How do you write effective headlines?
The truth is, how well your writing performs is directly correlated to how effective your headline is at STOPPING the reader in their tracks, getting them to pause, think, “I need to read this,” click, and give you their attention. If your headline does not accomplish this goal, you do not have an effective headline.
So, before we dive into headline templates anyone can use, let’s recap what makes a good headline in the first place.
What Makes A Good Headline?
- The headline is clear, not clever. Clever headlines (while they might prompt a laugh from your friend), usually end up confusing the reader more than they do “hook” them. The reader reads these clever headlines, can’t immediately tell what they’re going to get in exchange for reading, and then scrolls right past. Instead, you want your headline to be crystal clear: what is this about? Who is this for? And what’s the PROMISE? (What does the reader get in exchange for reading?)
- The headline makes a PROMISE. Headlines that don’t make promises don’t get read. It’s not enough to say, “This is about X.” You have to take it one step further and say, “This is about X, and this is what will change in your life if you click to read.” Without a PROMISE, the reader can’t quite rationalize why they should give up 30 seconds or 3 precious minutes of their life to read a bunch of words on the page.
- The headline is specific. If you are writing for a General Audience, your headline needs to be specific about a universal problem. And if you are writing for a Niche Audience, your headline needs to be specific about a problem relevant to a specific audience or group of people. If your headline is not specific about the problem, the audience, or both, it’s vague. And anything that’s vague is confusing, and anything that’s confusing won’t hook the reader.
- The headline takes a stance. The worst headlines are ones that try to be “something for everyone.” They avoid taking a stance or leaning too far in any one direction. As a result, the reader doesn’t quite know what sort of journey they’re going to go on, or why any of it matters at all. Instead, you want to write headlines that are polarizing: the reader is either going to say, “Wow, this is *exactly* the problem I was struggling with—and I think I just found my answer!” Or you want the reader to say, “This isn’t for me. Period.” A lot of writers steer away from being polarizing out of fear that they won’t attract “enough readers.” But the truth is, when you try to write something for everyone, you end up writing something for no one.
- The headline teases the ending without revealing the answer. All great headlines have what we like to call a “Curiosity Gap.” This means the reader understands what the piece is going to be about, who it’s for, and what they can expect to get (or learn) in exchange for reading it—but the headline doesn’t give them the answer. They have to click to fill in the middle. Headlines that don’t do this, and instead just give the answer (“Drinking Coffee Gives You Anxiety”) make the reader think they already *got* the purpose of the piece and, as a result, don’t need to actually click and read it. You must tease the ending without giving it away.
“Isn’t That Clickbait?”
The first question all writers ask when they hear our methodologies on writing effective headlines is, “Isn’t that clickbait?”
No—and here’s why.
It’s only clickbait if you fail to keep your promise to the reader. If you write a really compelling headline and then the content doesn’t deliver, it’s clickbait. You baited the reader with a big promise, and then failed to deliver on that promise.
However, if you write a headline with a big promise and then KEEP your promise, the reader isn’t going to sit there and think, “Meh. This piece was really helpful but I don’t like that I got clickbaited into reading it.” No, they’re going to think the opposite. In fact, they’re not even going to remember how or why they clicked the headline. They’re going to be too busy sharing the piece with 3 of their friends, saying, “You have to read this.”
There is almost no finer example of this on the Internet than Naval Ravikant’s Twitter thread, “How To Get Rich (Without Getting Lucky.”
By every definition, this title should be considered “clickbait.” It follows that tried-and-true formula of creating a Curiosity Gap for the reader, is clear about WHAT it’s about, WHO it’s for, and makes a pretty big PROMISE (“Get rich without being lucky? I’m in!”).
And yet, to date, it has 53,000 Retweets, 9,000 Quote Tweets, 168,000 Likes, and too many comments to count.
Now, did Naval’s iconic, Twitter-breaking Twitter thread rack up all those metrics simply because it “clickbaited” readers? Of course not.
This Twitter thread accumulated tens of millions of impressions, sparked conversations all over the world, and continues to circulate within the Twittersphere because the headline makes a big PROMISE and the content delivers on that promise.
25 Headline Templates Anyone Can Use
So remember, headlines have formulas for a reason.
However, your content has to deliver on the promise you make in your headline.
A great headline with sub-par content will attract a tiny bit of attention for a short period of time (and then readers will catch on—and hate you for it).
But a great headline with legendary content will continue to circulate on the Internet, get bookmarked, saved, referenced, and linked to over and over again—long into the future.
We break down the 10 most important headline formulas in detail in our Headline Mastery course (with 5 bonus headline formulas if you really want to *stand out*).
But here are 25 headline templates to help you get started.
1. X Little Known [Something] That Could Be Causing Your [Outcome]
- 7 Little Known SEO Mistakes That Could Be Causing Your Domain Score To Drop
- 4 Little Known Nutrients That Could Be Causing Your Blood Sugar To Spike
- 9 Little Known YouTube Channels That Could Be Causing Your Kids To Do Worse In School
2. A Day In The Life Of A [Profession]
- A Day In The Life Of A Ghostwriter For Founders, Executives, Grammy-Winning Musicians, And Professional Athletes
- A Day In The Life Of A Magician
- A Day In The Life Of A COVID-19 ICU Nurse
3. How [Industry] Is Taking Advantage Of [Audience]—And How To Fix It
- How The Car Insurance Industry Is Taking Advantage Of Elderly People—And How We Can Fix It
- How The Pharmaceutical Industry Is Taking Advantage Of Drug Addicts—And What The U.S. Government Should Do To Fix It
4. Is [Thing] A Scam? Here’s My Honest Review
- Are Online Courses A Scam? Here’s My Honest Review
- Is The iRobot Really Better Than A Vacuum Cleaner (Or Is It A Scam?). Here’s My Honest Review
5. How To Get Rid Of [Something] Forever, Even If You’re Tried Everything
- How To Get Rid Of Financial Debt Forever, Even If You’ve Tried Everything
- How To Get Rid Of Writer’s Block Forever, Even If You’ve Tried Everything
- How To Get Rid Of Termites In Your House Forever, Even If You’ve Tried Everything
6. A Step-By-Step Guide For Doing X
- A Step-By-Step Guide For Launching Your First Paid Product Online
- A Step-By-Step Guide For Writing Your First Book
- A Step-By-Step Guide For Starting Your First Business
7. How To Make A Ton Of Money [Doing Something Unconventional]
- How To Make A Ton Of Money Mowing Lawns
- How To Make A Ton Of Money Writing Mini-eBooks On Amazon
- How To Make A Ton Of Money Hiring College Students To Clean Other People’s Gutters
8. The Secret To Achieving [Something Desirable]
- The Secret To Achieving Financial Freedom
- The Secret To Achieving Happiness In Your Marriage
- The Secret To Achieving First Place In A Local Marathon
9. 9 Out Of Every 10 People [Make This Mistake]. Are You One Of Them?
- 9 Out Of Every 10 People Have More Than $10,000 Of Credit Card Debt. Are You One Of Them?
- 9 Out Of Every 10 People Are Afraid Of Public Speaking. Are You One Of Them?
10. (Written By Someone In The Industry)
- Why Tech Stocks Are Falling (Written By A Stock Trader)
- The Real Reason Teachers Get Paid So Little (Written By A 3rd Grade Teacher)
- How Come The Rich Get Richer And The Poor Get Poorer (Written By A Self-Made Millionaire)
11. How To Survive Your First [Meaningful Experience]
- How To Survive Your First Blind Date
- How To Survive Your First Day Of Working In A Large Company
- How To Survive Your First Week Of College
- How To Survive Getting Fired For The First Time
12. What [Someone Credible] Can Teach Us About [Topic]
- What Michael Jordan Can Teach Us About Work Ethic
- What Oprah Can Teach Us About Becoming A Great Interviewer
- What Malala Yousafzai Can Teach Us About Overcoming Adversity
13. The Ultimate Guide To [Something]
- The Ultimate Guide To Buying Your First House
- The Ultimate Guide To Surviving High School
- The Ultimate Guide To Saving Your First $10,000, Investing In Technology Stocks, And Setting Yourself Up For Financial Freedom
14. X Lessons Learned [From Doing Something]
- 7 Lessons Learned Building 10 Products Over The Past 10 Years
- 5 Lessons Learned After Taking My Company Public
- 11 Lessons Learned Writing 187 Short Novels
15. Why Something Happens (According To Science)
- Why Eye Contact Feels So Awkward (According To Science)
- Why It’s Hard To Make Friends In New Cities (According To Science)
- Why TikTok Is So Addictive (According To Science)
16. X Things [This Detail] Say About You
- 10 Things Your Clothes Say About You
- 27 Things Your Smile Says About You
- The 1 Thing Your Shoes Say About You
17. A Guaranteed Method For [Achieving Something / Avoiding Something]
- A Guaranteed Method For Creating Viral Content
- A Guaranteed Method For Avoiding Getting Fired
- A Guaranteed Method For Writing A #1 Hit Song
- A Guaranteed Method For Avoiding Getting Divorced Later In Life
18. How To Achieve [Something] Without Needing To Give Up [Something]
- How To Achieve Financial Independence Without Giving Up Your Morning Starbucks Coffee Addiction
- How To Become A Millionaire Without Creating A Budget
- How To Start Your First Business Without Needing To Take Out A Loan Or Raise Any Money
19. How To [Achieve Something] In [A Short Amount Of Time]
- How To Memorize An Entire Textbook The Night Before A Big Test
- How To Get A Girl To Fall In Love With You After Just 1 Date
- How To Make $100,000 In The Stock Market In Less Than A Week
20. The X Things Most People Don’t Know About [Topic]
- The 7 Things Most People Don’t Know About What It’s Like To Be A Doctor
- The 11 Things Most People Don’t Know About Saving Money
- The 28 Things Most People Don’t Know About Buying Their First Home
21. The X Biggest Mistakes People Make When [Doing Something]
- The 18 Biggest Mistakes People Make When They Get A Raise At Work
- The 3 Biggest Mistakes People Make When They Decide To Have Kids
- The 13 Biggest Mistakes People Make When They Start Cooking At Home
22. The X Best Books To Read If You’re Interested In [Topic]
- The X Best Books To Read If You’re Interested In Copywriting
- The X Best Books To Read If You’re Interested In Learning Graphic Design
- The X Best Books To Read If You’re Interested In Becoming A Life Coach
23. X Tips For [Overcoming Some Obstacle]
- X Tips For Losing Weight In Your 60s
- X Tips For Eating Healthy In College
- X Tips For Getting Backstage Passes To Your Favorite Artist’s Biggest Shows
24. The Best Ways To Get [Something] Without Needing [Something]
- The Best Ways To Get Accepted To Harvard Without Needing To Be A Straight A Student
- The Best Ways To Eat Healthy On A Budget Without Needing To Shop At The Dollar Store
- The Best Ways To Get A Girlfriend Without Needing To Be Good Looking
25. Want [Something]? Try [This]
- Want To Raise Money For Your Startup? Try Using This Pitch Deck Template
- Want To Get A Raise At Work? Try This 1 Negotiation Technique
- Want To Start A Podcast But Not Sure What To Talk About? Try Using This Endless Idea Generator To Come Up With A Bunch Of Ideas
Headline Mastery: Learn How To Write Headlines People Can’t Help But Click On
Are you struggling to write compelling headlines?
We have created a whole mini-course called Headline Mastery 100% dedicated to learning the art of writing clear, descriptive, high-voltage headlines.
Watch the preview below to get a sense of what we cover in the mini-course.
You can sign up for Headline Mastery here.