How To Write Headlines that Sell: Effective Headline Formulas For Copywriting

Headlines are what you use to sell your copy so it's important that they're effective. If people aren't drawn in by the headline, they won't read further.

How To Write Headlines that Sell: Effective Headline Formulas For Copywriting

Grab your attention. That’s the goal of a headline, whether you’re writing for online or print media. But not just any headline will do. To get your audience to read through the copy that follows, it needs to be short and have an attention-grabbing hook.

Here are some headline formulas you can use in your next piece of copywriting to help sell your readers on what you have to say:

  1. Brings up an emotion in the reader (e.g., "Anxiety will never be the same")
  2. Use a punchy, attention-grabbing phrase (e.g., "The 9 biggest mistakes to avoid when writing headlines")
  3. Solve a problem (e.g., "How to save money by doing your own car repairs")
  4. Smack of authority (e.g., "5 tips for creating the world's best PowerPoint presentation)
  5. Arouse desire (e.g., "10 things you should never buy at Ikea")
  6. State a unique angle (e.g., "The most effective way to use social media for marketing")
  7. Point out a benefit or how to do something (e.g., "How to convert your blog into a book")
  8. Ask a question that piques curiosity and provokes thought (e.g., "What's your favorite color?")
  9. Make readers feel part of something (e.g., "Join the social media revolution")
  10. Uses an action verb that gets readers excited about reading on (e.g., "How to win your first million dollars by playing poker")
  11. Is short and informative enough to convey what they need to know before they read further (e.g., "Why We Need To Stop Living In Fear")
  12. Can be modified for different types of articles (e.g., "10 Tips for a Successful Interview")
  13. Has multiple keywords without sounding spammy or overused (e.g., "What Women Want From Men")
  14. Is catchy and memorable (e.g., "This is how to stop being boring")
  15. Is factual but incorporates a personal voice so it feels like you're speaking directly to the reader (e.g., "Why Some People Don't Want To Be Married Anymore").
  16. Readers will want to know what the headline is immediately (e.g., "The One Thing Men Don't Want Women to Know About Them").
  17. Opens up an entirely new concept that readers won't see coming (e.g., "This Is Why You Never See Successful People Smoke").

Headlines are what you use to sell your copy so it's important that they're effective. If people aren't drawn in by the headline, they won't read further. Use one of these simple headline formulas for your next piece of copywriting to help boost its effectiveness and get more eyes on your content.

One bonus headline formula you can use is to answer a question in the headline itself which will quickly help your reader understand what your article is about. For example, if you’re writing about getting over writer’s block, a headline like "How to Overcome Writer’s Block" is a good place to start.

Sourcing great headlines can make or break an article – and ultimately affect traffic – so use these formulas whenever you need help finding the perfect headline for your next piece of copywriting.

How To Write Headlines that Sell

The headline should easily express what the article is about. If you're writing for a website, make sure that the headline is searchable so that it can be found by your target audience.

The headline should have keywords related to the article's topic so that search engines like Google and Bing will find it.

Avoid overused words and phrases in your headlines (e.g., "how to," "improve," etc.) unless you're writing about a topic that's commonly used in headlines (e.g., time management articles).

Make sure that the headline doesn't pique curiosity only to have it gone by the first paragraph. The first few sentences of your article should be interesting enough to pull people in.

Avoid click baiting headlines which promise readers something that isn't entirely true or can't be fulfilled.

The headline should relate to the primary content of the article even if it's just in a subtle way. This will keep readers engaged with your writing and move them further into the copy.

To create clickable headlines, you'll need to balance curiosity with practicality. The title should get readers' interest without being misleading or confusing.

Use action verbs that will get people excited about reading more (e.g., "How to") and incorporate keywords so search engines can discover it.

Create headlines before you create the article and decide on a structure for your headline formula: ask a question, make a statement, or express an opinion.

Headlines help readers find your content and once they're hooked, they'll keep reading the article. Make sure you follow these basic headline writing guidelines whenever possible to increase your chances of getting more eyes on what you write.

The "Who, What, When, Where" Formula

This is the most common headline formula. It presents readers with a question to ponder and promises an answer. This is the "Who, What, When, Where" formula:

Who are you?

What do you offer them?

When does your service or product start?

Where can they find you?

For example, "What Your Favorite Hobby Says About Your Personality" or "When Does The Person You're Dating Become A Boyfriend?"

The "How to" Formula

This headline formula is useful for articles on how-to's and online courses. It directly tells readers what to do so they can start using your information right away. For example, "How to Increase Productivity" or "How to Overcome Writer’s Block."

The "Prove It" Headline Formula

This headline can be used for controversial articles which lack supporting evidence. For example, "Are Lactose Intolerant People Just Weak?" or "Is Facebook Making Us Anti-Social?"

The "Announcement" Headline Formula

This headline formula can be used for announcements or interesting discoveries. For example, "New Business Opportunity Discovered In North America" or "One Simple Step to Making Long Term Savings."

The "Critical Review" Headline Formula

Use this headline for articles which review a product, service, book, film, or event. For example, "Google Nexus Review" or "San Francisco Symphony Review."

The "Curiosity" Headline Formula

This headline formula is useful for controversial articles that pique people's curiosity. For example, "Why You Should Never Shower in the Morning" or "What Do Your Pets Really Think About You?"

The "Comparison" Headline Formula

This headline formula is useful for articles which compare two things, such as two products or companies. For example, "Xerox vs. Canon: Which Printer is Best for You?" or "McDonald's vs. Burger King: America’s Biggest Fast Food Battle."

The "How Does X Make Y Sound?" Formula

If you want to write a headline about how X makes Y sound, you can use the following formula: "How does X make Y sound?" For example, if you're writing about how ice cream gives people cavities and it sounds like a delicious idea, your headline might be "Does Ice Cream Give People Cavities?"

The "Can I Get A Little More Specific?" Formula

If you want to present your point of view, this headline formula is for you.

"Can I get a little more specific?"

This headline uses the phrase "get a little more specific" to immediately capture the reader's attention. The phrase is also common enough that it doesn't seem out of place.


When it comes to writing headlines, it’s not just about what you say—it’s also about how you say it. Headlines are built to sell your products or services, so they should be crafted with this purpose in mind.

You should follow these headline writing guidelines so you can boost the chances of getting more eyes on what you write.

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