How to Write Killer Headlines: Headline Templates From The A-List Bloggers

Article written by:
  • Inbound Marketing
  • Updated: Jan 10, 2019

Quick Sprout Case Study Headlines

There are two things you bloggers should know: One, great bloggers write great headlines, and two, great headlines often follow sets of similar formulas.

Great headlines follow sets of rules – they are compelling, specific, intriguing, and often follow sets of proven formula.

Yes, just like maths, there are formulas that can help us to write headlines that work. It’s no coincidence that three out of four Neil’s case studies headlines on QuickSprout started with the phrase “How I…”. Headlines written based on certain sets recipes simply get more clicks and reads online. And these types of headlines will always work, because good headlines tap into psychological triggers that are programmed into the human mind.

In other words, the easiest way to write powerful headlines is to follow these “formulas”.

As a smart blogger, you should keep a set of headline formulas, templates, or cheat sheet for your writing references. What I’m going to offer in this article – we are going to look into five most frequent-use headline formulas and some templates – all handpicked from real life examples.

Formula #1- List Headlines: X Ways To Get X Done

Brian Clark of CopyBlogger once said this about list-headline:

Any headline that lists a number of reasons, secrets, types, or ways will work because, once again, it makes a very specific promise of what’s in store for the reader. A nice quantifiable return on attention invested goes a long way toward prompting action, and as long as you deliver with quality content, you’ll have a satisfied reader.

Truth is, you can never go wrong with headlines consist of a list.

List Type Headlines
Source: Problogger.

Here are a couple of recent list-headlines written by Darren Rowse. Note that how these titles state clearly the reason why you should read the articles; and without doubt, they attract me to click  in and read it.

Headline Templates

  1. 9 Steps To Creating A Successful e-Course
  2. 9 Benefits (and 3 Costs) Of Building Community On Your Blog
  3. 7 Strategies For Growing Community On Your Blog
  4. 5 Tips to make Facebook Marketing Mobile Friendly
  5. 4 ways to maximize the social media presence at your next event
  6. 10 sure-fire headline formulas that work
  7. 7 more sure-fire headline templates that work
  8. 101 sure-fire ways to make people hate your marketing

Formula #2- How-To Headlines: How To Do X

Source: WHSR How to Start a Blog

I believe you see this type headlines everywhere. Why not? How-to headlines work like a charm always. If you are a frequent reader on QuickSprout Blog, you should know Neil Patel loves using this headline method to hook his readers.

Headline Templates

  1. How To Use Rejection To Achieve Your Business Goals
  2. How To Make Your Site Insanely Fast
  3. How To Think Like Google
  4. How to lose fats without exercising
  5. How to make money without sacrificing your TV time
  6. How to jump higher and play basketball like Michael Jordan
  7. How to build a twitter account with tons of followers and make $10,000/mo
  8. How to make use of Pinterest for your social media success
  9. How to make use of your house sofa for your six pack abs
  10. How to Up-cycle That Garage Sale Couch for Less Than $50

Formula #3- Hey You! Headlines Focusing On Target Audiences

Swine Flu Posts On Huffington Post

Headlines that call names or focus on certain group of views are often very effective in building rapport with the target audience and hence creating awareness.

The image on your right (extracted from Huffington Post) is a very good example: This article has information about Swine Flu for travelers. Not parents, not teachers, not doctors; but only for folks who are on the road or will be travelling soon.

Here are some real life examples displayed by bloggers at Copy Blogger, Boost Blog Traffic, and Out Spoken Media.

  1. Bloggers beware: Avoid these pitfalls when you start a blog
  2. What you need to know as a web hosting shoppers
  3. Everything a marketer needs to know can be learned from journalism
  4. The woman’s guide to having it all
  5. An open letter to all the bloggers cluttering the web with forgettable content
  6. Are you concerned about what’s hiding under your carpets?
  7. Are you waiting for the tax man to figure out you’ve been hiding money?
  8. Are you planning a big divorce and need to make sure that you’re financially protected?

Formula #4- Case Study/ Report/ Research/ Announcement Headlines

By clipping the phrase ‘Case Study’ (or other similar words) into your headlines, you inform your readers that your articles are thoroughly researched and consist of valuable information. Beth Hayden has some perfect examples for this type of headlines on CopyBlogger.com.

However, do note that this type of headlines might backfire if it’s not handled properly – a case-study-titled article requires lots of  in-depth research and detail writings as the readers’ expectation is high. You certainly do not want to write a case study headline for your 500-words-simple-article.

Case Study Types Of Headlines
Source: Copy Blogger

Headline Templates

  1. Case Study: How To Build A Vast Audience by Mastering The Art Of The Interview
  2. Case Study: How Aurelien Amacker Escaped The Cubicle
  3. Case study: How Jane made $45,000 during dot-com booms
  4. Tax report: Why the riches are getting richer
  5. Case study: The truth about unlimited web hosting offers
  6. Research: New study suggests a cure for cancer
  7. Consumer report: Are you spending too much on your SEO campaign

Formula #5- Threat Headlines: Don’t Say That I Never Warn You

Treat Headlines
Source: Quick Sprout & Smart Blogger

What is your readers’ greatest fear? What’s keeping your readers up at night? Good salesmen leverage human’s fear to sell more; a good writer should do the same his/her headlines. A threat headline gets us to take action because it creates fear. It also implies that something we trust has misled us and may be at risk. If you are serious about writing a blog that sells, you should use more treat headlines.

Here’s what Jon Morrow has to say when it comes to writing good treat headlines.

The key is to be specific. You want the reader to think, “How on earth did they guess that I’m afraid of that? Are they psychic?” Like many headline hacks, your power to use it will grow in proportion to how well you know your audience.

Headline Templates

Now, let’s look at some templates and samples:

  1. 15 warning signs that your business sucks
  2. SEO scams – 12 warning signs that you hired the wrong SEO
  3. Can we really trust bought email lists
  4. Suicide, shame, and the painful truth about accomplishing your goals
  5. The great lies of online sales and marketing
  6. The biggest lie in email marketing (why most email is junk mail)
  7. The shocking secrets about budget hosting (must read)
  8. Alert: The new social media marketing scam to avoid
  9. Warning: Smokers are 2 to 3 times as likely to be afflicted with gout.
  10. Warning: Husbands who travel 3 weeks a month are 3 times as likely to be divorced within 2 years.

One Last Tip: Find the Emotional Note

Research has shown consistently that people buy from an emotional trigger, not an intellectual one.

People’s emotional motivations aren’t that complex; they correlate roughly to the seven deadly sins.

Do they want to…

  • Work less, but make more money?
  • Be attractive to the opposite sex?
  • Be the envy of their friends and family?

Any of these can be incorporated as a “big idea” in the headline in order to capture people’s attention and start their emotional association with your product or service.

… and back it up with great facts

Once the right emotional note has been hit, we start to look intellectually for data to either back up or refute our assumed objections. Most people read skeptically; “it’s too good to be true” is part of our internal soundtrack. So trotting out great statistics on success, a case study, or why this is an excellent deal is critical.

Doing this as early as your headline can help you capture someone’s attention.

Neil Patel's headlines
Neil Patel’s headline at Quick Sprout Blog.

What’s Next?

When you sit down to write your next headline, take into account all the various templates and formulas above.

Ask yourself: What are you trying to sell? To whom? How do you want them to feel when they buy your product? What’s the story behind the product? What’s the main benefit? What information would surprise me? Would anything urge me to take action now?

In order to write a successful headline, you need to find the story. The key piece of information that makes it interesting, that puts a human face on the situation, that makes it stand out from the competition.

Make an unorganized, bullet list that captures all of these points and then begin to brainstorm.

It’s a healthy practice to aim to create a minimum number of headlines. If you’re a copyphobe, shoot for 10. If this is fun and you really are interested in pushing the envelope of your skills and what your copy can accomplish, aim at 50. Once you have the list, narrow them down to your best options.

Keep Working to Improve Your Headlines

Look at them dispassionately.

How can these headlines be improved? Can the ideas be strengthened? Can the writing be tighter? Is there a better order? Look at each individual work. Are there generic nouns that can be made more specific? Are there weak verbs that can be swapped out for a power word?

Spending time on these tweaks may not be exciting but it can definitely help yield tremendous results.

The art of crafting a headline seems like it should be easy and straightforward? After all, how hard can it be to write between 5 – 9 words?

The challenge, however, is that these may be the most important 5 – 9 words that you write in an entire project. It’s well worth investing the time to understand the dynamics that make headlines effective, brainstorming your best options, and testing to see which ones are effective. This will increase your conversion rates, improve sales, and ensure that your campaign is a success.

Good luck!

Credits: This article uses multiple references from various A-list blogs, including Copy Blogger, Pro Blogger, Social Media Examiner, Boost Blog Traffic, and HubSpot Blog. Thanks a lot for all the great work – I wouldn’t have learn so many about persuasive writings without you guys.

Article by Jerry Low

Geek dad, SEO data junkie, investor, and founder of Web Hosting Secret Revealed. Jerry has been building Internet assets and making money online since 2004. He loves mindless doodling and trying new food.