Yes, Your Headline is *That* Important

This blog post is part of our March DEEP DIVE on Writing & Storytelling Sponsored by IDEAS Orlando, which is the first unit in our DEEP DIVE: Learn, Create, Win! Presented by Your Southern Ford Dealers. This is a free 6-month program focusing on content creation because 2018 is the Year of the Creator!  


Headlines are Worth 90% of the Advertising Dollar

Your headline is the first thing a potential reader sees with your post, and it better be a good one!

In fact, according to veteran copywriter David Ogilvy: "The greater majority of people who read your headline won’t continue reading. Only the ones drawn in by an attention-grabbing headline will continue on to read the first sentence of your copy."

And then he adds: "It follows that unless your headline sells your product, you have wasted 90 percent of your money…"

So, how do we make sure we're writing a headline that makes people want to click to read? We've got 9 tips to help.

1) Utilize the Four U's

To start writing that amazing headline, strive to accomplish as many U's from this checklist:

  • Your headline should be unique.
  • Your headline should be ultra-specific.
  • Your headline should convey a sense of urgency.
  • Your headline should be useful.

2) Use Simple Words

Many longer words can be turned into more simple words. For example, instead of using the word "readers," address the reader directly by using the word "you." Instead of "utilize," go with the word "use."

Remember the average reading level of American adults is a 7th to 8th grade level, so skip the fancy words in favor of stating things simply.

3) Go with Words that Convert

The social media scheduling app Buffer compiled a list of the words and phrases that saw the most clicks. The 5 most powerful words according to  Buffer? 

  • You
  • Free
  • Because
  • Instantly
  • New

They also listed these words as key ones to use in your headlines:

4) Apply Psychology

Carnegie Mellon University professor George Loewenstein created the term "curiosity gap" to explain the idea that human brains want to close the gap between what we know and what we want to know. BUT conversely, we’re not curious about something we know absolutely nothing about. So whenever your headline can make a connection to already known knowledge, the better.


Also, headlines that start with “who,” “what,” “where,” “ when,” “how,” or “why” are likely to get great responses because they spur our curiosity. (Avoid starting with words like “would,” “should,” “is,” “are,” and “do you think,” as they can limit how people respond.) 

5) Keep It Short

The ideal length of an effective headline if 6 words. Yes, you read that correctly: 6 words.

According to KISSMetrics, we humans not only scan articles, but we also scan headlines. In fact, we tend to absorb only the first three words and the last three words of a headline. (So the mathematician in you is adding this up to 6 words to get your entire headline read.)

6) Negative > Positive

We can't believe we actually recommending putting negativity out in the world BUT according to Outbrain, this will get you clicks on your headlines. 

Headlines with positive superlatives performed 29% worse and headlines with negative superlatives performed 30% better. The average click-through rate on headlines with negative superlatives was 63% higher than with positive ones. 

Using negative words like “stop,” “avoid,” and “don’t” often works because everyone wants to find out if there’s something they’re doing that they should stop. (We humans are always worried we're doing something wrong!)

7) Use Cause and Effect to Infer "How To"

According to Copyblogger, most people don't want straight information. Instead, we want to be taught something. Cause and effect words and phrases not only give the reader the cause, but also what will happen as a result. Therefore, you are teaching them "how to" create this effect for themselves. Here are a list of words for your headline that play on this cause and effect phenomena:

  • Accordingly
  • As a result
  • Because
  • Caused by
  • Consequently
  • Due to
  • For this reason
  • Since
  • Therefore
  • Thus

8) Use Numbers

People are naturally attracted to lists and numbers imply this. According to a study by Conductor, who studied high traffic sites like Buzzfeed, numbers should be used in headlines:

9) Use Correct Capitalization

Believe it or not, what words you capitalize can make a huge difference in whether people respond to your headline. In fact 65% more people will click on a headline that uses the traditional headline capitalization rules. So what are they?

Do capitalize:

  • Capitalize the first word in the title
  • Capitalize the last word in the title
  • Capitalize the important words in the title

Do not capitalize:

  • Articles (a, an, the)
  • Coordinating conjunctions (and, but, for)
  • Short prepositions less than 5 letters long (at, by, from)

Need help with that capitalization? Use this handy free tool to do it:

We hope these 9 headline tips will give you some ideas on how to write headlines that convert.

Coming Up Next:


Starting next week, we've got our first webinars on Tuesday, March 13, featuring IDEAS Orlando's Bob Allen and ghostwriter Ashley Grant. You can watch them for free right on our Facebook page via Facebook Live. (They'll be recorded for you to watch on your own schedule.)

Start Writing:

Now we want to see you putting all these writing tips into your nexct blog post. Go craft it and then you'll have a chance to submit it for our March contest where the best of the best can win a gift basket from Corkcicle as well as the chance to speak on writing at this year's FLBlogCon!

Click here to see all of our events this month of Writing & Storytelling.

And special thanks to Ford & Your Southern Ford Dealers for making the DEEP DIVE: Learn, Create, Win! program possible!