“Hurr durr, nobody reads past the headline these days!”
I hear this complaint all the time — and you probably do, too.
Well, I don’t know about you, but I find it amusing. Especially when it’s coming from other business owners. Because the truth is…
If your customers are ignoring your content, it’s because they have to. Their inboxes, social media, search results, you name it, are overflowing with useless, irrelevant messages. Filtering out 99,99% of this information clutter is the only way to function in today’s digital landscape.
So if your audience doesn’t read past your headlines, the fault isn’t with them — it’s with your headlines.
And believe it or not, that’s the good news!
While you can’t denoise the entire internet, or change your customers’ online habits… you absolutely can make your headlines convert better! Today, I will show you how.
In this week’s article, I will share with you 15 proven headline formulas that your customers won’t be able to resist. Feel free to swipe them and use them for any type of content you produce:
- Marketing videos
- Blog posts
- Social media posts
- Sales pages / landing pages
Sound good? Then read on!
To start with, I’m going to give you two fail-proof rules for creating headlines that convert…
2 rules of effective headline copywriting (break at your own risk)
So: what does it take to write a great headline? And while we’re at it, how do you even discern between a headline that’s quote-unquote good… and one that isn’t?
To answer these questions, I’m going to share two incredibly simple rules of thumb with you.
Rule #1. A headline has one job — getting the target audience to read the body copy. That’s it! As long as it succeeds, it can be considered a good / effective headline.
Mind you, this doesn’t mean that anything goes, as long as you can get the reader’s attention! Misleading headlines that engage your audience in bad faith may get you clicks — but they will never generate sales.
For that, you need high-quality engagement that leads to trust. So instead, you want to leverage…
Rule #2. A headline can accomplish its one job in 4 different ways:
- Promising value. E.g. “This Proposal Got Me a $100,000 Contract — Now You Can Swipe It For Free”
- Sparkling curiosity. E.g. “One Weird Trick We Used to 2X Our Website’s Conversion Rate”
- Subverting expectations. E.g. “Why You Procrastinate (Spoiler: It’s Not About Laziness or Self-Control)”
- Calling the reader out. E.g. “Small Business Owners: Stop Wasting Money on Paid Traffic”
Some headlines will lean heavily in one particular direction, while others might take the hybrid approach and combine 2-3 elements at once — like examples #2 and #3 above.
Are these the only 4 ways to write high-converting headlines? Of course not! But they are the easiest to use, and super adaptable to any tone of voice / type of content that you need: video titles, email subject lines, article headlines, and many more.
Okay, enough theory — time to dive into the headline formulas themselves!
1. Headline formulas that promise value
Value-focused headlines are easy to write, and they work like a charm. All you have to do is promise the reader some kind of specific, tangible result that they want… and you will get their attention.
Now, the operative words here are “specific” and “tangible.” Your audience won’t be seduced by vague, generic platitudes — they need something meaty and concrete. That’s why numbers and time frames tend to work really well in these types of headlines.
Here are 3 formulas you can use right now:
- How to/Here’s How You Can [RESULT] in [TIME] — or How I/[NAME] [RESULT] in [TIME]. For example: “Here’s How My Client John F. Lost 50 lbs in Just 8 Weeks”
- Learn How to [RESULT]. E.g. “Learn How to Bake Restaurant-Quality French Bread at Home”
- One Weird Trick / The #1 Strategy I Used to [RESULT]. For instance: “One Weird Trick I Used to Get an $80,000 Raise and a Promotion”
2. Headline formulas that stoke curiosity
If there’s one thing readers can’t resist, it’s a good mystery. Give your audience a compelling “curiosity gap,” and they will drop whatever they’re doing to discover the answer. That’s what makes curiosity-driven headlines so darn effective.
To make them work, you want to execute a simple 1-2 combo: tease your readers with an outcome they want, or a problem they struggle with… then promise a solution. But don’t reveal what it is!
Here are some templates to get you started:
- [X] Strategies/Hacks/Tactics/Tips etc. You Need to [RESULT]. E.g. “11 Sales Secrets You Need to Know In Order to Grow Your Business”
- Want to [RESULT]? Do/Try This. For example: “Want to Get 1,000 High-Quality Leads Per Week? Do This”
- [X] Lessons I Learned From [LOSS/FAILURE]. E.g. “10 Investment Lessons I Learned From Losing 99% of My Net Worth”
- Next Time [PROBLEM], Use This [RESOURCE]. For instance: “Next Time You Need Cash ASAP, Use This Proven Cold Email Strategy”
3. Headline formulas that subvert expectations
As I’ve mentioned before, your customers love to be intrigued. They also enjoy being surprised. People walk around with all sorts of built-in ideas and notions about the world in their heads — and when you challenge those beliefs, they pay attention!
Expectations-defying headlines are basically a one-sentence plot twist. You set up an expectation in the first half… only to undermine it completely in the second half.
- No, You Don’t Need [BARRIER/HESITATION] to [RESULT]. E.g. “No, You Don’t Need to “Be Creative” to Write Copy that Sells”
- [X] [TOPIC] Lessons You Can Learn from [UNLIKELY SOURCE]. For example: “5 Sales & Marketing Lessons You Can Learn from Your Dog”
- [X] [OSTENSIBLY GOOD THING] That Are Actually [BAD CONSEQUENCES]. E.g. “7 “Best Practices” That Are Actually Terrible for Your Business”
- How I/[NAME] [RESULT] — Without [OBJECTION/BARRIER]. For instance: “How I Built and Grew a 7-Figure Marketing Agency — Without a Website”
4. Headline formulas that call people out (use them wisely)
To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I should even include these. Callout headlines work by exposing a burning pain point your customers have — viscerally and directly.
They can be scary effective when they are right on the money…
…but if not, they will get a confused reaction at best, and a hostile one at worst.
That’s why you don’t want to deploy these formulas willy-nilly. Only do it when you’re absolutely sure that they will resonate with your readers the way you intended. If you have any doubts about that at all, just use any of the other 11 formulas I already shared with you!
With that disclaimer out of the way, here are some templates for grade-A callout headlines…
- Do/Are You Still [PROBLEM/ACTION]? Here’s Why [BAD CONSEQUENCES]. E.g. “Do You Still Rely on Guest Posting for SEO? Here’s Why This Is Hurting Your Brand”
- [X] Reasons [PAINFUL PROBLEM]. E.g. “6 Reasons Your Subscribers Are Ignoring Your Emails”
- [AUDIENCE]: Stop [ACTION] and [OPPOSITE]. For example: “Freelancers: Stop Working for Peanuts and Raise Your Rates”
- This Is Why You Will Never [RESULT]. For instance: “This Is Why You Will Never Scale From 6 to 7 Figures”
Want more training on how to write killer copy that converts?
I hope that these 15 headline formulas help you engage more readers, generate more leads, and close more sales for your business.
But even though headlines are essential for effective content marketing and copywriting… they aren’t the be all, end all. If you’re serious about taking your copy game to the next level, I have a few more amazing resources to share with you.
Check them out: