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How To Write Powerful Headlines Without Becoming A Master Copywriter

Avoiding headlines is difficult.

Whatever media you are viewing - TV, Newspaper, Magazine, Social Media, Email, Web Page - you will encounter a headline.

But how you react to a headline is a different matter...​

If the headline grabs your attention you will stay engaged; i.e. you’ll watch the TV commercial, read the newspaper article, or click the link, etc.

In this post, I’m going to show you exactly what methods, tools and resources you can employ to create, analyze and test your headlines so that you grab your readers’ attention every single time.

More...

Why Headlines Are So Crucial

There’s a much-quoted statistic from Copyblogger that I included in the infographic on my previous post:

On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest.

Scary isn't it? Only 20% of the people read your posts after seeing the headline.

​Which begs the question:

- How much time and effort are you putting into writing your headlines compared to the rest of your content?

Long before the Internet, the great copywriters and journalists of the print industry knew the importance of a compelling headline, and that’s why they spent hours crafting them.

Advertising legend David Ogilvy had some pertinent advice about the importance of headlines:

“On average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy.”

And when commissioned by Rolls-Royce to write the magazine advert for their latest car he rewrote this famous headline 104 times until it was perfect:

“At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock."
Rolls-Royce advert headline by David Ogilvy

Bearing in mind that the entire article is only about 600 words, you can see just how much effort he put into the headline.

If it was that important to David Ogilvy, it sure is important for web content writers to keep on practicing and honing their headline writing skills.

I recall receiving an email from Shane Melaugh, which stated:

“The better your headline writing skills, the more your entire website and your online business benefit.”

And it’s true.

You need your readers to see your headlines and want to read more.

The more compelling your headlines are, the more people are going to click on links to your posts, whether that's from your blog page, your related posts widget, recent posts in the sidebar, social media or anywhere else.

It’s why Jon Morrow still offers his subscribers a cheat sheet called “Headline Hacks.”

Headline Hacks by Jon Morrow at Smartblogger

Think about it: if you get the headline wrong, your visitors will decide not to continue reading and leave your site. And all the time you've invested into creating the content is just a total waste.

> That’s why headlines are so crucial when writing your web content.

13 Proven Resources To Write Better Headlines

OK, so we’ve established that headlines are essential.

But how do you go about creating them? And what makes a great headline?

For the most part, you will have to do the thinking and creating. However, there are some excellent tools and resources can help you along the way.

Headline Analyzer Tools

I’m going to start with my favorite headline tool and then share a few other resources that are also extremely helpful, especially when you’re totally stumped!

CoSchedule Headline Analyzer

The CoSchedule Headline Analyzer is my ‘go-to’ tool whenever it comes to writing headlines. As the name suggests, this tool analyzes your headline ideas and then gives you a score and some pointers on what you could improve.

“The headline analyzer will score your overall headline quality and rate its ability to result in social shares, increased traffic, and SEO value.”
CoSchedule Logo

Just by tweaking a word here or there can change the dynamic of your headline and consequently the result from the tool.

When Neil Patel tweaked the headline on a Kissmetrics post he was able to boost the conversion rate by 40%.

Pro Tip:

Using a Thesaurus to check for synonyms is a quick and easy way to get better word variations.

 - Here’s an example of synonyms for the word increase:

thesauras synonyms for the word increase

Here are some variations that I tried in a recent blog post:

CoSchedule headline variations

(BTW, my friend Ashley wrote the blog post, but we did collaborate on the headline writing!)

Let’s take one of the headlines and see how the Headline Analyzer calculates its score.

First, enter your proposed headline - 5 Insanely Easy Ways To Boost Your Website SEO Today - and then click the Analyze Now button.

At the top of the results page you get your overall score (on a scale from 0-100):

CoSchedule Score

(Note: You should be aiming for a score of over 70.)

1. Word Balance

The first calculation uses Word Balance to analyze the mix of Common, Uncommon, Emotional and Power words contained in the headline:

CoSchedule Word Balance

(Note: there is a tool tip on what makes emotional headlines so powerful.)

The Headline Analyzer places each word in its respective category so you can see the makeup of your headline:

CoSchedule Headline Analyzer puts each word in a category

Pro Tip:

Want some help with Power Words?

 - Try this list of 317 Power Words from Jon Morrow. 

 - Or these 189 Powerful Words from Buffer.

2. Headline Types

Next, the Headline Analyzer determines your Headline Type. In my example, I’m using a list type headline: 

CoSchedule Headline Type

The Headline Analyzer is checking for these types of headline:

  • List
  • How To
  • Question
  • Generic

Research by Buzzsumo and OkDork has shown that list type headlines are the second most popular type of headline only to infographics when it comes to social shares:

Buzzsumo OkDork research of average shares by content type

Pro Tip: 

Avoid generic headlines whenever possible.

 - List, How To, and Question headlines have a better opportunity to get more social shares and traffic.

3. Headline Length

Next, we get an analysis of the Headline Length that displays the character and word counts:

CoSchedule Length Analysis

These are good indicators of how your headline will appear in Google, Social Media, and Emails.

Note: Google recently updated the length of title tags and now displays up to 70 characters in search results.​

However, Kissmetrics has a different angle and suggests you should focus on the first three and last three words of your headline.

“Rather than worrying about the length, you should worry about making every word count. Especially the first and last 3—and if that means using the passive voice, so be it.” 

That’s OK because CoSchedule highlight that in their headline analysis too:

CoSchedule analyzes the the first and last three words of your headline

It’s unlikely that you’ll write a six-word headline, so remember that people will focus on the beginning and end of your headline.

4. Headline Sentiment

The final calculation for the overall headline score uses Headline Sentiment.

CoSchedule Headline Sentiment

CoSchedule researched their database of over one million headlines to see which headlines performed best. They discovered that:

“Strongly positive emotions tend to get shared more than anything else. You can go negative, but it can be difficult to nail perfectly.”
CoSchedule Logo

When you put all those elements together then hopefully you'll achieve a winning headline. Don't be frightened to keep tweaking your headline. 

Although the CoSchedule Headline Analyzer remains my favorite tool when it comes to headlines, there are plenty of others that can help you. ​

Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer

One tool very similar to and influential in the design of the CoSchedule Headline Analyzer is the Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer provided by the Advanced Marketing Institute.

“This free tool will analyze your headline to determine the Emotional Marketing Value (EMV) score. As you know, reaching your customers in a deep and emotional way is a key to successful copywriting, and your headline is unquestionably the most important piece of copy you use to reach prospects.”

Taking the headline example from earlier, this is the resulting EMV score:

EMV result for the term Website SEO

Phew! A score of 50% suggests I’m a gifted copywriter...he said blushing…

Headline Generator Tools

Struggling to think of a headline? Then here are some headline suggestion tools that will help you.

Most of these tools ask you to input a word or phrase for your topic and then they generate a few examples.

Portent Content Idea Generator

The headlines generated here can be a little ‘offbeat’, but I remember using it for my first blog post: Why No One Talks About Bits Anymore.

Here’s an example of what the Portent Tool generated for the term ‘website SEO’:

Portent Content Idea Generator

Hubspot Blog Topic Generator

And here’s what Hubspot’s Generator suggested:

Hubspot Blog Topic Generator

SumoMe Headline Generator

The Blog Post Ideas Generator

Answer The Public

> I think you get the idea? Give them a try and let me know if they help you!

Headline Formulas

You don’t have to use online tools to come up with winning headlines.

Alternatively, you can use headline formulas where you just fill in the blanks. For instance:

101 [Blank] Hacks: A Cheat Sheet for [Blank]

How [Blank] Gamble with Your [Blank]: 7 Ways to Protect Yourself

10 Shortcuts for [Completing Tedious Process] in Record Time

Thrive Headline Swipe File

The best guide that I’ve found and use is the Headline Swipe File from Thrive Themes. It identifies the six most common mistakes made when writing headlines and shows you exactly how to avoid them (and what to do instead).

For example, if your headline addresses an obstacle common to your readers, they’ll be eager to find out more. So by pairing a desirable outcome “Grow Your Mailing List” with a common obstacle “You Have No Website” you can create a headline that has greater impact “How to Grow Your Mailing List (Even If You Have No Website).”

> If that doesn’t float your boat then here’s a list of other headline resources you can check:

30+ Ultimate Headline Formulas for Tweets, Posts, Articles, and Emails

49 Headline Formulas to Skyrocket Conversions (And Where to Use Them)

100+ Magnetic Blog Post Headline Ideas For Small Business Bloggers

The Ultimate Guide To Writing More Effective Headlines

52 Headline Hacks

Don’t Over Promise With Your Headline

Whichever tool you use to create and analyze your headline always remember that your main content has to live up to the expectation you have set at the top of the page.

It’s no good grabbing your readers’ attention with a stunning headline only to lose them inside the first paragraph. 

Click to Tweet

There are sites, like Upworthy, which are infamous for their sensational clickbait headlines, so much so, that Downworthy created a neutralizing tool to dumb down the headlines. For instance:

  • "Literally" becomes "Figuratively"
  • "Will Blow Your Mind" becomes "Might Perhaps Mildly Entertain You For a Moment"
  • "One Weird Trick" becomes "One Piece of Completely Anecdotal Horseshit"

Promise Value In Your Headline

Instead, take this advice from top content crafter Ash Read at Buffer:

Headlines are amazingly important to the success of a piece of content. Before we publish a post, we spend a bit of time focusing on how we can craft a headline that gives the content the best chance of being seen. Amazing content behind a weak headline probably won’t get seen.
Sometimes we’ll create between 20-30 headlines for each post and choose the one that feels best, and other times we’ll have a quick chat and riff on how we can make the headline stand out.
The original headline we had was: "53 Graphic Design Terms and Definitions for Non-Designers"
And the title we decided on when we hit publish is: "Why Every Marketer in 2016 Needs to Be a (Part-Time) Designer: 53 Design Terms and Tips to Level-Up”
Buffer Logo

How Do You Know Which Is Your Best Headline?

At Upworthy their writers have to come up with at least 25 headlines for every post before choosing the best one. (Even if Downworthy don’t like them!)

The Buffer team create between 20-30 headlines for each post.

But why 25?

CoSchedule Founder, Garrett Moon, researched this further and found there were psychological reasons behind writing 25 headlines. Apparently, it's all to do with the brain’s reticular activating system (RAS) inspiring creativity. 

Sometimes we need the opportunity to get rid of the bad ideas before we find the good. ~ Garrett Moon

Click to Tweet

Here's what it looked like in practice for Garrett's post:

Garrett Moon 25 Headlines

And here’s his tried and trusted method for writing 25 headlines and then deciding on the best one:

  1. Write 10 Headlines
  2. Write 15 More
  3. Cross Out The Worst 15
  4. Bold Your Top 5
  5. Do An A/B Test

Headline Testing

Steps 1-4 seem quite logical, even if it’s a slog grinding out 25 variations.

But how do you go about testing your Top 5 headlines?

How do you choose the correct one?

The real trick is this: you don't choose. You let your audience choose.

You need to show your audience your best headlines and see which one they like the most. This is also known as split testing your headlines, and it's of utmost importance for getting trustworthy data.

Does that sound a bit complicated? It can be.

But don't worry.

Because Thrive Themes have made it simple.

You can now test your headlines reliably using the Thrive Headline Optimizer.

Thrive Headline Optimizer: Make Your Posts a Massive Success, Instead of a Massive Waste

Thrive Headline Optimizer

I’ve been using the Thrive Headline Optimizer for a few months now, and I have to say I’m fascinated with the results.

> Call me a geek, but I like analyzing the data!

What’s surprised me most is the results from some of the headline tests.

Often you have a gut feeling about which headline is going to be the most popular. But then the test data throws out an entirely unexpected winner.

The Thrive Headline Optimizer uses the same techniques that big websites like Huffington Post, Forbes, CNN, and Buzzfeed use to create the most compelling headlines possible.

=> Here’s how:

Thrive's Headline Optimizer tests three critical engagement factors:

  1. Click Through Rate: tracks click-throughs on your blog page, your recent posts widgets and anywhere else where you have posts listed.
  2. Time On Content: tracks which headline gets your visitor’s attention and keeps them reading your content.
  3. Scrolling: tracks how far down a page visitors scroll.

Using these metrics, the Headline Optimizer can find the headlines that do the best job of lowering your bounce rate and keeping visitors on your site.

Using Thrive Headline Optimizer

The Thrive Headline Optimizer is a WordPress plugin. Once installed you can use it on your new blog posts, plus you can also go back through some, or all, of your old blog posts and set up tests on those too.

My process is as follows:

  1. Publish a new blog post with one of my selected headlines
  2. Add a few more headlines into the test
  3. Leave it for a few weeks to see which headline is performing better
  4. Make a decision on which headline to select as winner

Pro Tip: 

These (H1) headlines are independent of any meta title or description you may have set elsewhere. So, if you’re using the Yoast SEO plugin, for example, here’s what you can see in the snippet editor and how the post will appear in search engine results:

Yoast SEO Title and Description

Let’s take a look at the blog post example we featured earlier with the CoSchedule Headline Analyzer.

#1 Publish new blog post with one of my selected headlines

In this case, I chose to publish the blog post with the primary (control) headline:

  • 5 Simple Ways To Get More Google Goodness (Some You Probably Don’t Know About)
Thrive Headline Optimizer- Main Headline
#2 Add a few more headlines into the test

Next, I added two more headlines into the test:

  • 5 Simple Ways To Improve Your Website SEO
  • 5 Ways To Boost Your SEO With These Super Simple Tricks
Thrive Headline Optimizer - test headlines

You’ll notice now that there is an Engagement Rate report on the right-hand side of the screen. As soon as the test headlines are added and data is collected by the Headline Optimizer, it starts to display results.

> This is just a quick overview section. I’ll show you the Headline Optimizer Dashboard in a moment.

#3 Leave it for a few weeks to see which headline is performing better

In this example, my post was published on 27 May. Data has accumulated and is displayed in a couple of places:

  1. Inside the WP Post Editor
  2. Inside the Thrive Dashboard

#3.1 WP Post Editor:

The WP Post Editor gives a brief overview of headline optimizer test results. There are a couple of sections where the data is displayed.

The first section (as illustrated above) is next to each headline. In this example, Engagement Rate per Headline has been measured as follows:

  • 5 Simple Ways To Get More Google Goodness (Some You Probably Don’t Know About) = 25%
  • 5 Simple Ways To Improve Your Website SEO = 67.06%
  • 5 Ways To Boost Your SEO With These Super Simple Tricks = 67.89%

The second section in the WP Post Editor is as follows:

Thrive Headline Optimizer - WP Post Report

These metrics are for the overall post, i.e. the combined data for three headlines.

The report says that there have been 957 Views of the blog post.

450 people who read the blog post were classed as Engaged.

The Engagements are comprised of:

  • Clicks (21)
  • Scrolls (226)
  • Time on Site (203)

And then an overall Engagement Rate of 47.02% is calculated.

At the bottom are some links that will take you to more detailed test results in the Headline Optimizer Dashboard.

#3.2 Thrive Dashboard:

Let’s take a look at the Headline Optimizer Dashboard to see the headline test results in more detail.

The first set of results are displayed in a graph showing the Engagement Rate Over Time for each headline during the trial:

Thrive Headline Optimizer - Engagement Rate Over Time

This the Daily View. You can switch to Weekly or Monthly if you prefer.

The final engagement rate for today matches with the results we viewed in the WP Post Editor.

What’s apparent from this graph is that our first headline has always performed worse than our other two headlines which have ended up being ‘neck and neck’ in the race to be the winner.

The second set of results are displayed in a table:

Thrive Headline Optimizer- Table Data

Here we get to review the Headline, Content Views, Engagements, Engagement Rate, Percentage Improvement, and the Chance To Beat Original.

Like I said, the second and third headline have both performed far better than the original, and there is nothing to choose between them based on these results.

#4 Make a decision on which headline to select as winner

The Thrive Headline Optimizer allows you to either select a winner or let the system pick it automatically. I’ve currently got the automatic winner settings disabled, but I can easily switch them on if I wish. You can see below what the default automatic settings are, but these are changeable too.

Thrive Headline Optimizer - Automatic Winner Settings

I have a few options:

  • let the test carry on running - but I don’t think it will achieve anything
  • switch on automatic winner settings and let the tool decide
  • choose a winner myself
  • choose a winner and start another test if I was not satisfied with results

For the purpose of this example, I’m going to choose the winner myself and then show you what happens behind the scenes.

And the winner is…

  • 5 Simple Ways To Improve Your Website SEO
Thrive Headline Optimizer - Winning Headline

Once completed, the Headline Optimizer marks the test as completed:

Thrive Headline Optimizer - Test Completed

The test results (exactly as displayed earlier) are still available in the dashboard, underneath completed tests:

Thrive Headline Optimizer - Completed Tests

And now in the WP Post Editor, you can only see the winning headline:

Thrive Headline Optimizer - One Headline in WP Editor

Thrive Headline Optimizer

Make Your Posts a Massive Success, Instead of a Massive Waste

Another Test...

Before we leave the Thrive Headline Optimizer, I just wanted to share one other headline test that I’ve been running for another blog post.

This test started a couple of weeks earlier, but you can see the results below where the three alternative headlines have all performed better than the original one:

Thrive Headline Optimizer - Another Test

This time, there is a clear winner with the orange coded headline:

  • How To Generate An Endless Supply Of Content That Your Audience Will Love

And, as above, I’m going to select it as the winner and end this current test.

Pro Tip: 

The Headline Tests featured here have all focused on measuring website engagement. You could try running similar tests in Social Media too, by incorporating UTM tracking or using a tool like Buffer. However, the parameters for testing are not as consistent so be careful.

Headline Analyzer vs Headline Optimizer

Earlier I showed you the CoSchedule Headline Analyzer tool. As a final comparison, I thought it would be interesting to show the results of the Headline Analyzer versus the Headline Optimizer.

In the first example, you can see that there is a clear correlation between the results of the two tools. Both have marked Headline 3 as the best of the three headlines:

Test Comparison-1

In the second example, you can see that the results vary. The CoSchedule Headline Analyzer marked each headline quite closely, but the Thrive Headline Test showed more variance.

Test Comparison-2

No one can pick the best headline the first time, every time. This is why, for every post you publish, create not one, but several headlines and then test them to find the real winners.

Wrapping It All Up

We've covered a lot of ground - time for a quick recap on what you’ve learned today.

  • Headlines are crucial for getting the first click - but make sure you keep your readers engaged after that.
  • Always write at LEAST 25 headlines for each piece of content and then come up with a handful of potential winners using the CoSchedule Headline Analyzer.
  • Insert your best headlines into the Thrive Headline Optimizer and find out which headline performs best with your audience - sometimes what you think will be the winner isn’t!

Now you have all the tools and resources to write and test your own winning headlines for all your web content.

  • Tell me which tools and resources you’ve found to be the most beneficial when creating your best headlines.
David Hartshorne
 

I'm David and I'm the guy doing most of the writing around here. I'm a freelance writer helping solopreneurs and small businesses build their online presence through friendly, engaging and shareable blog posts.

  • Wow David,

    You really outdid yourself here.
    Thanks for this. I’ll admit that content comes somewhat easy to me, but headlines are something I could use some inspiration with.

    I’ve already shared this and I’ll pin it for reference.
    You’ve included a lot of images and other helpful resources, so I know I’ll have to go over this with a fine tooth comb.

    Enjoy the rest of your weekend David. Hope all is well with you 🙂

    • Hi Dana,

      I’d agree from reading your posts that you seem to have no problem pumping out content.

      Headlines are something we should all pay more attention to instead of throwing them in as an afterthought! I hope these resources will benefit you in the future.

      Thanks for your comment here and for sharing the post on social media too!
      – David

  • Hi there, David!

    Wow.

    I am so impressed with this post. Well worth the wait!

    First, I didn’t know about the CoSchedule tool, let alone the other tools you suggested. I just ran a few of my blog post headlines through CoSchedule, and as it turns out, I am not so gifted in this arena. 😉

    Further, I had no idea how to split test different headlines. THO sounds like an amazing plugin. Great find!

    I like that rather than churning out the same tired advice — ie: Answer a question! — you actually provided tools for other content creators to use. Excellent.

    Sharing now!

    Brent

    • Hey, Brent!

      Yes, it took a while to cook up but eventually I got the post written!

      I’m sure you’ll have fun with CoSchedule. I spend hours (yes, I know) playing around with headlines in there. And the Thrive Headline Optimizer is a very good headline testing tool, so give it a go!

      Appreciate the comment and shares, Brent!
      – David

  • Ashley Faulkes

    Great post David, as you know I already saw a draft :>

    Very actionable and well supported which is what we all love to see.

    heading out to share with my minons now!

    • Thanks Ashley, you were a great help for sense-checking this content, and I hope you and your minions will benefit from the actionable advice!
      – David

  • Great advice here David, I love using the headline analyzer but I like the way you should us the steps for the different types of words, that can be difficult at times. Great idea to use a thesaurus for it 🙂 Thank you!

    • The Thesaurus can be a great source of inspiration when you’re looking for a better word, and often it can push your headline score up significantly, and more importantly grab the attention of more readers.

      Thanks Lisa!
      – David

  • David, this is a very detailed and in-depth post mate and thanks so much for including one of my blog articles.

    We underestimate the importance of creating effective headlines, but it’s really where it all starts from as far as reeling in readers to our content.

    I love the Thrive Headline Optimizer tool too, it has been extremely valuable even though I’ve only used it half a dozen times.

    Will share this now mate, well done. – Fabrizio

    • Thanks Fabrizio, it was hard not to include your extensive resource of magnetic headlines! Appreciate you stopping by to comment and share at this busy time in your life 🙂
      Cheers!
      – David

  • As always another awesome post Mr Long Form.

    I am with what others have said, such detail and depth. 🙂

    Not to mention some great tools I need to long into. I really like the Thrive headline tester thingy. Don’t think I heard they had it. I don’t get out enough. The wife is always making me work.

    I currently don’t use any tools, and this is a good reminder that I REALLY need to. No doubt about it, if they don’t get past the headline, they are gone. Not just blog posts, but ads, salespages, ect.

    Enjoyed the read David. Quality stuff my friend!

    Sharing it up in the sphere.

    • Hi Ron,

      The Headline Optimizer would be really useful for testing some of your sales and product pages – definitely worth a go!

      Thanks for stopping by, and be sure to pass on my thanks to your wife too 🙂

      Cheers!
      – David

  • Thanks Eli, Good to hear you are devoting the time to headline creation Eli. Have you tried the Headline Optimizer to test them?
    – David

  • Hey, Anja, it’s definitely worth checking out the Headline Optimizer and seeing how it works on your site. Glad you liked the post, too!

    Thanks
    – David

  • Hi, David – awesome post! I know how important the headline is but yet, I never seem to spend too much time on crafting headlines. This post shows the science behind it all in a very neat and organized way, thank you for that. I am even creating a pdf out of it to refer to the post each time I work on a headline going forward. Thanks for these etailed instructions and tools recommendations. I am sure you made a lot of bloggers happy with this post 😀
    ~Diana

    • Hi, Diana,

      I think we’re all guilty of not spending too much time crafting our headlines, let alone testing them afterwards. Even on this post, so far, what I thought would be the best headline is not performing as well as others. It just confirms that we need to let our audience choose the winner!

      Great idea to create a handy ref pdf!
      Thanks
      – David

  • Hey David,

    Really well written posto here. So chock full of information too.

    There’s a line you said that I agree with completely: “your main content has to live up to the expectation you have set at the top of the page.”

    100% agree.

    If you have an awesome headline that brings people in yet the remainder of the content fails to live up to expectations, that post will be a failure. So I agree that you need to take headlines seriously and focus on them..but also make sure the rest of your content lives up to expectations.

    Really great post once again. I can tell you put in a lot of effort into this one.

    Have a great week.

    – Andrew

    • Hey Andrew,

      Yes, it’s very important. You’ve probably heard the analogy of walking into a hotel reception and everything looks plush, but when you reach your room you find it’s a dump!

      It’s the same here. We need great all-round content, not just the headline.

      Thanks for your feedback and glad you liked the post!
      – David

  • Jasper Oldersom

    Hey David,

    This is an amazing resource. I have to give you credit for that.

    I know how much work and research goes into a monstrous post like this, but it’s worth it. And what I love about your post is that your headline is worthy of a topic like this.

    Just yesterday I was reading a post about how we write for desktops, while people consume content on smartphones. The irony was, I was reading on my smartphone and it was almost impossible to plow through the text.

    The Rolls Royce headline is classic. I love this swipe based headline for a Land Rover in 1965 as well: “At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise comes from the engine”. Different audience, different needs.

    Sometimes an amazing headline can jump out to you in an instant, but it can take months of research before you get there. Joanne Wiebe from Copy Hackers had to write copy for a rehab center. It took her a long time to find a good headline, but when she scanned reviews on books about addiction, this line jumped out to her: “If you think you need rehab, you do”.

    I still use Jon Morrow’s headline file quite often. Even if it’s just to get some inspiration from writing that works, so I can get those creative juices flowing. ?

    I have also used just about any of the tools you mentioned. They are barely ever the headlines I end up with, but they do give me ideas for new posts and help me start writing. When I finish writing, I typically write my “real” headline. In between sessions, I may change the headline as well.

    Besides Jon’s headline hacks, I also love using other headline formula’s or even swipe one from a post I come across. For example, I could easily use the Thrive Theme headline:

    – Are Your Headlines Failing Because of One of these 6 Mistakes?

    – Are Your AdWords Ads Failing Because of One of these 4 Mistakes?

    I’m glad you mentioned managing expectations. I really hate being “tricked” into clicking on something, only to disappointed by the content inside. I do love me a clickbait style headline like this: “Google Didn’t Want Us To Use The Keyword Planner This Way. But It Works Nicely.” — in the post, Dan Shure truly delivered. The effect? It still pops out in my mind 2 years later.

    The Thrive Headline Optimizer looks truly interesting. It’s a solid company, so I’m sure it’s worth every single buck.

    What a wonderful post, David. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

    Enjoy the rest of your week.

    – Jasper

    • Hey, Jasper,

      This is an amazing comment! You’ve shared a load of useful feedback from your experience of headlines and it just adds more to the post.

      Don’t get me started on viewing content on mobiles. I can’t believe how many websites still expect you to use a magnifying glass to read their content on a mobile device. Seriously, there’s no excuse now not to have a fully mobile responsive website.

      Haha – like the Land Rover take on David Ogilvy’s headline 🙂

      There are some excellent headlines and articles on the Thrive Themes blog. They offer great advice on getting the best out of their brilliant products including the Headline Optimizer.

      Thanks for your feedback – much appreciated – and have a relaxing weekend!
      – David

  • Arfa Nazeer

    Hi David,
    Thankyou so much for the in-fepth post about headlines. It is packed with tools, the usage and the useful tips.
    I didn’t know about the Thrive headline Optimizer and I think I have to consider this for sure to write better headlines for the posts.
    I have a query in Coschedule. Whenever I try to create a perfect headline that scores above 70, I face the sad sentiment. Though, the score goes high to 72 but rhe sentiment is poor. Can you tell me that where I am making the mistake?
    Again, a great content.

    Count me in as your dedicated subsriber 🙂

    Arfa – http://www.epife.com

    • Hello Arfa,

      Welcome to the blog and thanks for subscribing too!

      Good to hear that the post helped you and introduced you to some useful tools and tips.
      Regarding CoSchedule Analyzer, can you share the headline that shows the sad sentiment. (You can reply here or email me as you prefer.)

      Thanks
      – David

  • Ilka Emig

    Hi David!

    Headlines are indeed very important and you pove this in your post and give some great advice. I would say you covered it all.

    I love Jon Morrow’s Headline tmplates as well as his list of powerwords. However, I tried CoSchedule Headline Analyzer after I read your post and I just love it. It really helps to pick the final headline after twisting my head and coming up with several options.

    Thanks for sharing this guide, Ilka

    • Hi Ilka,

      You can’t really argue with Jon Morrow’s headline hacks and power words – they are great resources. And good to hear you gave CoSchedule Analyzer a run too. You can spend ages playing around with different word combinations in there 🙂

      Have a great week Ilka!
      – David

  • I definitely agree that headlines are so important. I fell in love with CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer when I found out about it. Sometimes I only use Portent or Hubspot generator when I need a topic to write about. Never did I think that I should write down as many headlines, like 25 to figure out the best one. I usually start writing with a headline in mind, and when the post is done, I review the headline to make sure that it’s still what the content is about. If not, then I simply edit it to fit the content better. So I only, probably come up with 2 or 3 headlines from that strategy.

    Next time i’ll publish a post, I’ll make sure to write more headlines and play an elimination game. Nice post, David. 🙂

    • Hey Heide,

      25 headlines can come as a bit of a shock when you normally choose from 3. It takes some time to get used to, but it’s definitely worth investing the time in our headlines so that we can grab our readers’ attention.

      Thanks for sharing your feedback and good luck on your next post!
      – David

  • Woah! I’m loving how thorough this post is. Seriously very helpful.

    I use thesaurus.com for writing my content as well. It’s such a great tool to keep things fresh. 🙂

    Both the CoSchedule tool and the Thrive tool look very robust. I’ll have to give them a whirl and improve my headlines a bit.

    Thanks for the info 🙂

    • Hey Andrea,

      I always used to think a Thesaurus was for completing crosswords, but it turns out it’s a very useful tool when you’re writing content too 🙂

      The other tools from CoSchedule and Thrive are definitely worth checking out.

      Thanks for your feedback – it’s much appreciated.
      – David

  • Hey David,

    Headlines of your blog posts has the major impact on the promotion of the blog post. People like to read the articles with the evocative headlines.

    The character count is important. Most of the bloggers publish the articles with the longer headlines. It won’t work.

    Thanks for this wonderful article.
    Have a great day.
    ~Ravi

    • Hey, Ravi,

      That’s an interesting observation about most bloggers going too long with their headlines. There is an art to conveying your message and capturing your reader’s attention, and these tools and resources can help you achieve that.

      Thanks for sharing your feedback, Ravi!
      – David

  • Hey David,

    I haven’t been to your site in a while, but I am glad I did today.

    This is one area where I definitely need some help with my headlines. Its frustrating when you write a huge blog post and nobody gets past the headline.

    I certainly did not know these tools existed for helping with your headlines. I am going to be sure and try these out on my next post.

    Thanks so much for this wealth of information. I will definitely be sharing this post.

    David, I hope you have a great week!

    –Rob McDonald

    • Hi Rob,

      Good to know you found this post useful. There are plenty of proven resources and methods to help you start writing some cracking headlines.

      BTW – the bonus guide has 4 extra resources!

      Let me know if you have any questions.

      Thanks for your comment and shares!
      – David

  • Hi David,

    I have never seen a complete guide about powerful headlines in my life till now. I know that headlines are important and it make readers to open the article and boost traffic.

    You have explained many things that I was not aware about. I will surely use these tips and tools. thanks for sharing

    • Thanks Sona, I hope these tips and tools will help you create even better headlines.