“Don’t judge a book by its cover” is a popular English idiom that millions live by. Unfortunately, in the marketing space, audiences typically judge an article, ad, or any other marketing material by its headline.

According to the Father of Advertising, David Ogilvy, “On average, 5x as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you’ve written your headline, you’ve spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”

In other words, your headline determines whether 80% of your intended audience would read or pay attention to what you’ve written. Therefore, the ability to write catchy or attention-grabbing headlines is a skill every marketer should have in their repertoire.

At CoSchedule, we’ve analyzed over 40 million headlines since we launched Headline Analyzer Studio over the past ten years. 

Indeed, we know a thing or two about writing catchy headlines that work. 

Since we’re data nerds, we wanted to share some of the biggest findings and general best practices for writing catchy headlines that compel people to click. 

Following these best practices and improving your content’s headlines can help you 10x marketing performance outcomes like your site traffic, conversions, and revenue.

Let’s dig in.

Best Practices for Writing Catchy Headlines

Here are some best ways to write headlines that readers will click and read.

Use Numbers

In an analysis of over 4 million web pages and blog posts, CoSchedule noticed that about 11% of the top 1,000 blog posts had numbers in their headline.

The data shows that people will likely click on your headline if it has numbers. Numbers work because they help people sense the value they’ll be getting, set expectations, and make the headline easier to read.

For instance, anyone looking for headline ideas would be glad to come across an article that reads, “73 Easy Ways To Write A Headline That Will Reach Your Readers.” 73 ideas!! That’s surely more than enough ideas to keep the creative juices flowing.

While we encourage you to use numbers, it’s also vital to remember not to overwhelm your readers. 

Let’s assume you’re about to read a “How-to” post. Which of these headlines are you more likely to click?

  • How to create a marketing plan in 30 steps
  • 5 ways to create a marketing plan

The second headline seems more click-worthy because readers would consider that it offers more quality than quantity.

Aside from listicle-formatted posts, you can also use numbers to show relative value (Ex:  How One Marketing Team Quadrupled Their Content And Drove 1,412% More Organic Traffic To Their Blog) and emphasize timeliness (Ex: How to step up an online business in 2023).

Use Emotional Words

Another thing you can do to make your headlines catchy is to use emotional words.

These emotional words and phrases often promise some form of benefit to readers and highlight some of the pain points they might be experiencing.

Out of the over 40 million headlines we’ve analyzed, around 11% contained either best, you, or easy.

Some other words that elicit an emotional response in people include free, secret, proven, and so on.

If you want more emotional word ideas (and you create content in WordPress), install the Headline Analyzer Studio WordPress plugin. This plugin will tell you if you need more emotional or trigger words — and it contains a word bank full of them!

Ask WH-questions

Using WH-questions (or questions that begin with What, Why, When, Where, and How) is an excellent way to start a headline.

You can use them to appeal to your reader’s desire to change, handle an issue, or explain something.

Let’s examine some practical ways you can use these WH questions in your headlines.

What: This works when you want to inform or explain something to your audience. An example of such a headline is, What you should know before getting your first car.

Why: Use this to give your readers reasons why they should do something. For example, Why you should build an email list and own your audience.

How: Headlines that start with “How” are some of the most common today. Most people use it for “How to” posts that give readers directions on accomplishing specific tasks. For example, How to grow your social media following without buying followers.

Make a Specific Promise

There are a million and one things people can do online, so you can expect that they need to know what they’re getting into for them to click on your article’s link.

These readers constantly ask themselves, “What’s in it for me?” Without a clear answer to this question, they’ll easily skip your content and move on to whoever offers them an answer.

So, to make your headline attract more clicks, you’ll need to make specific promises — that are valuable to your ideal reader.

Follow Through On Your Promise

You shouldn’t just make promises because you want people to click on your headline. It’s also crucial that your content’s body delivers on the promise you made.

If readers start to see you as someone who makes audacious claims or promises in your headlines but always fails to follow through, it won’t be long before they lose trust in you.

Ensure Accuracy

Your headlines should ensure clarity for the reader, and your H1s and title tags should also complement each other. By doing so, you’d be able to improve your content’s readability and make it easier for search engine bots to crawl your site and understand your content.

Test Different Headline Lengths

There are no strict guidelines on how long a headline should be. And that’s why it’s vital to test them to know what works best for your audience.

As you test, you should remember that your headline on social media might not work for email or search engines. Wherever you decide to use your headline, ensure that they’re readable.

Conduct Keyword Research

Why include a keyword in your headline? It’s a ranking factor for your content — a minor one, but still important.

It’s best to include keywords within the first five words of the headline, as search engines consider words furthest to the left to be the most important.

Catchy Headline Types

Looking for some catchy headline types to use? Here are some examples to get you started.

Lists

Lists or listicles use numbers to create anticipation and assure readers that your content will be easily skimmable.

How To

This kind of headline draws in readers by creating a promise of information about how to do something.

Questions

Question headlines, when done right, feel like you’re reading your audience’s mind. These questions trigger curiosity in readers looking for answers about your topic.

Why

Headlines that start with “Why” draw engagement by promising an explanation of a topic that interests your readers.

Cliffhanger

Like a great cliffhanger in a movie or story builds excitement, so do cliffhanger headlines. These headlines use enticing wording to tempt readers to click on your content.

Step-By-Step

Like “How-to,” step-by-step headlines promise to teach readers how to do something in a limited number of steps.

Time

Appeals to readers who want to do something in a certain amount of time or are looking for a resource from a certain time.

Compare & Contrast

These kinds of headlines introduce two topics and promise to compare their similarities and differences.

Credibility

People today want to hear from brands they know, like, and trust. One of the best ways to build said trust is to be credible. Using headlines that show credibility is a great start. These headlines should contain words that create a sense of trust in readers.

Challenges

These headlines invite readers to achieve something — a quiz, general knowledge, the best way to do something, etc.

Primary Source

Being the primary data source creates a cloud of credibility and expertise around your content. Although it might require time and effort to carry out original research, the results are often worth it.

Mistakes Or Things To Avoid

Nobody wants to make mistakes, especially when they could be avoided. You can tap into your readers’ fear of making mistakes by cautioning them against doing something or telling them the wrong way to do it vs. the right way.

12 Catchy Headline Examples & Formulas

Of the 1,000 top-performing pieces in CoSchedule’s research, the following examples performed best:

  • Keep it simple: Easy Pull Apart Pizza Bread (Our Favorite Recipe)
  • Comprehensive: 50 Organizing Ideas For Every Room in Your House
  • Emotions with savings: Contact These 173 Manufacturers for High-Value Coupons!
  • Time-savings: 8-Minute No Crunch Ab Burner
  • Mystery: 45 Tips For Men (Number 40 is a Game Changer)
  • Audience appeal: Coffee And Tea Lovers: You’ll Thank Me Later (And For The Rest Of My Life)
  • Unique: A Hodge Podge of Mod Podge- 10 Mod Podge Ideas
  • Promise: 9 Ways Apple Cider Vinegar Will Improve Your Life
  • Specificity: 18 Mouthwatering Breakfast Recipes to Try On Your Next Camping Trip
  • Large lists: My 101 Best Disney World Tips
  • Hindsight: 20 Things I Wish I Knew About Photography Posing
  • Shock and awe: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***

Final Thoughts

No matter how great your content is, most people won’t read it if they can’t get past the headline. As such, your headlines need to be as catchy as possible.

We’ve offered a ton of tips you can use to start creating attention-grabbing headlines. And if you’re still feeling lost or need more inspiration, you can always use CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer Studio to determine how to improve existing or develop new headlines.


LaRissa Hendricks is a Product Marketing Strategist at CoSchedule. With over 10 years of marketing experience, she loves strategizing and creating content that inspires action and grows results.

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