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9 Classic Headline Templates That Consistently Get More Clicks

By:     Topics: Blogging     More posts about: ,

Quick, what’s the point of a headline?

Is it…

A.) Get people to click?

B.) Make a promise to the content?

C.) Pique curiosity?

D.) All of the Above?

Obviously, the answer is D. But the question is, how do we get a headline to do all of that?

Well, the short answer is practice, and research.

But if you’re looking for a shortcut, I’ll let you in on a little secret…

The most effective headlines are rehashed versions of classic newspaper and magazine advertisements from the early days of copywriting.

In other words, a good majority of the most trafficked, most ReTweeted, most shared articles, are using headline templates passed down through various generations of copywriters.

Jon Morrow is an expert in crafting classic headlines into modern attention-grabbers, and to anyone searching for more at the end of this article, I highly recommend reviewing his work on the subject.

Here are three categories of the most effective headline styles available.

Learn them, use them, recycle and update them for your own personal use.

The “How To” Headline

How To Grow An Embarrassingly Large Readership

How To Launch A Million-Dollar Business

How To Earn 7 Figures By 2013

Millions of “how to” articles exist, but it’s never enough.

We crave instruction, whether we know it or not.

There’s a reason entire websites exist to teach people how to do something: when it’s put in front of us, suddenly we’re curious.

A “how to” title is your opportunity to learn something in five minutes or less.

Free education is highly valuable,and the opportunity for it never gets old.

The trick with the “How To” headline is to make a strong and clear promise, then deliver.

Bonus: Add a power word into your headline to make browsers think twice about skipping your article.

The “Be Afraid” Headline

Is Your Business Safe From Corporate Competition?

Warning: Your Blog May Be Under Attack

5 Mistakes To Avoid When Networking

News outlets use this religiously as a lead-in to bits about everything from gun safety to hair-salon hygiene.

While we’ve all rolled our eyes at a fearmongering headline, you also know you’ve clicked on articles offering a warning or the exposition of a hoax… just in case.

You want to know you’re safe, whether it’s related to physical health or professional well-being.

When your sense of danger is triggered even briefly, you imagine the worst possible scenario and feel obligated to learn more.

Better safe than sorry, after all.

The “Calm Down” Headline

The Zen of Online Marketing

Ten Ways To Simplify Your Work Load

3 Ways to Work Less, Produce More

We all worry we’re not doing enough. We all feel like we’re just trying to keep our head above water.

The “Calm Down” headline is a way to throw your reader a life jacket.

This type of headline signals “It’s OK.”  You’ve figured out how to ease that burden and you’re more than happy to share how.

Whenever you help someone simplify their lives, they’ll remember you and be forever grateful.

Don’t Stop There… Do the Research.

There are many more categories of headlines out there.

The domain of headline-writing has been filled to overflowing for decades, but these three types of headlines are a solid start to grab more attention for your blog.

Watch for articles that get the most retweets. Look at what makes the front page of Digg, or Reddit, or other social news aggregation sites. Use Topsy to see what gets shared the most from top websites.

Watch for patterns to see what consistently does well, then write epic blog posts.

And before we wrap this up, I highly recommend that you download Jon Morrow’s Headline Hacks report, and read through every article in Copyblogger’s Magnetic Headline series.

Remember, it’s the headline that brings people in, and even huge sites like New York Times have room to improve.

You don’t have to get it perfect right away, but you do have to work on it.

The more work you put into your headlines, the better shot you have at getting crazy traffic.

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  1. Gareth Morgan says:

    Great post Tommy. I’m currently sending out a series of ‘How To’ emails to see what kind of response I get. I played around with my call to action and upped the percentage but the headline seems to be doing the job.

    • Tommy Walker says:

      That’s great to hear! I always like it when things work well for people 🙂

      What’s your how-to series about?

  2. Great post! Will definitely follow these guidelines in future.

  3. The ‘How To’ headline is also Ted Nicholas’ favourite…

  4. This is a great post.

    But your new popup thingy is the most annoying I’ve ever seen. It’s in the way of key bits of text and there’s no way of closing it as far as I can see.


  5. Lol – I see what it is now – it’s not a popup. There’s something wrong with the formatting of the page and the optin widget from the sidebar is appearing on the left of the page covering the text. It’s a bug rather than a bad popup!

    It appears when you scroll beyond the “Be Afraid” tip. The rest of the sidebar appears below the comment box.


  6. Nicholas Tart says:

    Good post, Tommy. I wanted to read 6 of the 9 fake headlines you wrote under the images, especially, Ten Ways to Simplify Your Workload.

  7. Tommy Walker says:

    Lol I think might actually have an article or two on that 😛

  8. Thanks for the tips. I always wonder how some people come up with headlines titles. The headline is what grabs the reader. I like the Be Afraid headline, because it implies the article must be important.

    • Yep, most of them are mashed up, twisted around, re-hashed versions of classic headlines that have been selling magazines and newspapers for years.

      I highly recommend you get the Headline Hacks report if you want to have a great swipe file of headlines to choose from 🙂

  9. Marlene Hielema says:

    I really need help with my headlines. I gotta say being able to recycle the classics is the best solution I’ve heard of yet!

    I really like how you’ve categorized these too. Makes me look at my blog posts and their headlines in a totally new way. Thanks a bunch!

  10. Great article, found some quality content, will follow these tips for sure 🙂

  11. Great summary. I think another type of headline would be about SECRETS. People are curious. Maybe it is just a variation of the How-to, but “Best kept Secrets to make $10,000 a day with online business” might also trigger some clicks. What do you think?

  12. Louis Delos Angeles says:

    Very useful tips. I guess readers are easily attracted to headlines that can give solution to their problem.