How to Write Headlines That Grab Your Prospects' Attention

Sean Johnson
Posted by Sean Johnson on December 11, 2012

It's amazing how so few words can determine the success of your content. Most headlines for blogs, web pages, tip sheets, or emails are usually 7 to 8 words long; not a lot of real estate to hook a prospect's attention and convince them reading it will be time well spent.

It's definitely an art, and there are folks who have built an entire career in media because they are able to distill a story down to those key 7 or 8 words that grab a readers attention and won't let go. They make it look easy, and perhaps, for them, it is. But for the rest of us, it can be hard work.

So what makes a headline successful?

In general, a successful headline is one that is not only attention grabbing - think tabloid - but also delivers on a promise or need for the prospect. Combining the two is not always easy, but there are some headline types, or templates, that can guide you. Some starting ideas include:

The Know it All – Offers practical tips and advice

The Teacher – The educational approach - something the reader doesn't know

The Instigator – Think tabloids! A bold statement that may or may not be true, but it gets people reading

The Threat – What do your personas worry about? Speak to that

The Promise – Delivering ways that make a prospect's life easier

The How-to – They will learn how to solve a problem

The List – Self-explanatory and people love them

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but if you are struggling to write attention-grabbing headlines for content, these are some time tested styles that can help. (For a fun guide to these and other styles, check out Jon Morrow's 52 Headline Hacks, an irreverent guide to the art of headline writing.)

With a good handle on your target persona's needs, you can follow these style templates to write headlines that speak directly to them, making it more likely they will read your content. Need a little proof? Let's take a look at the top 10 most-viewed blogs we've written here at Weidert Group:

  1. Top 10 LinkedIn Etiquette Tips to Connect Like a Pro
  2. How 6 Hours of Social Media Marketing Can Increase Your Sales
  3. Social Media Optimization 101: How To Optimize Your Profiles
  4. Top 10 Most Effective Marketing Strategies
  5. Social Media Marketing: A 30 Minute Plan
  6. A Smart LinkedIn Strategy Can Help Generate Leads
  7. 6 Ways To Use Pinterest To Promote Your Business
  8. Inbound Marketing: 50 Awesome Content Ideas
  9. 11 Mistakes That Will Doom Your Content
  10. Pinterest Image Optimization: 5 Tips to Increase Visibility in Search

Looking through our top 10, there are lists, how-tos, and even a few "Know It Alls" featured in the titles of our most read blogs. The blogs on this list continue to generate new views each month as they are found in search or shared on social media.

It's more than just blogs. We see the same pattern when looking at our top performing weekly e-mail newsletters for our Whole Brain Marketing Week In Review. The subject lines that produced the most clicks tend to follow the styles mentioned above:


Of course, you still need to have good content to convince your prospect to convert as a lead, but great content needs a good headline to lure them in.

Still struggling? The Content Marketing Institute recently published a blog by Roger C. Parker that included his Title Evaluation Scorecard, a 10-point guide to creating better headlines, titles, and subjects lines for your content. It's a good guide, worth downloading and keeping readily available for reference.

Our best advice: Test it. Find a couple of styles you think would work well with your target personas and write your headlines that way. Monitor what happens. If you start to see views of your content increase – blogs, tip sheets, e-mails – then you know you have a good combination.

The better your content performs, the more prospects you will attract to your website where you can convert them to leads and create opportunities to win new customers.

Content Creation Template & Worksheets


Topics: Content Marketing

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