9 Unforgettable Tips for Writing Headlines that Work [Infographic]


When you battle for attention in the noise fest that is the Internet, the most important skill you could possibly possess is headline writing. Your headline is going to be the make-or-break element that determines whether or not your content is read.

I want to help make you a better headline writer.

I’ve created a cheat sheet you can use to hone your headline writing. It’s ultra-simple – I’ve spelled out 9 tips based on the word ‘HEADLINES’. I’ve made it an acronym, a memory device. Each letter is one of the 9 tips… easier to remember, right?

I’ve even made it into an infographic for you to reference (and share).

Nine Unforgettable Tips for Writing Headlines that Work | Social Media Today


The most important line you’ll write for your blog post or any type of content is the headline

Advertising pioneer David Ogilvy once reported only 1 in 5 will make it past your headline into your copy. Though I don’t have a modern day update on the percentage, I suspect, given the immense volume of content available to the active web surfer of today, the percentage of readers that click through to your story is far lower.

In an article from SEO technology company Conductor, they report:

“A day in the Internet shows that 2 million blog posts, 294 billion emails, 864 thousand hours of video are created daily. Each day also brings 400 million tweets. (From 2013)”

That’s a lot of competition for your attention. The obvious result is tons of great content is ignored. Your challenge is to quickly engage readers and inspire clicks with headlines that suggest your articles are useful.

In an effort to help you understand a variety of headline approaches that perform well for bloggers, I’ve created a cheat sheet that spells out nine tips for writing headlines that work based on the word H-E-A-D-L-I-N-E-S.

Following each tip, I offer two examples. The first example comes from ideas for a would-be blog about pets (simply because my cat and dog are loving on each other as I write this). The second example draws from my area of expertise, online marketing.

9 Unforgettable Tips for Writing Headlines that Work [Infographic] | Social Media Today

H is for helpful

The first rule of content marketing is to deliver value to your audience. There’s no more meaningful way of achieving this than being helpful.

So let’s assume your content – be it a blog post, video, podcast, infographic or what have you – was created with the intention of helping those you want to tune into it. Your headline serves as the invitation. However you choose to write the line, make it blatantly obvious the reward for reading further is you will gather helpful information.

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E is for emotion

An effective headline evokes emotion. If you think about it, an effective anything in communications and art does exactly that.

Psychology has demonstrated we evoke emotion by appealing to the two most prevalent drivers of behavior: achieving pleasure and avoiding pain.

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A is for ask

The question headline is enormously effective – provided you ask a question your target audience wants to know the answer to.

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D is for do’s and don’ts

Education is central to effective content marketing. So a sure-fire approach to writing a compelling headline indicates your article or content is going to deliver tactics that do or don’t work for a task your audience needs to understand.

What to Do When Your Puppy Won’t Stop Digging Up Your Yard.

Five Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make on Your Home Page.

L is for list

There’s just something about how our brains work that prove time and again you can’t miss with a meaningful list. You’ll find article teasers featuring numbers on the covers of popular magazines and list posts all across the blogosphere because readers respond to them.

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I is for inspire

Write a headline that speaks to your readers’ desires. Inspire them and you’ll have the ultimate hook.

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N is for nightmare

Ace blogger Jon Morrow of Boost Blog Traffic, and author of the popular ebook “52 Headline Hacks”, offers a 3-point headline checklist, which includes what he calls “the 2 a.m. test”. Jon’s point is a formula for a great headline is to speak to a problem that keeps your readers up at night.

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E is for empathy

Jay Baer, author of the great marketing book “Youtility”, points out that in the social media landscape, your messages are delivered alongside those of your reader’s friends and family. To earn their attention and trust, you too have to achieve friend status. The best way to accomplish this is to show your reader you understand their problems and care.

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S is for success

The oldest and most proven approach to headline nirvana is delivering a little bundle of success. Of course, you need insights into how your readers define success. When you have them, speak to them.

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Put some serious time, energy and TLC into your headlines. Don’t settle for the first idea that comes to mind – write as many as you can think of and attempt to put yourself in the mindset of the reader when you evaluate your options.

Have a look at the headline I wrote for this piece and then skim through the tips again looking to count how may of them I applied. By my count I hit on 6.

Of course, not every headline you write needs to combine 6 best practices or even conform to any specific formula. However, I believe if you practice using the tips I’ve offered here you’ll write more effective headlines and get better at earning the time and attention of your readers.

Like that post? Read How to Write a Home Page Headline that Gets the Job Done – featuring examples of good and bad headlines.

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Lessons from Steve Jobs on giving an unforgettable speech


A Steve Jobs keynote was a tightly choreographed and relentlessly prepared presentation, according to the new book “Becoming Steve Jobs” by Brent Schlender.

Jobs turned the product launch into an art form. He also leaves a legacy by which entrepreneurs can learn to dazzle their audiences. The following five keynotes will help anyone give the presentation of a lifetime.

1. The Mac launch

Every Steve Jobs presentation had one moment that people would be talking about the next day. These “moments” were tightly scripted and relentlessly rehearsed. Remarkably, Jobs’ flair for the dramatic started before PowerPoint or Apple Keynote were available as slide design tools, which proves you don’t need slides to leave your audience breathless.

Related: Former Apple CEO John Sculley: This Is What Made Steve Jobs a Genius

On Jan. 24, 1984, Steve Jobs introduced the first Macintosh with a magician’s flair for the big reveal. He showed a series of images and said, “Everything you just saw was created by what’s in that bag.” And with that Jobs walked to the center of a darkened stage that had a table and a canvas bag sitting on top it. He slowly pulled the Mac from the bag, inserted a floppy disk, and walked away as the theme from Chariots of Fire began to play as images filled the screen.

The lesson: A presentation doesn’t always need slides to wow an audience.

2. The iPhone

The rule of three is one of most powerful concepts in writing. The human mind can only retain three or four “chunks” of information. Jobs was well aware of this principle and divided much of his presentations into three parts. Sometimes he even had fun with it.

For example, on Feb. 16, 2007, Jobs told the audience to expect three new products: a new iPod, a phone and an “Internet communication device.” After repeating the three products several times, he made the big reveal—all three products were wrapped in one new device, the iPhone.

The lesson: Introduce three benefits or features of a product, not 23.

3. The first MacBook Air

When Jobs introduced the “world’s thinnest notebook,” the MacBook Air, he walked to the side of the stage, pulled out a manila envelope hiding behind the podium and said, “It’s so thin it even fits inside one of those envelopes you see floating around the office.” With a beaming smile, he slowly pulled it out of the envelope for all to see.

Most presenters would have shown photographs of the product. Jobs took it one step further. He knew what would grab people’s attention. This did. Most of the blogs, magazines and newspapers that covered the launch ran a photograph of Steve Jobs pulling the computer out of the envelope.

The lesson: Don’t just tell us about a product, show it to us, and do it with pizzazz.

Related: 5 Things I Learned About Successful Startups From Steve Jobs

4. The iTunes Store

Every great drama has a hero and a villain. Steve Jobs was a master at introducing both heroes and villains in the same presentation. On April 28, 2003, Jobs convinced consumers to pay 99 cents for songs. Jobs began with a brief discussion of Napster and Kazaa, sites that offered “near instant gratification” and, from the user’s perspective, free downloads. On the next slide he listed the “dark side.” They were:

  • Unreliable downloads
  • Unreliable quality (“a lot of these songs are encoded by 7-year-olds and they don’t do a great job.”)
  • No previews
  • No album cover art
  • It’s stealing (“It’s best not to mess with karma.”)

In the next section of the presentation Jobs replaced each of the drawbacks with the benefits of paying for music.

  • Fast, reliable downloads
  • Pristine encoding
  • Previews of every song
  • Album cover art
  • Good Karma

The lesson: Great presentations have an antagonist—a problem—followed by a hero—the solution.

5. The genius in their craziness

In 1997, Jobs returned to Apple after a 12-year absence. Apple was close to bankruptcy at the time and was quickly running out of cash.

Near the end of Jobs’ keynote at Macworld in August 1997, he slowed the pace, lowered his voice, and said: “I think you always had to be a little different to buy an Apple computer. I think the people who do buy them are the creative spirits in the world. They are the people who are not out just to get a job done, they’re out to change the world. We make tools for those kind of people. A lot of times, people think they’re crazy. But in that craziness, we see genius. And those are the people we’re making tools for.”

The lesson: Don’t forget to motivate your internal audience—your team, employees and partners. Give them a purpose to rally around.

When I wrote “The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs,” I argued that Jobs was the world’s greatest brand storyteller. When I watch these presentations over again, I’m convinced he’s still the best role model for entrepreneurs who will pitch the next generation of ideas that will change the world.

Related: Top 10 Ways to Make Your Presentations More Memorable

Carmine Gallo is the author

ofTALK LIKE TED: The 9 Public Speaking Secrets of The World’s Top Minds.” A popular keynote speaker and communication coach for some of the world’s most admired brands, Gallo is a former CNN journalist, and his ideas have been featured in The Wall Street Journal , 20/20 and CNBC. A version of this article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com. Copyright © 2015 Entrepreneur Media, Inc. All rights reserved.

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