Writing a great headline – what 67% of marketers don’t know!

So you’ve put your website together, got plenty of interesting content, shared it all over social media, but still aren’t getting the number of visitors you’d like. Maybe the problem isn’t in what you’ve done, but is in the things you haven’t done – have you written a compelling headline? Are you suggesting your content is valuable for people in your industry? Is it something that they literally cannot miss?

The Clickbait Debate

Clickbait is the bane of the internet. Are you sick of “One weird tip”? Or “People in [your area] are making cash by doing this”? Everybody else is sick of it too…and yet, the articles still get plenty of clicks. The key is providing a hook that people are caught by. If you could lose your belly fat by eating this one weird food that Russian grandmas eat, wouldn’t you want to try it? If you could make cash in [your area] by doing that, whatever that is, wouldn’t you? And so would everybody else, even if they won’t admit it.

What gets interest

Headlines that get interest have several features. They need to be either truly compelling, or completely insane – and they need to make you wonder what is on the other side of the link.
A recent tactic has been to use list post, eg “10 ways to improve your health”, and add a twist. Nobody really cares about “10 ways to improve your health” as the article will likely be vague and nothing you haven’t heard before. However, if the title has a twist – “10 ways to improve your health – you won’t believe number 4!” or “10 ways to improve your health – number 6 is disgusting!” or even “10 ways to improve your health – 68% of people have never tried number 7”, then it will gain a higher click-through rate.
But why?

Show but don’t tell

The reason people click headlines like this is due to a basic human need – the need to fit in and be part of a crowd or group. The suggestion is that the twist is some kind of secret knowledge. It really won’t be secret knowledge, it will be very well known, but the key is to get people to read the article. Number 4 might be “eat less”, number 6 might be “wear a mud face mask for an hour a day”, and number 7 might be “eat vegetables with every meal” – all valid in relation to the suggestions made by the headlines, but hardly earth shattering. But the headlines compel people to click – they need to know why a particular point is unbelievable, disgusting, or something they’ve never tried.
This is of course one of the reasons that “clickbait” is such a problem, as it promises the earth, but delivers very little. However, if the general quality of your articles is high already, adding a twist to your title is a valid way to gain more traction with them.

You can prove anything with numbers

You’ll notice that one of the headlines includes a percentage figure suggesting that a certain number of people in every 100 have not tried the method in the article. This number is often made up for dramatic effect, but on rare occasions may be the result of research. As the saying goes, over 80% of statistics are made up on the spot, and the internet is no different.

Use dates and places

If you aren’t comfortable with this kind of headline, make your headlines more specific. Instead of choosing particular points to highlight, make it relevant to particular dates or segments. For example, “5 ways to start a business” might gain more clicks as “5 ways to start a business in New York”, or “5 ways to start a business in 2018”. While this may limit your reach via search engines, it could actually increase your reach on social media, especially if shared with a message such as “This actually works anywhere!”


There’s a very strange quirk to the human mind. It loves the number 7. How many times have you seen something on sale for $97 or $47, or even $2497? For some reason, the number 7 is seen as massively appealing, especially in sale prices and headlines. If your headline becomes “7 reasons to rent your next home” rather than “8 reasons to rent your next home”, you’ll find more people click on it. It works in a similar way to prices in stores often being something and ninety-nine – because very simply, $9.99 sounds a lot less than $10, even though it isn’t!


If you’ve already conducted some keyword research and written articles and posts around particular topics because the keywords are relevant and have good search volume, make sure you include them in the headline. It is pointless to run a website about, say, cheese and have a headline “Reviewing the 9 best cheddars in the world” – why not go with “Reviewing the 7 best cheddar cheeses in the world”?

Ask the question

Questions are more likely to get a response from people than statements are. If you still run that cheese website, perhaps a better headline might be, “Which is the best cheddar cheese out of the 7 we reviewed?”
This gives opportunity for social media responses, but also works with the “secret knowledge” aspect, for you know something that your reader doesn’t.

Choose your words wisely

Some words or phrases are more likely to get clicks than others – for example, tips, tricks, ideas, secrets and strategies are high-return words to use. “7 tips to choose the ideal running shoe – number 4 will blow your mind!” is an example of using “tips” where “methods” would also fit, but be far less compelling.

Take the time to think it through

A well-crafted headline is sure to bring you more traffic, so get thinking of 7 ways to improve your headline game. 59% of bloggers won’t do it, and you won’t believe number 6!

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