You can’t avoid writing headlines.
Whether it’s a blog post, newsletter, lead magnet or web copy, writing attention-grabbing headlines is the first step to acquiring leads.
The goal of a headline is to capture the reader’s attention and make them curious to continue reading.
If you can’t capture your leads’ attention, forget about converting them. Headlines are just so important that if they lack in any manner – your content may not get read.
But, if you can pull off some really great headlines, you can increase your lead count without worrying about driving more traffic.
So, what’s a winning headline? What type of headlines works well? How can you write winning headlines?
That’s what you’re going to learn in this post. I’ll show you:
- What a great headline is
- Different types of most commonly used headlines
- How to write them
- And examples of successful headlines
Let’s dive in.
What Is a Winning Headline?
A winning headline is something that wins over other competing headlines and gets the click.
When the reader sees your headline, they might be busy, distracted or not interested. In fact, your headline is not the only thing they see.
- If they’re using social media, there are probably other headlines, images and even videos.
- If they’re checking their inbox, there are 20 more subject headlines.
- If they’re on Google, there are 10 more ranking headlines.
So, a winning headline grabs the reader’s attention from whatever they are doing, wins over the competition, gets you the click and motivates them to read the content.
Okay, effective headlines win over the competition. But what are the qualities of a winning headline?
Top 5 Qualities of a Winning Headline
You read around 20 headlines every day. Some of them stand out. Do you know why? It’s because those stand-out headlines have, if not all, at least one or two of these qualities.
Makes a Promise
Every informative piece of content you’ll write has one goal: to provide information to the readers. And a good headline must fulfill this goal.
If the reader has a problem and your content is the solution, your headline should bridge the gap by making a clear promise.
For example, in this blog post, Neil Patel makes a specific promise to teach aspiring bloggers how to start a blog and earn $3,817 per month.
A good headline should also be believable and not make outlandish promises. Such headlines (also called clickbait) do no good but damage the brand image. You may succeed in getting a click, but when you can’t fulfill the promise, the trust breaks.
Outlandish headlines may work for sites that sell controversies, but if your content adds value, you need a headline that makes a believable promise. Such as this headline.
Jacob, an experienced copywriter, first promises to teach copywriters how to become a copywriter and earn six figures in 12 months, then in the blog post, he gives concrete steps to follow.
Short and Clear
A good headline is concise and doesn’t use many words. That’s why the right choice of words is critical. Every word is crucial and targeted to an audience. Short headlines are rare. But when written correctly, they can do wonders.
My favorite example is this headline on the Learn Inbound blog.
It’s written for a specific set of audiences. Those who know E-A-T (Expertise, Authority, Trustworthiness) principle know how important it is to optimize your profile to build authority. Plus, it promises a complete audit. Using only seven words, the writer did many things.
A good headline should provide enough information to entice a click. These headlines are long, easy to find and likely to get more social shares.
Here’s my favorite informative headline of a LinkedIn case study.
This headline gives all this information:
- It’s a 30-day challenge on LinkedIn.
- 20 copywriters participated.
- The goal was to grow the audience.
- The results are in the post.
So, not only is the headline informative, but it also generates curiosity among readers to find out what happened after 30 days.
The last quality of a headline is to be attention-grabbing. And it’s also logical. With such competition, you need to spice up yours to stand out. Check out this headline by WPBeginner.
It’s grabbing attention immediately. Here’s how:
- It has a higher number (27) than others.
- All caps are used (FOR FREE).
- It offers a better promise (by 406 percent).
Neil Patel’s headline is also interesting, but when there’s competition, WPBeginner wins because it has more eye-catching elements.
So, these were the qualities of a great headline. Writing winning headlines is not that difficult. They’re a bit formulaic.
Below I’ll teach you how to write a winning headline and use context to write the four most commonly used headlines.
How To Write a Winning Headline
Now it’s clear what to achieve, let’s talk about the “how.” For writing a winning headline, you’ll always have a two-part goal:
Part 1: Grab the Reader’s Attention
Your priority is to get the distracted reader to consider reading your headline. If you fail to capture their attention, nothing else matters. You failed.
If you do it right, getting their attention is easy. You can do it in many ways:
- Using attractive visuals
- Using power words
- Using numbers
- Using references from trends
But grabbing attention alone is not enough. You need to deliver something immediately to make the reader click on it and read the content.
Part 2: Encourage the Click
Your reader gives their attention to many things. But they won’t give time to each one of them. So, if you want them to give time and read your piece, offer something they value.
There are many ways you can do that:
- Make a clear promise.
- Create a curiosity hook.
- Reference from a trending topic or personal brand.
The point of this two-part objective is to ensure the click. If you pay attention to both, that’s only when you’ll get what you want. If you skip one, you lose your reader.
So you know the process, let’s discuss how the approach is slightly different in these four headline types.
Top 4 Types of Headlines To Write
You’ll mostly be writing these four types of headlines.
- Blog post headline
- Search engine optimization (SEO) meta title tag
- Email subject headline
- Lead magnet headline
#1. How To Write a Blog Post Headline
The reader finds your blog post headline either on a search engine ranking page (SERPs), social media platform or inside an email.
- If it’s in an email, don’t worry. Because there’s no competition, the click depends on the email copy. In that case, you can use the blog post title here again.
- But if it’s on the SERPs page or social media, it should be a good one.
- For a blog post headline, you need to make a clear, believable promise and add something to make it stand out. You can use one element or a combination.
For example, this simple headline is a clear promise:
And in this headline, Kevin J Duncan, using numbers, promises a massive list of sensory words to help writers turn their writing from bland to brilliant.
Or you can only use the curiosity element to motivate a click. For example, this headline on Entrepreneur generates curiosity.
In this headline by FreeCodeCamp, Jess Hall uses a combination of elements. He promises to teach his readers how to grow YouTube subscribers from 0 to 70k in 1 year.
It’s a good headline because it uses numbers, is believable and creates curiosity (people would be interested to know how much money he made).
And there are unlimited ways to try. Even if you focus on promise and curiosity, you’re still good.
#2. How To Write an SEO Meta Title Tag
An SEO meta title tag is the SEO-optimized headline for blog posts. Google bots use this headline to evaluate your article for ranking.
Here are all the things that make a great SEO headline:
- It must contain the SEO keyword.
- It should match the search intent.
- It should be enticing enough to compete against others.
Well, that’s a lot to consider. You won’t have much space left to write crafty headlines. Within 70 characters, all you can do is use the keyword and add benefits (promise or curiosity).
So, you must nail the second part. For example, for the keyword “how to grow your email list,” this headline ranks first.
If you notice, only the first headline uses the full keyword (how to grow your email list, also matching the search intent), and the extra element (FAST: 80 methods) helps it stand out.
Obviously, this post is ranking first because of other factors like on-page SEO, valuable content and backlinks. But the headline played an important role.
And when I change the keyword slightly, we get whole new search listings:
The previous headline still made it but is not at the top (no keyword match.) The top three rank above this one.
Hubspot’s headline ranks first because of better DA (domain authority), content, on-page SEO, backlinks and matching search intent.
Writing SEO headlines is limited. You need to use a keyword. And if it’s a long-tail keyword, it’ll cover most of the 70 characters. But if it’s not, do your best to stand out.
#3. How To Write an Email Subject Headline
The second most common headline you write is an email subject. Interestingly, the highest level of competition is in your reader’s inbox.
The above screen is how an inbox looks to an average reader.
On average, a person receives 126 emails a day. So, if you want to stand out, you’ll have to grab attention at the first look.
Here are some strategies that I’ve tried:
- All caps
The first two work sometimes, but the personalization strategy always. People prefer opening emails from friends over strangers, so if you add the person’s name in the subject headline, it stands out.
This email subject line is my favorite because:
• It’s friendly (I’ve known Amira for a long time)
• And it catches my eye (because of my name).
Once you catch the attention, the next step is to make the reader click on it and read the email.
So, how do we do it? That’s right! by making a promise or generating curiosity.
Check out these email subject headlines by Pinterest coach Carly:
Notice something? All these email subject headlines generate curiosity.
In every email, she wants me to know something critical for my business but just gives a hint of it. If I’m curious to learn, I’ll have to read the email.
And in all these email subject headlines below, Jon Morrow from Smart Blogger makes a promise:
You can use either curiosity or promise or both. The best is to try out all strategies and see what works for your audience.
#4. How To Write a Lead Magnet Headline
You might not write lead magnet headlines as much as blog titles and email subject headlines. But they’re still important.
If you don’t know what a lead magnet is, it’s a free resource we give out in exchange for an email address to build an email list.
Writing lead magnet headlines is different. Here, competition is not the challenge, but creating urgency is. The reader is already on your page – so there are no competing headlines.
But clicking a link and giving their email addresses are two different things. People hesitate to leave their email addresses (remember they receive 126 emails every day? They won’t want more!).
The only way to get an email address is to give something they want and create the fear of losing out. That is, write headlines that generate urgency.
So, how can you create urgency in your lead magnet titles?
You can still make a clear promise like Jacob, but you must be sure that the resource (lead magnet) is what the audience wants.
Or, use the curiosity factor with a hint of urgency just like OptinMonster does.
Best lead magnet headlines are those with resources only you can provide (that readers can’t find anywhere else) like case studies, free trials, toolkits, discount coupons, etc.
This example is from Marketing Sherpa. They give their unique toolkit that also includes templates and 9 case studies. But read the headline and the subheadline. Aren’t all business owners want to know their customers minds?
Or this simple but powerful headline of a free ebook by Search Engine Journal:
Lead magnet headlines are blog post titles with a bit of urgency. If you can add the urgency factor nicely, writing these headlines is a piece of cake.
Now, You Try It
These strategies are not the only ones that you can use. And these types of headlines are far from the only ones that work. But these are some of the most frequently used.
If you can master the art of writing effective headlines, you’re doing a big favor in growing your business. All you have to do is fulfill the two-part objective. Though the approach is different for each one of them, you can still use the base principles to write other types of headlines. You can even come up with variations.
So, it’s time for you to practice writing great headlines, update a few and analyze the results. I’m sure you’ll see some massive changes.