Day 5 – How to Write Killer Headlines: 4 Techniques

31 days to write better text by Denise Fay : Achieve MarketingWriting the headline can often cause the best copy-writer a panic attack. It is the gatekeeper of your article and will make the difference between whether it’s read or not, never mind the sale. However, fear not, there are several techniques that you can use when creating your killer headline.

Remember when writing a headline, it should:

– Lull the reader into further reading
– Be emphatic
– Resonate with the reader
– Be persuasive

Don’t forget to check out How to Write Killer Headlines – The Basics before using the following techniques.

Timeless Headlines

Coco Chanel once said “Fashion fades, only style remains the same“. Applying that same logic to headlines, you could say ‘Great stories are interesting, great headlines are timeless.”

Here are four ways to make your headlines timeless.

1. Ask a Question

Forget about headlines for the moment. If you ask someone – your mum, your boss, a stranger – a question, what do they do? Answer it! Human nature wants to answer a question, rather than leave it hanging.

Asking a question in a headline leads the reader to read your copy – they feel compelled to answer the question. Depending on the product or service you’re selling, be careful of closed questions. (Don’t ask questions that require a yes or no answer.) You don’t want to eliminate a substantial portion of your readership.

An emphatic question works well as does a question that impacts on a need.

There are a few headlines to swipe:

  • What would an extra €5,000 a month mean to you?
  • Fancy a cup-cake without the guilt?
  • Who else wants a celebrity figure?
  • Want 31 ways to write better copy?
  • Do you make these mistakes?

2. The ‘Reason Why’ Headline

The ‘Reason Why’ is a very popular headline technique. It draws the reader in by giving them a reason to read the list.

With this type of headline, you typically write the copy first and then build the headline around it. Your copy will have a numbered list of features, tips or advice and then you incorporate it into your headline. This technique is a good one for creating credibility as the writer has taken time to write the list.

Examples in this technique include:

  • 7 ways to….
  • 3 reasons why….
  • A – Z of Weight Loss
  • A GREAT example – 31 Days to Write Better Copy.

3. ‘How to’ Headlines

The ‘How to’ Headline is a great one. If you can’t come up with another headline, then use the ‘How to’ headline. You really can’t go wrong. An adaptation of the ‘How to’ headline is ‘How I…’, ‘How he…’, ‘How you…’

Some swipe headlines for your inspiration:

  • How to write headlines that work
  • How to make a better mousetrap
  • How I made a fortune

4. Create Curiosity

Curiosity killed the cat. It’s the name of a band and a very well known proverb. It warns against being too curious. But again, human nature is a curious one. You see it with babies, they explore everything and everywhere. Newspaper shelves are filled with gossip and celebrity magazines because we are a curious breed.

You can create curiosity by making an outrageous statement, using word play, alliteration or taking off a well-known phrase.

  • Want a Wonderful Warm Way to Welcome Winter?
  • Advertising pays – but to whom?
  • The most expensive lesson you’ll ever learn
  • What if this happened on your wedding day
  • Life is like a box of chocolate covered strawberries

Day 5 Homework

INTERACTIVE HOMEWORK ALERT: I’m looking for your favourite Headline of the Day.

Go through your RSS feed, your emails, the newspaper, your favourite website, twitter, facebook, whatever you read today and pick your favourite headline of the day. Explain why you thought so.

Send on your headline – by email or comment on post. I’ll feature all headlines on the website. There will be a prize for the most inspiring explanation.

About the Author

Denise FayI'm Denise Fay, an international marketing communications advisor. For over 16 years, I've been helping corporations and business owners to promote themselves by communicating the right message with the right audience. They achieve clarity, leads and sales. I'm also an award-winning author, engaging speaker, entrepreneur, business owner and mum of two, I have written copy that has won awards, won clients and most importantly, built relationships. Because at the end of the day, it all comes down to how we relate to others. And writing great copy that engages with your reader is well worth its weight in gold. You too can find wealth in your relationships. I can guide and help you find your words, create an engaging message and build a relationship that results in repeat sales with your customers & leads. Contact me today to get started. Come find me on Google+View all posts by Denise Fay →

  1. AnoymousAnoymous10-06-2010


    I got this heading today and thought of you. I had to send it straight-away.

    Oktober Fest 2010 Special Offer

    The heading was in large font and bold when I opened the email. But when I opened the email and glanced at it, it had nothing to do with Oktober fest, beer or even German manufacturers. Now I feel let down by the heading – what a waste of my time. I certainly won’t be buying from them. I’m in quite a rage actually.

    It certainly didn’t fulfil the basics of headline writing. It wasn’t relevant. Now I need a beer and it’s only 10.15.

  2. DeniseDenise10-06-2010


    Thanks for your comment. I can see why you’d prefer to stay anonymous. I received the same email. I’ll send on the articles about headlines to the person. Day 6 talks about the Direct Headline technique. This is a good example of it but unfortunately the body copy didn’t match it. It’s a headline 101 error.


  3. KenKen10-06-2010

    After some rummaging around I found this clear pithy headline [url=”″]You don’t know who I know.[/url]
    For me it is instantly obvious what the piece is about because I think have been in that situation. In a few short words the writer sets the scene for an experience where he met someone. Immediately this relates to me. What I like about it is that it leaves you wanting more and throws up lot of questions about the content.

    Is it actually about netwroking?
    Is this another pitch for Facebook for business?
    Did he have a bad experience?
    Does he have an answer?
    Is it about him or someone else?
    Does it have a good outcome?
    Is he going to pitch some amazing new solution?

    In contrast I find this one irritating simply because it is completely misleading.

    “Teenager arrested for refusing to hand over password”

    In the first line of the piece the writer states that the teenager has in fact been sentenced over this password.

    I am less interested in reading any more because to me the writer has been misled me and has not satisfied my expectation. If I saw an example like this on a website trying to attract I’d move on.

  1. BizSugar.com10-12-10

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