are looking for: 

By the way, we have a separate very useful article on how to write marketing headlines for Instagram. With rules and examples . 

And again a post from the social network “Vkontakte”, where the image was also used to place the title. Additional move – call to action: 

Bonus. 5 formulas for selling headlines

If you want to start writing your own sales headlines, special formulas will definitely come in handy. Below are 3 very useful training articles, as well as small examples of writing sales headlines for specific formulas. 

Useful articles: 

  • 10 copywriting formulas for SMM. Rules and examples. 
  • 7 Powerful Selling Text Formulas for Instagram 
  • 5.5 of the best formulas of selling texts with examples . 

Examples of writing headings based on formulas

  • AIDA. The classic algorithm of selling text, which can be safely used to create headlines. Four points – attention, interest, desire, action – work flawlessly.

Example. “Tomorrow will be late! Registration for the course “Minus 20 kg in one month” will last for another 1 hour. Join in! “ 

Attention is emphasized with an exclamation mark, and the call to action is reinforced by time constraints.

  • Pain – Hope – Solution. Literally: “pain, hope, solution.” In this marketing headline formula, the author plays on emotion.

Example. “The customer didn’t pay for the article? 5 Effective Ways to Protect Copyright ”. 

Hope and solution here merge into one statement: “copyright protection = guaranteed payment.”

  • Before – After – Bridge. Here it is necessary to use everyone’s favorite comparison: “it was – it is”, and connect them with arguments.

Example. “Yesterday she was a single mother, and today she is a leading information blogger. How did I manage it? “ 

The main thing here is to correctly place accents.

  • “Rod. Fishing line. Hook”. The essence of the technique is to use the headline to hook the reader on a virtual hook – a bonus on purchase – using a rod – your product – and a fishing line – arguments.

Example. “Collar for dogs with GPS – buy before the end of the month and get a smartphone app as a gift.” 

The bonus in this case is the free app, the item is the collar, and the argument is the unique satellite tracking feature.

  • 4U. One of the most difficult formulas for headline marketing. It consists of four principles: uniqueness, usefulness, ultra-specificity and urgency. 

Example. “Only for three days you can download the application for calculating the horoscope of compatibility with a partner, with a 45% discount.”

Such a title is intended for a not very wide circle of readers, but in its field it is quite popular – this is its ultra-specificity and uniqueness. There is usefulness – that’s for sure, well, and urgency: “only three days.”


Let’s do some focus work on copy and landing page headlines (yes dude, we’re rolling!)

I’d like to take you down with the headlines subject from another deeper perspective now…

Stay with me!

Before posting an article, review, slideshow, or video, be sure to take a few minutes to make sure you’re choosing the best headline. A good headline directly affects traffic, it is a matter of life and death in content marketing and promotion in general. The Internet is becoming more and more a seething cauldron of chaos, and you have less and less time to grab the attention of your audience.

Choosing a good title for the material, you instantly get a response from the reader. The headline helps your readers quickly determine if they need your article or presentation, why they should buy, download, or open a page with your content, and what benefits they get from clicking on the related link.

By choosing a bad headline, you make your article, presentation, or other content invisible to most of your audience. The headline is an essential element of web pages, advertisements, videos. It draws the audience’s attention to the content. Submissions go unnoticed if you use a gray and nondescript title.

This article will introduce you to the main characteristics of successful headlines. It includes 10 questions, answering which you will learn how to create high-quality and “catchy” headlines. You can also use the heading scoring table, which is a handy tool to quickly determine their quality.

The examples below are primarily related to books. The names of the authors of most of them have become brands, and the books remain bestsellers, thanks in part to the successful titles. However, these examples hold true for any type of content — and above all — for web content.

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Here are our 10 questions to ask yourself when writing your headlines:

1. Does your headline promise audience benefits?

Choose a title that clearly communicates to your readers the benefits and benefits they will receive from your product or service. The best headline solves a problem or helps the audience achieve a desired goal.

Compare the following names:

  • Graphic design tools and techniques.
  • Improve Your Design: A Guide to Using Basic Tools and Techniques.

The first heading tells the reader about the content of the article. The second title describes the benefits that the reader will receive after reading the article.

2. Does your title contain specific details that emphasize its relevance and value?

Specific details in the title, such as the exact numbers, draw additional attention to your content. Numbers structure information, as can be seen in the book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey. Imagine the title of this book without numbers – The Skills of Highly Effective People. Doesn’t sound very convincing, right?

The numbers in the headline also help to “eat the elephant one bite at a time”. We are talking about the step-by-step achievement of a difficult goal. For example, look at the title of Terry Orbach’s book, 6 Steps to the Perfect Marriage. Another example is Damir Khalilov’s article “100 main skills of an SMM specialist” (although, in our opinion, the round figure sounds a bit tight, as if the author adjusted the results to a “round” figure, it would be much better to title the article “97 or 102 skills … “).

What’s more, numbers can make your content more relevant by giving the reader a specific timeline or timeline for reaching a goal. How do you like the title of the book, Guerrilla Marketing in 30 Days, used by authors Jay Konrad Levinson and Al Lautenslager? But the headline “Lose 21 Pounds in 21 Days: Martha Vineyard’s Detox Diet” sounds even better. The title of this book tells the reader exactly how many pounds of excess weight he will lose and in what period. Buyers of books on diet and other weight management methods are likely to want to know the exact results of the described methods.

Another example on the topic of numbers is the diary book by designer Jana Frank “365 days of a very creative person”. But, as you already understood, there are a lot of examples of successful headings using numbers. The main thing is the ability to beat these numbers.

3. Does your title take into account the target audience for which the content is intended?

Identify the target consumers of your content with your headline where possible. This makes your content personalized. You can identify target readers by directly naming them or by specifying their key characteristics. The more obvious this is done, the better.

CJ Hayden’s book, Attract Customers: A 28-Day Marketing Course for Professionals, Trainers and Consultants, defines the audience by occupation. Heidi Muroff and Sharon Maisel use the heading “What to Expect When You Expect” to indicate the book’s target buyers, describing the circumstances in which they find themselves. A similar technique is used by Patrice Karst, author of The Survival Guide for Single Moms.

Jay Konrad Levinson remains a recognized master of targeting specific market segments. It was he who published the book “Guerrilla Marketing in 30 Days.” After that, Levinson adapted his ideas for consumers in different niches. This is how the publications “Guerrilla Marketing for Writers”, “… for Financial Advisers”, etc. appeared. In addition, Levinson has written a separate book describing the use of his approach in the online field – Guerrilla Marketing on the Internet.

Some authors manage to define the target audience by communicating who the readers are not. For example, Robin Williams created The Non-Designer’s Design Book.

4. Does your headline help position your content?

The “… for Dummies” series of books is one of the successful examples of positioning content using a title. For example, the book “Red Wine for Dummies” is unlikely to interest experts and sophisticated connoisseurs of this drink. However, if you want to get a basic understanding of red wine, the title will quickly grab your attention.

The title can position your content, directly indicating the method used to solve the problem. “Preventing cancer by natural remedies” is an example of this approach.

5. Are you trying to spark the curiosity of potential readers with your headline?

As we are told by all kinds of books on literary analysis and the nature of literary creativity, interest in the text (it is clear that the word “interest” is rather arbitrary here – this is a complex of feelings that are evoked in the reader by the text) is born when the text exceeds our inner expectation of it. And this happens thanks to certain techniques that “break” the general paradigm of the text, the usual picture of the world.

There are three such techniques:

  • Metaphors. They make the names easier to understand and remember. They create images that remain in the memory of the reader. Metaphor is a transfer of meaning, the use of a word in a figurative sense. Examples of metaphorical titles: “How I ate a dog” by Evgeny Grishkovets (I didn’t eat!), “I am burning Paris” by Bruno Yasensky (I didn’t burn!), Etc. It’s easy to come up with a metaphorical title. But it is important not only to come up with it, it is much more important to beat it in the text. The headline is the bait, the hook. If you deceive the reader’s expectations by not “playing” the headline in the text, you will lose confidence in your next headlines.
  • Alliteration is another means of making a name memorable. It involves the repetition of homogeneous or identical consonants in the words of the heading. Alliteration is a technique that is more characteristic of poetic speech. But the compilation of headings, believe me, is closer to versification than it might seem at first glance. As an example may be mentioned the examples of books ” M aster and M argarita” Bulgakov ” H och n ezhna” Fitzgerald, etc.
  • Contradictions or unexpected expressions also pique the curiosity of readers. They remain winning amid trivial headlines. Pay attention to the title of the tale “How Ivan the Fool outwitted the Devil.” The resulting contradiction between “fool” and “outwitted” makes the reader wonder how it was that Ivan outwitted the devil. The title of Tim Ferris’s book, The Four Hour Workweek, is an example of an unexpected phrase. Many buyers do not believe that you can work only four hours a week, so they are interested in the book. Another example: “Goal: Continuous Improvement Process” (goal is not a finishing point, but a process extended over time) by Elia Goldratt and Jeff Cox. Well, the most eloquent example of a contradiction is “The Man Who Was Thursday” by Gilbert Chesterton. 

6. Does your headline engage with the audience?

Wrap the title of your book or article with a promise made in plain words. The best headlines retain the almost naive evidence found in the everyday conversations of ordinary people. Take a look at the following examples:

  • How to Finish Things Started by David Allen.
  • “The Easy Way to Quit Smoking” by Allen Carr.
  • “I don’t know how to lose weight” by Pierre Ducan (the dialogue continues easily: – can you do it? – no, I also, unfortunately, cannot …).
  • “Until Your Teen Made You Crazy” by Nigel Latt, etc.

Choose correct verbs when creating headings. Also use verbal nouns. They form the attitude of the reader to the product you need.

  • Motivating verbs are one of the most successful forms for a heading. They guide readers towards a specific action. “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill is one example of the use of motivational verbs in a title.
  • The verbal nouns used in the title describe ongoing activities. The book “Walking in agony” by A.N. Tolstoy demonstrates the possibility of using verbal nouns in the title.

7. How short is your headline?

Let’s say the obvious truth: shorter headlines get more audience attention. Remember, the fewer words you use in a title, the stronger each of them will be remembered by a potential reader.

Writer Malcolm Gladwell is widely regarded as a master of short titles. Pay attention, for example, to the title of his book “Geniuses and Outsiders” (English The Outliers) – succinctly and succinctly.

8. Do you use subheadings?

A subhead is a reinforcement of your headline. Combine short headings with longer subheadings that reveal some details. Here’s an example of a bestselling book with a two-word title and a subtitle of 14: “Skinny Bitch: An Effective Guide for Savvy Girls Who Want to Stop Eating Shit and Look Attractive.” The English version of the subtitle is 17 words long and contains profanity.

Author Larry Fine also made good use of the title and subtitle. His work is called The Book of the Piano: Buying and Using an Instrument.

Garr Reynolds uses a multi-word title to draw attention to his book. And the subtitle gives readers additional information. Reynolds’ work is called Zen Presentation: Design, Development, Delivery and Examples.

Well, there is another example that we could not ignore. Michael Stelzner’s book, which is translated into Russian as “Content Marketing: New Methods of Attracting Customers in the Internet Age”, and in the original the title is even shorter, and the subtitle is even longer – Launch: How to Quickly Propel Your Business Beyond the Competition.

9. SEO: Does your title include popular search terms?

Naturally, we could not ignore this issue. Web content needs to think about driving traffic. The most important traffic generators are search engines. But here you need to find a middle ground and not be led by “naked SEO”. The main thing is relevance to the content, and then “fitting” for search engines. Let us illustrate with the example of this article. We wrote the article itself, the headline was already in my head – simple and succinct. The only thing we did was check which request is more frequent – “How to write a title” or “How to create a title”. And although I personally like the verb “create” in this context (it is closer to the nature of the action of coming up with headings than the verb “write”), nevertheless, the final version of the heading was coordinated.

In general, all of us who work with content and hand in hand with specialists in optimization and promotion of sites on the Internet should keep in mind the frequency and competition for those requests that somehow coincide with our headlines. It is clear that not every request can be “pulled” to the top of the search results only thanks to the content. But if the page does not have textual relevance to the intended request, then the request will never enter the top.

10. Combined approach: do you use more than one of the above when creating headlines?

Authors use two or more of the above techniques to come up with striking and popular headlines. For example, alliteration and metaphors can be aptly combined with subheadings that detail information.

Thank you for reading up to this point. As gratitude, we want to tell you this. In fact, the nature of good copy – and the title as part of it – is very controversial. It is possible to create a great headline that completely overrides all of our recommendations above. The geniuses of the pen will do it. And even talented copywriters with a “full” hand. But we’re talking about the mechanics of writing, not the nature of talent. High-quality copywriting is the sum of technologies that the author uses, learning from his own and others’ mistakes. And in this article we talked specifically about technologies, trying to analyze what we believe to be successful titles and generalizing their properties, leading these generalizations to some conclusions.

Speaking about the manufacturability of work on creating headings, we can also recommend using the following technique.

Use the scoring table to determine the quality of headlines for articles, books, blog and social media posts, and other content marketing products. Consider the option with the highest score and quality.

Title Evaluation Table for your best performing copywriting headlines

CriterionQuestionA commentPoints
PromiseDoes your headline promise your audience a benefit?
SpecificityDoes the title of your content contain specific details that emphasize its relevance and value?
TargetingDoes the headline emphasize the target audience for which the content is intended?
PositioningDoes the title help your content stand out?
InteractionAre you trying to pique the curiosity of potential readers to make your headline memorable?
DialogueIs your headline “communicating” with your audience?
BrevityAre you trying to keep your content titles short?
GainDo you use subheadings to emphasize the title of your content?
SEODoes your title include popular searches?
Combined approachAre you using more than one of the above when creating headlines?

For example, you can print this spreadsheet and distribute it to the staff creating content for your project. Ask them to use this tool to rate each working version of the title of the article. This will reduce the influence of subjective factors on your headlines.

Take the spreadsheet with you to your favorite bookstore or browse your favorite blogs. Practice judging the titles of books and articles that catch your eye.

We would be grateful if you share in the comments your options for article titles or book titles that you think are good. Let’s discuss these options.

Conclusions

This concludes our journey through examples of selling headlines for different types of content. Good for you! 

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