There’s a reason marketers talk about the best headlines and calls to action more than anything else.
It’s because the best headlines and CTAs contribute more heavily to conversions than most entrepreneurs think.
Think about how people used to — and still do, in some cases — browse magazine racks. Most of them didn’t pick up a magazine until a headline caused them to act.
The best headlines on magazine covers actually move consumers to physically pick up a product and carry it to the register. Online, all you need is a click.
This doesn’t mean you should rest on your laurels, though. Everyone’s competing in the Headline Olympics, and if you’re not bringing your A game, you’ll struggle to get the attention of your target audience.
So, how do you write the best headlines in your industry — or in any industry? What’s the secret sauce that elevates a mediocre headline to a great one?
The Importance of Great Headlines for Your Online Business
We’re not just talking about blog posts here. You likely write headlines for social media posts, invitations to sign up for your email newsletter, introductions to your pillar pages, and more. The best headlines compel consumers to keep reading.
That’s it. If your headline can’t convince people to read, you’re done.
You have to think of yourself as one of those carnival pitchmen. Their job was to convince patrons to hit the scale with a hammer or to get three darts to throw at a target.
The pitch was what brought people in. The best headlines do the very same thing.
Confusing, boring, vague, and dull headlines tell consumers that the rest of your content will be just as lifeless. You want people to assume you have the goods, so you can then deliver on the headline’s promise. If you do that often enough, you’ll build a stable of loyal readers — and, with any luck, customers.
Of course, writing great headlines isn’t easy. You might write 10 different versions before you settle on one that really works. Let’s look at some of the best headlines to help you get started.
The Best Headlines
You might have run into lists of headline formulas before. They’re great for inspiring creativity as long as you use them for the right pieces of content. Let’s look at examples of some of the best headlines you can use for your online business and dissect why and how they work.
1. The X Best Ways to Get _______ Without _______
- The 10 Best Ways to Get Rich Without Working a 9-to-5
- The 101 Best Ways to Get Ripped Without a Gym Membership
- The 27 Best Ways to Get Investors Without a Boring Pitch
This type of headline preys on the reader’s desire to get something of value, such as money or a better body, without resorting to the most logical route. The trick with this type of headline is to make sure you’re not selling a bill of goods.
In other words, you need to deliver. Big time. Otherwise, readers will feel cheated.
You don’t have to use this exact wording. Many marketers think they need to copy the best headline formulas word-for-word. Don’t be afraid to get creative.
- The X Best Tools for Tracking Money Without Pen and Paper
- The X Kindest Gestures You Can Make Without Spending Money
- The X Most Outrageous Diets That Don’t Lead to Starvation
2. You’re Running Out of _______! Here’s How to Fix It
- You’re Running Out of Time! Here’s How to Avoid Missing Out
- You’re Running Out of Money! What Should You Do Next?
- You’re Running Out of Energy! Here’s How to Fix It
This is one of the best headlines to use when you’re going to hand your readers some intriguing advice. You know the pain point — no time! no money! no energy! — and you’re going to help people solve it.
Focus on a serious pain point that’s causing your readers distress. Make it more specific, if necessary to ensure you reach your target audience. For instance, you could say, “You’re Running Out of Money for Your Expansion! What Should You Do Next?”
3. We Need to Talk About _______. It’s a _______.
- We Need to Talk About AI. It’s a Game Changer.
- We Need to Talk About Budgeting. It’s a Necessary Evil.
- We Need to Talk About the Elephant in the Room. It’s Hurting You.
As you can see from the examples above, you can either be specific or vague with this headline. Not the type of vague that leaves readers confused or disinterested, but the kind that inspires curiosity.
There’s a delicate balance between creating a promise in your headlines and giving your readers a reason to click. If you’re too specific, even the best headlines won’t get clicks because readers won’t think they have anything else to learn from the copy.
4. You’ll Be _______ if You Miss This Guide to _______
- You’ll Be Sorry if You Miss This Guide to Writing the Best Headlines
- You’ll Kick Yourself if You Miss This Chance to Try Our New Course
- You’ll Be in Hot Water if You Miss This Guide to Celebrating Valentine’s Day
We’re trying to use diverse examples of the best headlines to show how they work in different situations. You can use these headline formulas for both serious and light-hearted topics as long as you give appropriate gravitas when it’s needed.
For this example, the best headlines let people know that they’ll miss out on something amazing if they fail to act. You’re playing on FOMO.
5. X of the _______ _______ You’ll Find Today
- X of the Best Blog Posts You’ll Read Today
- X of the Most Important Products You’ll Buy at the Supermarket Today
- X of the Most Eco-Friendly Companies You Can Work For
In this headline example, we’re combining an adjective with a noun. Try to choose an unconventional adjective to make the headline really pop. You can change it to singular form, too: “The Most Important Product You’ll Buy at the Supermarket Today.”
The best headlines prove themselves with the copy. You want to make sure you’re not making a ridiculous claim. Back it up with as much data as possible so your readers don’t feel cheated or tricked.
6. Try _______ And Get _______
- Try Pilates and Get a Six-Pack
- Try Soy Milk and Save Dairy Cows
- Try Changing Your Sleep Patterns and Get More Done
Think of this type of headline as a challenge or invitation. You’re asking your audience to try something new — something they might object to — and get something beneficial in return. That’s how persuasion works: Ask someone to take action and tell them what they’ll get out of it.
The more surprising the result, the more clicks you’ll get. If you can promise to show someone how two seemingly unrelated things produce an amazing result, you’ll win over your audience in a second.
7. _______ Vs _______: Which Is _______?
- Mac Vs PC: Which Is Faster?
- Running Versus Cross-Training: Which Is Easier?
- Dog Versus Cat: Which Is the Best Pet?
Some of the best headlines introduce a comparison. Consumers make purchasing decisions by comparing one product against its competition, for instance, and they decide how to spend their time in much the same way.
Just make sure you’re comparing things that really matter to your audience and suggesting a benefit they’ll care about. In other words, the phrase that comes after “which is” should be targeted directly to your audience’s main pain point.
8. Are You Still Doing _______? You Might Regret It
- Are You Still Posting on MySpace? You Might Regret It
- Are You Still Driving a 10-Year-Old Car? You Might Regret It
- Are You Still in an Unhappy Marriage? You Will Regret It
We have another versatile headline option that you can massage to meet your needs. Notice the difference between the first two headlines and the last. It’s more definitive. We’re telling the audience that they’re going to regret not making a change.
This might seem like a doomsday-style headline, but it doesn’t have to be. You can use it for light-hearted and serious topics alike. And feel free to change up the language:
- Still Using MySpace? Get Out While You Still Can
- Hanging On to Your 10-Year-Old Car? Here’s What You’re Missing
- Stuck in an Unhappy Marriage? Check Out What Awaits You on the Other Side
9. Here’s What You Don’t Know About _______ That Could _______
- Here’s What You Don’t Know About Electric Cars That Could Bust Your Budget
- Here’s What You Don’t Know About SEO That Could Harm Your Business
- Here’s What You Don’t Know About Dog Training That Could Hurt Your Furry Friend
This is one of the best headlines to engage your audience’s curiosity and affect change. You want your audience to know that, by not educating themselves, they’re putting themselves in a dangerous or precarious position.
10. How To [Accomplish Something] In [Short Amount of Time]
People are highly interested in achievement. They are also interested in achieving things as quickly as possible. This template leverages both of these desires and can be used in any industry. While you want to make the promised accomplishments and time frame as grand as possible, you absolutely MUST limit it to something you can actually deliver on.
- How To Craft High-Converting Headlines In Less Than 60 Seconds
- How To Land A High-Dollar Client In The Next 30 Minutes
- How To Potty Train Your Puppy In Only 3 Days
11. How To [Receive Benefit] Without [Undesired Expenditure]
There are a lot of benefits people want to receive. Typically, these benefits come with undesired expenditures. If you can show them how to attain a benefit without the expense, you have their attention. Think of the most common problems your customers face and address how it can be avoided.
- How To Get A-List Copy Without The Massive Price Tag
- How To Get A Bachelors Degree Without Debt Or Ramen
- How To Land Your Dream Job Without Sending 5,000 Emails
12. How To [Accomplish/Benefit] In [Short Time Period] Without [Expenditure]
If it’s working, why not double down? If you can keep your headline natural sounding and not too gimmicky, combining elements from both #1 and #2 can result in a killer headline. This allows you to make an even more compelling promise to your audience, which translates to a higher conversion rate.
- How To Land Higher Dollar Clients In The Next Hour Without Spending A Penny
- How To Get Your Degree In 3 Years Without Debt Or Ramen
- How To Get Your Dream Job This Week Without Sending 5,000 Emails
13. The Unbelievably Easy Way To [Accomplish Something]
As we already mentioned, every is actively seeking to accomplish something. If you can link your content to easier task accomplishment, you will generate interest. Try to think of an accomplishment that will be appealing to a large audience while staying relevant to your customers.
- The Unbelievably Easy Way To Land 10 New Clients Today
- The Unbelievably Easy Way To Get Your Bachelors, Debt Free
- The Unbelievably Easy Way To Get A Job You Actually Want
14. The Guaranteed Method For Avoiding [Common Mistake]
Just like achieving accomplishments, people really want to avoid mistakes. By referencing common mistakes your target audience is encountering, you can very easily command their attention. Prioritize mistakes that involve emotional pain rather than financial loss.
- The Guaranteed Method For Avoiding Client Lag
- The Guaranteed Method For Avoiding Student Debt
- The Guaranteed Method For Avoiding Another Crappy Job
15. 10 Things [Something Interesting] Says About You
People really like reading about themselves. They love thinking about themselves. They love taking quizzes about themselves. And so on and so forth. If you can tell your target customers something interesting about themselves, you can command their attention.
- 10 Things Owning A Business Says About You
- 10 Things Your First Job Says About You
- 10 Things Your History Degree Says About You
16. 10 Little-Known Ways To [Accomplish Something]
Here’s another great way to connect your business with people’s desire for accomplishment. Few things trigger action like the suggestion that we are missing out on beneficial information. Using the phrase “little-known” capitalizes on that trigger.
- 10 Little-Known Ways To Land New Clients
- 10 Little-Known Ways To Get A Bachelors Degree Without Debt
- 10 Little-Known Ways To Get Your Dream Job
17. How To [Accomplish Something] Like [Famous Example]
Few things are as powerful as a compelling visual. By citing a famous example, you can immediately create a visual in your audience’s mind and utilize the benefits of that example’s marketing. Pick a name that is well known to your target audience, as opposed to a household name, and make sure this individual’s accomplishments are extremely similar to the goals of your customers.
- How To Pick Up Clients Like Neil Patel
- How To Fast Track Your Startup Like Elon Musk
- How To Brand Your Business Like Apple
18. The Scientifically Proven Formula For [Accomplishing Something]
By now, you’ve probably realized that the best headlines introduce an actionable way for readers to accomplish something. Since every content producer out there is offering this type of stuff, differentiating via scientific proof or case-study evidence is a great way to stand out from the crowd.
- The Scientifically Proven Formula For Landing High-Dollar Clients
- The Scientifically Proven Formula For Accelerating Your Career
- The Scientifically Proven Formula For Writing Headlines That Convert
19. Is [Something Most People Do] Causing [Something Bad]?
Most people consistently wonder about what they’re doing wrong. After all, if we knew what needed fixed, we’d just do it and reap the benefits. By mentioning something your target audience commonly does and then implying it may be resulting in a problem, you can grab their attention.
- Is Your Email Campaign Causing Would-Be Clients To Say “No”?
- Is Your Suit Causing You To Miss Out On Your Dream Job?
- Will Your College Major Leave You With A Lifetime of Debt?
20. X Lessons I Learned from _______________
Why it works: The hidden truth about copywriting is that no one wants to be first. Secretly, they might all think they do, but when it comes time to walk the walk, no one wants to try and fail, or try and look foolish. If you can demonstrate several lessons you learned as a result of following someone or something, it gives readers a virtual roadmap to follow, making them more at ease and receptive to your suggestions.
21. The Ultimate Guide to ____________________
Why it works: This is a classic favorite that converts well time and time again because of the sheer amount of knowledge the headline promises. Make sure you deliver. If you’re going to write the ultimate guide to something, whether it’s Facebook, ridding your garden of aphids or buying a coffee maker, you’d better pull out all the stops and squeeze every ounce of know-how out of this post. In the past, these have been the posts that propelled average bloggers into the A-list spotlight. When done right, they can make your traffic soar.
22. How to Survive Your First _______________
Why it works: Here again, we’re exploring the “no one wants to be first” fear that holds many people back from taking action. Fear is a powerful motivator. Rather than exploring the lessons you learned, this version can help readers understand what to expect when they follow your advice. This type of headline is particularly effective on sites that deal with challenging roles we face such as caring for pets, maintaining our health, or being a mother.
23. What (Group or Celebrity) Can Teach You About (Industry)
Why it works: Sage advice can come from the unlikeliest of places. What advice might the late Steve Jobs have about interior design, or what could zombies reveal about irresistible marketing ideas? Match two unusual markets and you’re sure to boost clicks for the sheer curiosity of it all. Your readers will be compelled to read to find out how you are going to connect these two unlikely subjects. It’s interesting.
24. Behind the Scenes of a ___________________
Why it works: What could you reveal about a place, occupation, or showcase that others could learn from? People are always fascinated by what goes on behind the scenes in some of their favorite niches, hobbies and websites. If you can show what “a day in the life” is like, it may inspire them to take action after reading. The headline implies that you will get a unique view of something you are interested in. The promise is that this will be something you haven’t seen or heard before.
25. 9 Out of 10 (Group Members) Can’t/Don’t ____________. Are You One of Them?
Why it works: Numbers are powerful attention-getters, but only if written as numerals instead of words. There is something mystical about numerals. Our brains take longer to visually process words like “seven” and “ten” than 7 and 10, so this succinct headline gets right to the heart by making it as easy as possible for us to read and understand it. For example, “9 out of 10 Forex Traders Don’t Make a Dime, Are You One of Them?” speaks to the people who are struggling, and then follows up with realistic steps they can follow to be more than just a statistic.
26. Make Your First ($) Sale in Just (X) Hours (Watch Below to See How!)
Why it works: This headline is attractive to just about any buying market, especially if you can follow it up with live video-proof that shows the process being done. With faster connections and always-on connectivity to the web through smart phones and the like, video blogging and marketing are increasingly being embraced by mainstream audiences. Use this to your advantage by demonstrating how anyone can follow your steps and earn their first sale.
27. Are You Still Wasting Money on ______________ (Without Anything to Show for It?)
Why it works: This flexible headline can fit a variety of industries, particularly if you’re showing your audience how to overcome a common problem such as losing weight, making money online, car repairs, health and beauty and so forth. The headline implies a serious threat, wasting money.
28. People Regularly Pay Me ($) for This Information – But You Can Have it FREE:
Why it works: Everyone loves free – particularly when they feel they’re getting a better deal than someone who paid for it. Conference and webinar speakers repackage their information constantly and use it as a giveaway for email list building. What kind of insider information are people willing to pay you for, and how can you turn that into a subscriber magnet?
29. How to Make ($) With Your ______________, Step-by-Step.
Why it works: You’ll see this headline at work from the moment you browse the business aisle at your local bookstore. Titles like “How to Make Millions with Your Product Idea” or “How to Make a Full-Time Income with Your Computer” still continue to sell strong because of their simple promise and hand-holding guidance. The promise is similar to the “Ultimate Guide” headline above. It implies a thorough guide to getting the benefit.
30. How to Permanently Stop Your __________, Even if You’ve Tried Everything!
Why it works: Not just for the health industry, you can leverage this headline to fit anything from computer crashes to productivity issues. The truth is, everyone wants a lasting fix to a common problem, and if you can deliver it, you’ll see your conversions hit the ceiling. This headline speaks to those that are frustrated with the solutions they have tried. The headline promises something new, make sure you deliver in the body.
31. Is (Subject) a Scam? Find Out If You’re Putting Your ___________ at Risk
Why it works: No one wants to be associated with a scam, and on the web, forewarned is forearmed. Some well-known internet marketers have found themselves or their products smeared by headlines like this, but if you can apply this headline to a particular type of product or industry (rather than a person), you’ll have a much easier time explaining the pros and cons to your audience rather than having to defend yourself from seething comments by the product creator!
32. How Your ______________ is Ripping You Off – And What to Do About It Right Now.
Why it works: This headline combines instigation with investigation and has been the source material for many a TV exploratory documentary. If you’re able to spy a gaping hole in an industry or type of service provider, letting others know can prevent them from making the same money-wasting mistakes.
33. Recently Downsized/Fired (Profession) Reveals the Dirty Little Secrets to __________.
Why it works: Everybody loves a good revenge story – particularly if it gives them some insider benefits they may not have realized before. One of the most provoking psychological tactics behind this type of headline is the question, “What do they know that I don’t?”
34. X Little Known Factors That Could Affect Your _______________.
Why it works: This is one of my personal favorites, but in order to make it truly work well for you, you’ll have to explore the real “little-known” areas that other articles or sales letters don’t cover. That means digging a little deeper and doing more research, but the results can be well worth it.
Teri Hatcher is compelling, and so are these other headlines
Want some more examples? Headline writers for print magazines are the best in the world at getting you to take action.
It’s a fantastic exercise.
Consider the following seven headlines from Prevention magazine and the formulas that make them work.
35. Shrink Your Fat Zones: Lose 7 Lbs in 7 Days
This headline makes a promise, as all good headlines do. It promises that we will receive a benefit. And it promises that we will receive a desirable quantity of that benefit in a desirable time period.
Get [desired result] in [desirable time period]
- Fix Your Poor Eyesight With a Simple 2-Hour Procedure
- How To Become Debt Free in 90 Days or Less
- Master the German Language in Record Time
36. 8 Lies About Sunscreen: Believe Them At Your Own Risk
This headline poses a threat. It gets us to take action because we feel as though we may be putting ourselves or those we love at risk. It also implies that something we trust has misled us and may be dangerous.
X Lies About [Something Common]
- X Lies Real Estate Agents Are Telling About the Housing Market
- Is Your Veterinarian Being Honest With You About Canine Heartworms?
- X Questions That Will Make Your Accountant Squirm in His Chair
37. Vegetarian Nation: Will These Women Change The Way You Eat?
This headline works because it (in a sneaky way) demonstrates social proof and then asks a question. Social proof provides someone making a decision the reassurance that others are already doing what you are considering. The term ‘Nation’ at the beginning of the headline indicates that there is an enormous amount of people that are vegetarians. Yes, it is indeed a crafty use of social proof.
Asking a question in the headline automatically makes us more engaged in the headline. If we read the question, we feel compelled to answer it. In order to answer it we must read the content.
[Provide social proof] [Ask a compelling question]
- Millions of Dollars Refinanced: Can You Afford To Ignore Changes In Mortgage Rates?
- Derek Jeter Trusts Us: Do You Know If You Are A Good Candidate for Lasik Surgery?
- Do You Know Why Thousands of Cancer Survivors Gather In Central Park Every October?
38. The No Pill Pain Remedy Doctors Now Trust
This is a good headline formula if your audience is skeptical of the benefits your product provides. Your product might be new and unfamiliar to your audience. Or, it may have received poor reviews in the past.
The headline works because you are declaring that a trusted group of people now endorse the product.
The [previously untrusted or unproven product] That [authoritative person/group of people] Now Endorse
- The Emerging Trend In Skin Care That Julia Roberts Swears By
- A New Way To Talk Business: Why Every IBM’er Is Now Using Android Mobile Phones
- The Water Substitute Thousands of Fitness Trainers Are Using To Hydrate
39. Vacation Perils & Pitfalls: Banish Bedbugs, Bach Strain, Belly Aches and More
This is another threat headline. It makes a promise that if we read the article we can avoid some of the awful things that can ruin a vacation. The headline also takes advantage of the idea that people will do more to avoid pain than to seek pleasure.
[Threat] + [Promise of a solution]
- 7 Legal Cheats That Keep The IRS Out Of Your Pocketbook
- Sidestep A Leaky Basement In 5 Easy Steps
- Insurance Nightmare: A Natural Disaster Checklist To Review With Your Agent
40. Beat The Sunday Night Blues: Surprising Ways To Put The Fun Back In Your Weekend
This headline uses a word that will perk up your ears. Can you guess what it is?
The word surprising in this headline is critical because it communicates that these are not the ordinary suggestions we always hear about having fun on the weekend. These are new or, at least, new to us.
[undesired result] + [mysterious solution]
- How To Avoid Public Embarrassment: A Professional Speakers Secret Revealed
- 17 Little Known Email Hacks That Keep You Out of Productivity Hell
- A Misunderstood Home Remedy For Reducing Heart Disease
41. Teri Hatcher: Her Shocking Struggle With Secret Pain
People like to hear juicy details about the people they admire and respect. This headline uses some very powerful words including shocking and secret. If we are even mildly interested in the person they are referencing, curiosity forces us to take a look.
It also exploits our desire for new information. Something we haven’t heard before.
[respected person/group of people] + [exclusive/new information]
- Steve Jobs Reveals All About Apple’s Revolutionary Design Process
- A Fresh Look At An Ancient Problem: How Los Angeles City Planners Overcame The Energy Crisis
- A Behind The Scenes Look At The Latest Technologies in Movie Making
How to Write an Effective Headline
You’ve seen some of the best headlines around the web, but how do you emulate them to create your own genius headlines? And how can you adjust the formulas above to make your headlines more clickable?
The most important thing to remember about the best headlines is that they inspire curiosity. Consumers feel compelled to click because they need to know what’s on the other side of the headline.
In other words, you’d better deliver.
You can write the best headlines in the world, but if your content sucks, you’re in trouble with your audience. They won’t trust you anymore, which means lost revenue.
That’s why you might need to go back to your headline after you’ve written your copy. Does the article or other piece of content answer the headline in its entirety? If not, rewrite.
A great way to write an effective headline is to start with the result you’re promising. Better skin? More web traffic? A beautiful garden? Now, tie that result to a surprising fact from the story or copy. By combining those two concepts, you’ll ignite curiosity.
You could also tie your result to a specific behavioral or attitude change. Show people they can get what they want if they do X, Y, and Z. If you hit a pain point, so much the bett
Checklist for great headlines
To make sure you’re writing the best headlines possible, print out and follow this handy-dandy checklist:
- Start with a promise. What do you want your reader to take away from the content?
- Add interesting verbs and adjectives. These parts of speech make your headlines stand out.
- Ask a question or make a comparison. Drive up curiosity by leaving the answer open-ended.
- Alternatively, state a controversial opinion. The reader knows what you think, but will want to learn your thought process behind it.
- Hit a pain point. Knowing your audience is key.
- Play with language. Sometimes a play on words, for instance, can clarify a headline rather than render it too vague.
Why You Should Test Different Types of Headlines
As you can tell from the list of best headlines above, there are a lot of directions to take your headlines in. You can create mystery, offer up a comparison, explain a controversial theory, or ask a question.
Additionally, the formatting of your headlines can change. You might have a statement, question, or combination of the two. There aren’t any hard-and-fast rules. Your job is to pique your audience’s interest and get them to click.
That’s why testing is essential to drilling down on the best headlines. You never know what your audience will respond to most, and A/B tests, such as those you can run through Crazy Egg, help you build hard data upon which to make decisions.
How to Test Headlines Step-by-Step
You need at least two headlines to test. One is the control and the other is the variation. You might change just one word between the two or use a completely different version in the variation. It’s up to you.
Once both headlines are live on your site, set up an A/B test through Crazy Egg. It’s as easy as clicking on the icon and adding the relevant information. You can decide how long you want to run the test and other specific factors.
After you run your first test, Crazy Egg will tell you which version “won.” Don’t stop there, though. Keep testing your headlines, using new formulas and language, to further refine the best type of headline for your audience.
Start using Crazy Egg’s free trial to test your headlines
Did you know that you can start testing your best headlines now with a Crazy Egg free trial?
Once you sign up for a free trial, you’ll receive tips and advice for how to use Crazy Egg to improve your content.
The best headlines convince your audience to click. Of course, you have to follow up with amazing copy, but that’s a topic for another post.
You can write great headlines regardless of your experience. As long as you have a tool like Crazy Egg under your belt, you can test different headline formulas and figure out which work best on your audience.
Some writers prefer listicles. Others like to write step-by-step instructions. However, you can always reformulate the headline itself so it’s reflective of the copy and original to boot.