Creating great headlines can become really tedious, right?
You spend hours striking your head trying to write the best copy, searching for “proven” templates and following all the headline writing guidelines.
Finally, you come up with a fancy title and give yourself a pat on the back, but for some strange reason once you hit the publish button it seems like nobody cares.
Here’s the deal:
I’ve created a list of the 15 best copywriting hacks to writing awesome headlines.
Want to know the best part?
These hacks allow you to come up with great ideas within MINUTES. That way, you’ll be able to spend more time promoting your content and building backlinks rather than writing a headline.
Here you go:
Hack # 1: Steal awesome headline ideas from clickbait sites
You probably know that clickbait sites (like BuzzFeed) are extremely popular on social media. In fact, according to T magazine, 75 percent of BuzzFeed’s traffic comes from social networks (especially Facebook).
Just take a look at the following chart:
(Report performed by BuzzSumo)
Want to know their secret?
HEADLINES. They focus on creating catchy headlines that entice readers to click.
Now, what if I tell you that you can borrow awesome headline templates from these websites?
Well, you can…
Step 1: Head over to your favorite clickbait site and look for headlines that grab your attention.
(As an example, we’re going to use BuzzFeed.com)
Hint: If you use BuzzFeed, make sure to take a look at the “More Buzz” section. That means a lot of people have visited those articles (probably because of the headline).
Once you find a few attention-grabbing headlines, it’s time to jump to the next step.
Step 2: Adapt the titles to your content
Now, let’s take the headlines we found to create some templates. For example, let’s say you chose:
You could easily adapt it for every niche, look:
(Number)____ That Will Actually Make You Feel Truly _____
- “33 Diets That Will Actually Make You Feel Truly Healthy”
- “45 Link Building Secrets That Will Actually Make You Feel Truly Stupid”
Let’s try another headline:
Now it’s time to create our template:
(Number) ______ Ideas Your _____ Won’t Even Mind
- “53 Lead Generation Ideas Your Boss Won’t Even Mind”
- “34 Romantic Anniversary Ideas Your Wife Won’t Even Mind”
The best part about this technique is that you can find fresh ideas EVERY DAY!
Now it’s YOUR turn!
Hack # 2: Increase the perceived value with CTR boosters
Sometimes, creating a good title is not enough to make people click on your content, but don’t worry, here’s where CTR (click-through-rate) boosters come in handy.
These boosters are psychological triggers that influence CTRs. You don’t have to use all of them, but if you add one or two to your headlines, you’ll find that more people start to click on them.
Option 1: Add a specific number
Everyone and their mom knows it:
People LOVE to read content with a specific number of items.
In other words, list posts work like MAD. But don’t take my word for it, if you pay close attention to the chart below you’ll find it’s true:
(Social Media Examiner)
But Social Media Examiner is not alone, Quicksprout.com shows similar results:
The results are clear: People LOVE list posts.
Hint: The bigger the number, the better:
Option 2: Add a specific benefit.
People will be more likely to click on your content if they see a specific benefit on it. Let’s use a blog post from Trafficgenerationcafe.com as an example:
Ana Hoffman could have named this post : “How to write winner blog post titles”, but there are MANY articles about the subject that promise the same thing, so she added the phrase “Even if you suck at it”.
This way, the post is much more valuable and more specific for the readers. Try to add specific benefits to your next headline and you’ll see that more people share your content.
Option 3: Promise fast results.
When people are searching for something through Google, they are desperate. They want to find QUICK results, and when you add a specific time frame to your title, they’re much more likely to click on it.
For instance, take a look at the following post:
That specific statement makes that title much more compelling (who wouldn’t want to make 7k in the next 10 minutes?).
Here’s one template you can use and works extremely well:
How to [Blank] in [Determined time]
- “How to Build a Profitable Blog in 30 Days”
- “How to Build a Website in 20 Minutes”
- “How to Write a Novel in one Week”
Hack # 3: Study Google ads to find high-converting words
Do you know that Google AdWords has over 1 million businesses using their advertising network?
That’s true, and according to Wishpond, businesses make an average $2 in revenue for every $1 they spend on AdWords.
You might be wondering:
Cool, but what does this have to do with headline writing?
I’m glad you asked.
If, on average, businesses are doubling the money spent on advertising, that means they’re creating high converting copy. Therefore, it’s possible to find words and phrases you probably haven’t considered before.
Words and phrases that convert like MAD.
Step 1: Go to Google and perform a search query as you normally would, but instead of looking at organic results you should pay close attention to paid results.
For example, let’s say you run an insurance company and you’re creating a blog post on the topic “insurance for travelers”. In this case, you could search for words like “travel insurance” or “travel insurance companies”.
Step 2: List the words and phrases that appear repeatedly on the ads. For instance, when I searched for the keywords mentioned above I found some interesting words:
Step 3: Create a list of all the words you find. That way, anytime you need to, you can come back to your list and take some words.
Step 4: Try to add these words to your headline where it makes sense.
Once you have a list of high-converting words, it’s time to add them to your headline. It’s really simple, just grab 1-2 words from your list and incorporate them.
“13 Travel Insurance Providers That Will Keep You SAFE Globally”
Hack # 4: Study the organic results to boost your CTR
Did you know that CTR is an important ranking factor in Google’s algorithm? In 2014, SearchMetrics found that there is a direct relation between rankings and higher click-throughs.
That means that some of the people who appear higher in Google’s first page have created compelling headlines, which are very useful when searching for words and phrases that convert very well in your niche.
Step 1: Find keywords and closely related keywords to your topic. For example, let’s say you want to improve the following headline:
Now, you should create a list of keywords related to that topic:
- “Freelancer’s Guide”
- “Business growth”
- “Freelancing business”
Step 2: Type those keywords in Google and study the results that appear higher on the first page.
Look for words in their titles and descriptions and create a list of them.
Step 3: Add those words to your headline where it makes logical sense.
Here are a few examples:
- A (Proven) Freelancer’s Guide to Growing Your Business Through Elance
- A (Proven) Guide to Get More Clients As Freelancer
- A Freelancer’s Guide to Growing Your Business for FREE
Once you do that, you’re done!
Hack # 5: Use these words to write more compelling headlines
A single word can change everything…
As a matter of fact, VEEAM increased click-through-rate by 161% when they removed the word “quote” and added “pricing” instead:
But VEEAM is not alone. Joseph Putnam (professional email and analytics checker) says that changing even one word can increase your CTRs:
Well, it gets better:
YOU can get similar results by adding the right words to your content (especially headlines).
- Hacks (hacking, hackers, etc.)
- Huge/ big
They have analyzed over 3,000 headlines from some of the most popular sites and the results were nothing short of amazing: A complete list of nouns, verbs, common and uncommon words that appear over and over again in viral headlines.
Make sure to add some of them to your next title.
Hack # 6: This tool may change the way you create headlines.
Writing good copy can be really time-consuming.
In fact, Gene Schwartz (the copywriting legend) used to spend DAYS writing the first 50 words of his content. But let’s face it, not all of us have enough time to do that.
(Image credit: Japkin)
So, how can you spend less time writing and keep the quality of your copy?
The answer is simple:
Using Portent’s content idea generator. This tool provides you with proven headline templates you can customize within MINUTES.
Step 1: Go to the tool and enter your main keyword into the form (making sure to follow the instructions):
Step 2: Click the reload button until you see a headline that fits well.
And you’re done!
Hack # 7: Use Quora to find your audience’s problems
Do you know what the best titles are?
Titles that solve your audience’s biggest problems. Unfortunately, finding the exact problems your audience has is not that easy.
So, what can you do?
Well, you could perform an expensive and time-consuming survey to your visitors and customers.
You can use Quora to find the exact problems your readers have immediately (Hint: if you’re smart, you’ll choose the second option).
Step 1: Sign up to Quora (if you haven’t already).
Step 2: Type keywords related to your topic into the search bar. For example, if you want to write an article related to landing page optimization, you could search for “A/B testing”, “conversions and landing pages” or just “landing pages”.
Step 3: Analyze results and try to find patterns, words and phrases that people use on their questions:
As you can see, the insights we found are not only great for improving headlines, but are also awesome inspiration for blog post topics.
Step 4: Incorporate the words you found.
For example, I found that people were asking a lot about“remarkable web copy” and “copywriting for landing pages”, so I decided to create the following post:
Hack # 8: Find successful (and I mean VIRAL) headline ideas with BuzzSumo
Sometimes, headline creation is like a poker game. You can win, but there’s always a chance to lose the game, and if that happens, all your effort will be for nothing.
So, how do you overcome this problem?
Find headlines with a proven record of success and adapt them to your content. If you do this, you’ll be playing smarter, and your chances to win the game will increase significantly.
Here’s how you can find successful headline ideas:
Step 1: Go to BuzzSumo and type a keyword that describes your topic. For example, let’s say that your blog post is about plants and seeds. In that case, you could search for the keyword “gardening”:
Step 2: Study the results and look for specific patterns and words that people used on popular headlines.
Hint: You’ll find that first results are usually big sites like Huffington Post, New York Times or Mashable. You want to avoid these sites because no matter how bad their titles are, they’ll always perform very well due to their large number of followers.
So, scroll down until you find industry blogs with a niche-specific audience. That way, you’ll find more accurate insights.
Step 3: Borrow the words, phrases and even topics that best fit your content.
Hack # 9: Leverage the power of big brands to get people’s attention
Big brands control our minds.
Think about it:
If you want to become a successful basketball player, which NBA stars might you emulate? Probably Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant or LeBron James.
If you want to drink a refreshing soda, which brands come immediately to mind? Probably Coca-Cola, Pepsi or Dr. Pepper.
If you want to buy a new laptop, which brands come to mind? Probably Mac, HP or Dell.
What if I tell you that you can leverage the power of these brands to connect with your audience immediately?
Well … you can. If you mention brands that your audience already know in your titles, you can create emotional connections with them.
Here are two proven formulas you can use:
1. [Specific number] things you can learn from [Big brand] about [Your topic]
“24 things you can learn from McDonald’s about traffic generation”
2. What [big brand] teaches us about [Your topic]
“What Microsoft teaches us about conversion rate optimization”
Jon Morrow has covered this strategy in his book “52 Headline Hacks“. It’s definitely worth reading if you have spare time.
Hack # 10: Test how emotional your headline is with the EMVH analyzer
A recent study made by two professors at the University of Pennsylvania revealed that emotions influence sharing decisions. This means that people are more likely to share your content if it has emotional undertones, and when it comes to headline copywriting you can apply that same science.
In other words, people are more likely to click your headline if it has emotional words like great, awesome or crazy. But how to test if your headline is sufficiently emotional?
Using the EMVH (Emotional Marketing Value Headline) Analyzer.
Step 1: Go to the tool and type your headline into the form:
Step 2: Select your category
Step 3: Click submit
Then, the EMVH analyzer will give you a score and some notes that can help you determine whether your headline is good or not.
My score was 37.50%.
That’s pretty nice, taking into account that (according to the tool), on average, professional copywriters get between 30% and 40%.
Hack # 11: Want to create more compelling headlines? Use Twitter
This is crazy:
Most people don’t use social media to test their headlines (even if they have a large following).
For example, you can dramatically increase the success of your content by testing different headlines on Twitter, Facebook or Google+.
But don’t take my word for it. Buffer App did an excellent job using this technique.
They decided to tweet two different headlines to figure out which of them performed best, and let me tell you, the results were nothing short of amazing.
They tweeted out the following headline first:
They waited approximately an hour and then tweeted out a second headline:
As you can see, the second title performed much better. Just take a look at the results:
Over 100 comments and more than 5k tweets!
Well, the good news is that you can replicate some of that success…
Here are the steps:
Step 1: Write two different headlines.
Step 2: Figure out what’s your optimal time to tweet.
Here are some of the best guides ever published about the topic:
- A Scientific Guide to Posting Tweets, Facebook Posts, Emails and Blog Posts at the Best Time
- 3 Tips on How to Find the Best Time to Tweet
- The Science of Social Timing Part 1: Social Networks
Step 3: Tweet out your first headline, wait an hour or two, then tweet out the second one.
Step 4: Analyze your data and use the headline that performed best.
Hack # 12: Leverage the power of images
Storytelling is powerful, and what better way to tell stories than through images, pictures and graphics?
In fact, according to Dan Zarrella, photos are more likely to get shared, commented and liked than links and even video.
Instead of just sharing your blog post title, why not leverage the power of images to communicate to your audience exactly what to expect?
It’s very straightforward actually. You just need to follow one specific rule:
Post only images that are self-explanatory.
In other words, use images that tell a story.
Leo Widrich from Buffer App used a great example to explain this rule. They tested two different images at roughly the same time and found great insights.
This was the first one:
And this was the second image:
As you can see, the second image performed better because it tells a story and communicates much more value than the first image.
Try to increase the perceived value of your content by adding self-explanatory images when sharing on social media.
Hack # 13: Subscribe to relevant newsletters to find great ideas everyday
A lot of marketers find emails annoying.
Me? I think emails are awesome to find untapped headline ideas.
Think about it. Where else can you find dozens of headlines in the same place? And some of them can be gold nuggets.
Here’s how you can use email to find dozens of ideas:
Step 1: Sign up to Gmail (or any other email provider).
Note: It’s important that you create a separate account just for this technique. Otherwise, it will be harder for you to find headlines.
Step 2: Sign up to as many relevant newsletters as possible:
You already know who your influences are, but you can also find great blogs using BuzzSumo, Topsy and Google Search. Make sure to subscribe to at least 10-20 newsletters, that way you’ll find fresh ideas every week.
Note: Make sure to confirm your email in order to receive their blog updates:
Step 3: Check out your inbox at least one time per week to look for great title ideas:
This is very useful to find what’s hot in your niche.
Step 4: Open a new spreadsheet to save all the titles you find and develop new ideas:
Hack # 14: Evoke curiosity to increase conversions
As human beings, we’re curious – we want to know everything – and when it comes to writing headlines, you can leverage curiosity to make people want to read your content.
In fact, Neil Patel was able to improve Quick Sprout’s conversion rate by 31.7% after adding curiosity to his home page title.
Now, you can spend the next 45 minutes crafting a headline that evokes curiosity, but want to know what’s better?
A tool that automatically generates powerful curiosity-driven headlines with the ease of a click.
Step 1: Go to the Link Bait Generator Tool and type your keyword into the form:
Step 2: Click “Replace” and the tool will give you an awesome clickbait title that you can use to evoke curiosity in your readers.
Step 3: Repeat step 2 until you find a headline that grabs your attention.
It’s like magic!
Hack # 15: Use HARO to find trendy copy
Journalists are the best at finding trends. After all, it’s their job…
And what better place to find great journalists’ copy than HARO?
For those who are not familiar with HARO (Help a Reporter Out), it’s a community where journalists can connect with sources and vice versa.
HARO is very useful to get your word out and build relationships with relevant people, but you can also use it to improve your copy.
Here’s how you can hack HARO to find glorious headline ideas:
Step 1: Sign up to HARO (don’t worry, it’s free).
Step 2: Subscribe to categories that are a good fit.
Note: Make sure to fill up your account details as “source”:
Then, in the section called “HARO preferences”, select categories which best fit your business. For instance, if you work in the marketing space you can sign up for the “Business and Finance” and “High Tech” categories.
Step 3: Wait for HARO’s emails and look for words and topics that journalists are using.
Once you’ve signed up to HARO, you’ll receive two emails every day where you can find amazing ideas and words that can be nice additions to your headlines.
For example, the other day I found an amazing query:
Note: Journalists choose these kinds of angles and topics because the interest in those topics is growing more and more. With that in mind you can find amazing words and phrases to include in your next blog post.
Let’s take a closer look at the query above:
Step 4: Take some of the words you found and add them to your headlines.
Remember, you don’t have to apply all the tips you learned today to create awesome headlines. Just select two or three of them and you’ll be all set.
The point here is to take action.
Also, I recommend that you test which of these hacks work best for you.
I’d love to see your comments!