Warning: Use These 5 Headline Formulas at Your Own Risk
There’s no doubt that my previous two posts on headline formulas have been extremely popular. But they’ve also caused me to take a lot of flack.
First off, you still have the doubters who wonder if 80-year-old headline structures can possibly work in the modern social media environment. Truth is, I used one such structure for a post this summer that received over 1,600 Diggs, while also making an appearance on just about every social media news site around and bringing in over 70,000 unique visitors.
And I never had a doubt that it would work. Why?
Because Do You Make These Mistakes When You Write? and the original Do You Make These Mistakes in English? are literally about the same thing—grammar. It was an absolute no brainer, because Maxwell Sackheim did the work for me over 80 years ago, and his ad ran successfully for 40 years. But keep in mind that I and plenty of others have successfully used the “these mistakes” template in many other contexts as well, because the specific promise contained in the headline makes it irresistible if used properly.
That brings me to the other complaint I’m hearing—too many people are using the same formulas over and over, badly. This is likely because people did not heed the warning about headline templates that you’ll hear from any copywriter, which is to understand why they work before trying to use them.
When you understand why the original headlines worked, you’ll be able to select an appropriate structure, and you’ll be a better headline writer in general. If you don’t, you might not only write a bad headline, you might come off looking bad in general.
So, here are 5 more headline templates that work, but use them at your own risk. If you don’t match up an appropriate headline structure with your content, you might crash and burn worse than if you just came up with a headline off the top of your head.
1. Warning: [blank].
If you’ve read this far, I guess it still works. Starting a headline with the word warning will almost always catch attention, but it’s what you say next that will determine how well it works for your particular content.
Warning: If You Depend on Google for Both Traffic and Advertising, You Pretty Much Work for Google
Warning: Two Out of Every Three People in Your Industry Will be Out of Work in 5 Years—Will You Be One of Them?
Warning: Do You Recognize These 7 Early Warning Signs of Blogger Burnout?
2. How [blank] Made Me [blank].
Use this structure when relating a personal story. The key to the most effective use of this template is for the two blanks to dramatically contrast, so that the curiosity factor goes way up and people feel compelled to read more.
How a “Fool Stunt” Made Me a Star Salesman
How an Obvious Idea Made Me $3.5 Million
How Moving to Iowa Improved My Sex Life
3. Are You [blank]?
A nice use of the question headline, designed to catch attention with curiosity or a challenge to the reader. Don’t be afraid to be bold with this one.
Are You Ashamed of Smells in Your House?
Are You Ready to Learn Chinese for Your Next Job?
Are You a Courageous Blogger?
4. [Blank] Ways to [blank].
One of the best list structures, because it’s really a “how to” headline enhanced by specificity that either impresses the prospective reader with how many tips you’ve got, or at minimum let’s them know exactly what to expect.
101 Ways to Cope With Stress
21 Ways to Live a Better Life With Less
5 Ways to Write Killer Headlines
5. If You’re [blank], You Can [blank].
Another great use of specificity, this headline addresses a particular type of person with the first blank, and the beneficial promise to that person in the content or body copy with the second.
If You’re a Non-Smoker, You Can Save 33% on Life Insurance.
If You’re an Accountant, Our Frequent Flyer Program Really Adds Up
If You Love Scuba, You Can Dive Belize This Week Only for a Song!