How Headlines Will Get you Your Heart’s Desire

30 day blogging challengeWe all know that a great headline is the real secret to getting traffic to your blog posts, website and clicks on your social media activity. A great headline or title should jump off the page, and serenade your reader like violinist on Valentine’s day.

A great headline will get you heart’s desire. It will attract in all the right people and you’ll be applauding your headline writing skills.

A poor headline on the other hand, will be tossed out like a week-old rosebud.

A poor headline will doom your blog post to oblivion and leaving you convinced that you need to keyword stuff (you don’t) and do more SEO, leading you along the slippery path to  search engine dependency and ranking addiction.

So how do you write a headline that grabs attention? Here are a few simple ways that I’ve picked up throughout my 8 year blogging career.

Use Action and Power Words

Readers are drawn to vibrant and energetic words. Take the first sentence of this post as an example. If it had just said “A good headline should catch attention,” how ordinary would it be? Phrases like “jump off the page,” “grab a hold of” and “force them into reading” are examples of action words. The opening paragraph contains powerful visuals that are missing in the actual headline. Perhaps “Headlines that go for the jugular” would have worked better for me, but then you are here reading this right now, so I did something right.

Power words for surprising headlines

  • Unexpected
  • Astonishing (put to good use in this post)
  • Stunning
  • Shocking
  • Staggering
  • Wonderful
  • Startling
  • Savvy
  • Amazing

Power words for controversial headlines

  • Lies
  • Worst
  • Mystery
  • Quit
  • Nightmare
  • Forget
  • Bad
  • Confusing
  • Scary
  • Never
As you get more experienced at writing headlines, you’ll start to get more of a sense of what power words you like to use. Mix them up so your readers don’t get bored of them, but keep all your headlines dynamic and powerful.

Say Something Surprising or Shocking

A shocking title tends to do better than a predictable title. Here are a few examples in different, but popular niches:

Diet  – Example of a good headline  “How to lose weight fast”.  Better headline: “How I Lost 17lbs by Eating Carbs”

Finance  – Example of a good headline –  Is Apple Still a Good Buy? Better headline: The Only Time You’ll Lose Your Shirt on Apple is …

Relationships – Example of a good headline: How to Get a Girlfriend.  Better headline: What  Alex (my date) Told Joe After I’d Left

These are just a few examples of headlines that evoke curiosity. They’re counter-intuitive and hint at a blog post that you’d like to sit back and read… after all we’d all like to know what someone thought about us after a date and what kind of carbs help us lose weight.

Imply a Benefit in the Title

Someone who’s reading just the headline of your blog post should get a good idea of what the post  is about. Bloggers often make the mistake of writing shocking or controversial titles that don’t tell the reader anything about what’s inside the blog post.

Imagine how the headline whizzes past your ideal reader in their Twitter stream. It jumps out at them (as a controversial headline will) and yes, you’ve caught their attention for a fraction of a second, but they probably won’t click the link because there’s no implied benefit for them.

The benefit can be directly stated, or it can be subtly hinted at. The most important  thing is that someone in your target audience or ideal reader would get the sense that their lives might improve in some way if they read what you have to say.

Be Different To Your Competition

When everyone else Zig’s, Zag as the saying goes.

How do you Zag? Subscribe to all your competitor’s blog posts. Add them to your reader and as you skim your reading list see what jumps out at you. Do the same with their newsletters. The headlines that scream “open me” from your inbox are the ones you can learn from. Depending on where you are based depends on whether a headline has copyright. In the UK it allegedly has, and in the US and Australia it hasn’t.  Book titles don’t have copyright, so go and skim Amazon and see what book titles jump right out at you.

There’s nothing to stop you taking a headline and hacking it up till it works for you and your readers.

Always, always, always set yourself apart from your competition. When you realise that you’re starting to sound like your competitors (“Make money!” “Lose weight!” “Social Media is Here to Stay” etc.) then it’s time to take a different angle, because you will no longer sound true to yourself.

Even if the product / post / service you’re selling promises the same benefits as your competitors, that doesn’t mean you have to sound the same or even remotely similar. I mean how many blog coaches are there out there? Hundreds! Yet few have had an award winning blog, few have had a high traffic site set up from scratch and few are as straight talking as I am. Yes, my clients are not pandered to but treated like the grown adults that they are :) (and if you’d like to add yourself to my growing client list then please complete my contact form).

By learning  to imply a benefit in the title you will learn to differentiate yourself and speak directly to your readers.

  • Learn to use shock to your advantage.
  • Learn to use power words.
  • Apply these techniques and your clickthrough rates will soar into the stratosphere

So over to you – what’s your best headline?


PS Want to join us in the blogging challenge? Join up here – it’s free.

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Sarah Arrow

Blogging an issue for you? Social media not quite working how it should be?That's okay I understand. I started blogging back in 2006 and grew into a kick-ass blog coach as well as creator of Birds on the Blog (listed 3 times by Forbes as a top 100 website for women), I'm frequently listed as both a top content marketing expert and as an influential marketer.
You want your blog to make a difference, so subscribe hereand stay in touch, my updates will help you achieve content marketing success.


  1. Hi Sarah
    Real hands on advice there and I agree with you… a great headline will make you click just to check it out.

    I wrote a piece ages ago about speech titles, which are similar to blog post titles.
    Hope you don’t mind me leaving a link…

    Might make a good follow up read.

    • You can leave as many links as you like Keith, it’s everyone else I have to worry about ;)

      • Yes… I know what you mean!
        BTW – did I notice the CommentLuv premium icon?

        • Yeah I’ve always had it, except for the 3 bleak days I tried Livefyre on here

  2. Sarah – wonderful post and so vital. I read incredibly insightful posts that fly under the radar because the title doesn’t draw people in to read the content. Your recommendations are fantastic – I appreciate the thought you put into it and hope people put it to good use. I’m going to give it a go right now…

    • Thank you Jim, I hope your headline is awesome

  3. Hey Sarah,

    You’re right. Headline or Title is really essential part of your article. Unless your headline is appealing very few to no people would read your article.

    Plus it’s your headline which actually helps your article to become viral or popular, so you should use it intelligently.

    • Hi Aasma, yes a great headline will get more RT’s helping your post go viral :)

  4. Hey Sarah,

    Cool post, great tips.
    Do you have any recommended reads on copy writing? Other then Dan Kennedy?



    • Hi Akos, thanks for your comment. I think there is a time to stop reading and start doing. If you’ve read Kennedy then it’s time to put his words into action :)

  5. Hi Sarah,

    Thanks for your great tips, on crafting a great headline. In my niche, it can be quite tricky to provoke reaction with meaning, to encourage people to read my post. It’s a journey that I am enjoying and learning more about everyday.

    • I think you are doing incredibly well Anita in a niche where people switch off rather than explore and read. I know from Birds the posts you did with film titles (some enchanted evening, about an evening flower event) did incredibly well. I wonder if that philosophy will work for Hope and Stones?

  6. After content and keywords surely headlines are the most important thing, even more than SEO. As you rightly say they’re the reason readers come to see a post. Definitely something I need to improve. :)

  7. Hi Sarah,

    My best headline? They’re not my strong point, I’m afraid, and definitely an area I need to work on. I almost wrote ‘100 superlative superlatives’ today, which I thought had quite a nice ring to it, but in the end I changed it to ‘100 English superlatives’ – not as catchy, but according to the SEO plugin better for SEO! I can’t win ;-)

  8. Hi Sarah – this is a fantastic post – so much value in all the information you shared. I have to confess that it never occurred to me to just put a direct link to a post on my website rather than just the website address. Great tip. Loved the headline generators you shared too. For my niche I think my favourite has to be the one from Tweak your but I also enjoyed using the others. So much in your article gave me ideas for follow up post too. Great information great value as usual – but then what else should I expect from the Goddess of blogging (hey great new fame name for you :))

  9. Hi Sarah – great post from the Goddess of Blogging as usual. My question is do these type of emotive words work equally well in more technical/professional niches? For example if you provided leadership skill for the public sector? Or marketing for solicitors or accountants? In other words are professional put off?


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