How to improve headlines [4 tools + 16 tips]

Last Updated on November 15, 2022 by Alex Birkett

So you wanna master the art of attracting attention, enticing people to read your copy, and make ’em pay for whatever it is you’re flogging? Great!

Headlines are ultimately what will make or break your sales success.

Headlines are like first dates: they have to be interesting enough to grab your attention and make you want to know more.

But do you know how to craft a killer headline that sells?

So how do you get someone to read the rest of your article? Make a good headline! But what makes a good headline? What are some ways to write killer headlines? What are the tools required for creating great catchy headlines?

We’ll cover many angles of great headline writing, so feel free to jump around with this table of contents:

The Secrets Behind Successful Headlines That Make People Click, Read, and Share

There are a few obvious factors that make headlines stand out like neon signs on a dark street corner, including:

1. Curiosity Gap

Curiosity is a powerful trigger of human behavior, and it’s what makes a good headline so effective.

A curiosity gap is when you create an initial question in the mind of your reader that they want to know the answer to. You can then provide the answer in the body of your article or blog post. If you do it correctly, you will have your readers hooked and reading on until the end.

Andrew Davis, a marketing keynote speaker, defines the curiosity gap as the gap between what you know and what you want to know. You can use this gap to get your readers’ attention.

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In his seminal paper, the Psychology of Curiosity: A Review and Reinterpretation, researcher George Loewenstein called the psychological state of feeling deprived because of missing information the “curiosity gap.” He explains that curiosity occurs when a person focuses on a gap in his knowledge and feels the desire to resolve this deprivation.

I’ll give you an example: “What You Don’t Know About Your Brain Is Killing You.”

This headline makes you wonder what it is that you don’t know about your brain and why it’s killing you. It also makes you want to read on and find out what it is that he doesn’t want me to know about my brain!

So how do you create a good curiosity gap headline?

Let’s go back to our example: “What You Don’t Know About Your Brain Is Killing You.”

This type of headline works because it uses a question mark at the end, which makes us curious about what it could be that we don’t know about our brains. The word ‘killing’ also adds an element of urgency to it, which makes us think that if we don’t find out about this secret soon, then it may be too late!

That said, make sure that you give your readers what they want from your headline, or else it might be seen as clickbait.



Here’s another example of a headline that successfully uses a curiosity gap to entice readers to click:

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The headline gives the reader a few details about the story but leaves out the most important one: how did the author get stuck in the blizzard?

Dean Kaplan, CEO of The Kaplan Group, also suggests,

When your audience reads a headline with a well-crafted curiosity gap, they feel compelled to read the rest of the article to learn more.

For example, if you were to write an article about using psychological techniques in your headlines, your headline could be: Should you use psychology to compel people to read your headlines? This article makes the audience think about how they could use psychology when they write their headlines and makes them curious about the pros and cons of using this technique. Now they really want to find out more, so they click on your headline to read the full article.

2. Newsjacking

Newsjacking is the art of piggybacking on news stories to promote your business.

The idea behind newsjacking is to identify a trending news story and create content around it. The content you create should be relevant, timely, and shareable. This can help you get more exposure for your brand and generate traffic to your website.

You can newsjack any topic, but you need to be careful not to hijack something that’s too sensitive or controversial. You also want to make sure you’re adding value by giving people some actionable advice or tips on how they can take advantage of the news.

If there’s a recent event or news story that relates to your industry or niche, then use this as inspiration for the title of your blog post.

For example, if Apple announces its new iPhone, then write an article called “How To Put Your Business On The Map With The New iPhone” or something similar. This will make people want to click on your post because they want to find out more about what Apple has announced.

Here are some tips and tricks for using newsjacking in your headlines:

  • Find an event or trend that’s currently trending in the news and use it as an opportunity to create content around it (i.e., “How Your Business Can Benefit from the New Tax Law”).
  • Look for trends that are happening locally and offer resources or advice based on what you know about your industry (i.e., “5 Ways Restaurants Should Be Using Instagram Stories”).
  • Use real-time events as an opportunity to share how-to guides or tips that will help people deal with those situations (i.e., “How To Handle A Customer Complaint On Social Media…”).

3. Arousing awe, shock, and fear

Humans are naturally drawn to drama, so you can use this to your advantage by creating headlines that evoke fear, shock, and awe. These emotions are often evoked in readers by writing about controversial topics or making bold claims.

This may sound like common sense, but many people forget this when writing their own headlines.

Here are some examples of how you can use psychology to create powerful headlines:

  • Awe: This emotion is created by writing about something new or exciting that hasn’t been done before or writing about something that’s difficult to achieve (like losing 100 pounds). For example: “The ten most difficult things you’ll ever do” or “The secret to weight loss” will both arouse awe in readers because they’re looking for an answer to their problem, and they want it fast!
  • Shock: This is the power of being startled or scared by something unexpected or unpleasant enough to make us pay attention right away and find out what’s going on without delay. For example: “You Won’t Believe What Happens Next!” (It must be something awful!)
  • Fear: Fear is a powerful motivator. If you’re writing a headline for a website that sells information products, you can use fear to motivate people to buy your product. If someone wants to lose weight, for example, you could write “10 Foods You Should Never Eat on a Diet.”

For instance, this post by Tim Ferris, “Some Practical Thoughts on Suicide,” garnered more than 10,000 likes on Facebook.

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It arouses awe, shock, and fear. The word “some” suggests necessary thoughts, making it a powerful word in this context. Likewise, the word “practical” makes readers feel that the author is offering useful advice rather than lecturing them on a subject they have no interest in.

Muskan Rai, Writer at WebHostingAdvices, also shared that her company’s click-through rate always rises when they include a shock component in their headlines.

Rai says,

We consider ways to spice up our title and write it in a way that immediately attracts people. A strong, outspoken, or provocative statement is a definite method I use. Because our brains need novelty, surprising headlines are winning headlines. When we experience unexpected good occurrences, our brain’s pleasure regions are more “turned on” than when we experience predicted happy events.”

4. Controversial statements

When people are faced with a decision, they will often make it based on emotion rather than logic. This is why controversial headlines work so well.

Controversial statements get people’s attention and make them want to read more. To understand why this works, let’s look at two types of thinking: System 1 and System 2.



System 1 thinking is fast, automatic, intuitive, and emotional; System 2 is slow, deliberate, analytical, and logical.

When you see an article title that provokes an emotional response, it’s because your brain has been hijacked by System 1 thinking — it’s hijacked because you’re trying to do something else (like read an article), but the headline has triggered an emotional reaction that prevents you from focusing on anything else for a second or two.

This hijacking makes sense because the human brain evolved over millions of years in order to survive in a dangerous environment – it had no time for logic when there were saber-toothed tigers around every corner!

This is the reason why clickbait sites like BuzzFeed and Upworthy thrive. A controversial statement is something that will make people wonder, “How can that be?” or “That can’t possibly be true!”

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While this isn’t a good strategy for all types of content, it can be used when you’re trying to drive traffic. For example, an article titled “Why You Should Never Use A Company’s Stock Photos” might generate more clicks than one titled “Using Stock Photos in Your Blog Post.”

Or if you have a blog post about how to organize your home office, you could write a headline like: “5 Ways To Organize Your Home Office Without Spending a Dime.”

5. Problem/solution headlines

As the statistics show, the most popular types of posts, according to the stats, are how-to articles – which make up 76% of all blog content. People are always looking for solutions online, so it makes sense that these posts are so popular.

Another reason problem/solution headlines are used frequently in marketing is that they present something that is relevant to your audience while also providing a solution to their problem or question.

When you use words like “how to,” “why,” and “what” in your headline, you let people know they’re going to get something of value from reading the post.

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For example, if you were writing an article about how to lose weight, then one of the best ways to do this would be by using a problem/solution heading that says something like “How To Lose Weight Fast And Safely” or “The Best Way To Lose Weight Without Dieting!”

Here’s how it works:

First, you identify a problem. For example, you could say the problem is with the audience’s diet.

Next, you present a solution to that problem. So, in this case, you might offer five tips on how to improve your diet.

Problem/solution headlines are so popular because they’re clear and easy to understand. They also suggest that there’s more information on the page — exactly what people want when they visit an article.

6. Contains an outrageous promise

An outrageous promise is a benefit that you’re offering to readers (usually in the form of a statement). It promises that your article or ad will help them solve a problem or give them some insight into something they’re interested in learning more about.

The bigger the problem you’re solving for people, the more likely they are going to be interested in reading your content.

For example, if you own a dog kennel business and have an ad for “dog walking services” in front of someone looking for such services, then your headline should say something like “Get Your Dog Walked Every Day at No Additional Cost!” This is much more effective than simply saying, “Dog Walking Services Available Here!

This headline, “How to Hit 1 Million Visitors in One Year of Blogging” by Becky Mansfield, promises a huge benefit: You can get one million visitors on your blog in one year.

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1 million visitors in a year may seem like a stretch, but every blogger will want to find out how to make it happen. Even people who are skeptical about the outcome will be curious to see what the secret is. And sure enough, the article went viral on Pinterest – it received more than 26,200 repins.

How To Compose the Best Headlines That Make People Click (And Read Your Content)?

Here are some writing tips to create effective headlines:

1. Make Reference to Your Target Audience

This is a good way to ensure that your content appeals to the right people, and it can help you avoid wasting time on people who aren’t interested in what you’re selling.

For example, if you’re writing an article about how to make money online, don’t use a headline like “How I make $50,000 per month.” This could work for some people, but it won’t appeal to everyone.

Instead, try something like “How I earn $2,000 per month from my website with this simple strategy.” The second headline is more specific and more targeted toward those who are looking for ways to make money online through their website.

Here’s another example:

​​If you’re writing an article on how to use social media marketing tools like Facebook, then yes, there’s a good chance some people will read it. But if you write an article titled How Facebook Marketing Can Help Your Small Business Grow… then there’s no doubt that more people will read it.

Not just that, Alexander Reid, Content Editor at TriviaWhizz, suggests using “Are You” or “Do You” to target your audience.

An example of the use of the formula is “Leaders – Do you want to make your workplace more inclusive?” Or, “Parents – Are you looking for ways to get closer to your children?”

Reid shares,

“This formula is one I personally love. It directly and clearly states your target audience while pointing a question to them. It works amazingly to pique the interest of your target audience by directly asking them a question. It arouses their curiosity, and they would want to know the answer to the question in the heading.”

2. Add Benefits of What You’re Producing

People don’t care about what you are creating. They don’t care about the features of your product or service. And they don’t care about how you’re different from your competition.


They care about what they can get from you.

The trick to creating an effective headline is to focus on benefits instead of features. Benefits are what people get out of something; features are what something is made with or what it does. For example, “Our phone is made of plastic” describes a feature, while “Our phone is waterproof” describes a benefit.

3. Include Quick Ways to Do Something

If you want to make your content go viral, include a quick way to do something in the headline.

For example, if you’re selling a training course, write a headline like this:

“How to Lose Weight Without Dieting [In 5 Easy Steps]”

As Robert Warner, Head of Marketing at Virtual Valley, suggests,

People love quick and easy solutions. They want their every problem to vanish like a snap. And that’s why, when you write headlines like ‘Quick ways to learn driving’ or ‘Quick ways to lose weight at home.’ Quick and easy solutions move people. Therefore, I enjoy writing them in my headlines because these headlines bring more clicks, which is a dream of every copywriter and content marketer.”

4. Follow the 4 U Structure

You’ve probably heard of the 4U structure before. It’s a great way to write headlines that grab attention and get you more clicks.

The 4U structure is simple: Unique, Ultra-specific, Useful and Urgent.



Here’s an example of how it works:

“How to make money from your blog” is a headline that does not follow the 4U structure. It’s not unique (there are thousands of articles on this topic), it’s not ultra-specific (it doesn’t tell you which blog), and it’s not useful (because there are many different ways to make money from blogging). Finally, it’s not urgent because waiting until tomorrow to read this article will not affect its usefulness in any way.

Tiffany Homan, Editor for the Rental Property Calculator says,

A better headline would be “How I made $100 with my blog in 30 days.” This is much more specific, useful, and urgent because now we know exactly what we can expect when we follow this guide.

When you want to write a catchy headline with the 4 U’s structure, you need to make sure the headline stands out from the other headlines hence making it unique. You also need to make sure you are being very specific in the headline, which appears as “helpful content” for your audience. Plus, it requires adding a timeframe for showing urgency.

If you follow the 4 U’s structure, your headlines will start to convert more audiences to subscribers or customers. This technique also applies to social media and marketing copies.

5. Use the Keyword Near the Start of Your Headline

Don’t think of your headline as just a title. Instead, think of it as a tool to help your readers find what they’re looking for.

If you’re writing an article that includes the keyword near the start of the headline, there are two main benefits:

  • It gives you a better chance of appearing higher in search engine results because Google gives preference to headlines that include keywords at or near the beginning.
  • It allows the reader to quickly scan through all your tags and see if any match their search query.

Lisa Banks, Chief Content Strategist for SaaSpirin, suggests,

The headline is used as the H1 tag in a blog post, and by default, it usually becomes the title tag, too. So it’s common knowledge that you must use the keyword in the headline if you’re optimizing blog content for SEO. What not everyone knows is that you can gain an edge by using the keyword earlier in the headline. (And especially if you’re a smaller website, why not take advantage of every technique you can, right?!)  

Lisa shares an easy format to use the keyword early in your headline:

Keyword – What We’ll Tell You About It. For example: Blog Goals – How to Set Realistic Growth Targets.

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This headline is from an article in their knowledge center that they optimized for the keyword “blog goals” and is one of their best-ranking pieces of content.

6. Keep Your Headline Simple – Readability is king

You don’t always have to be fancy or clever in your headlines — just keep it simple and straightforward. You don’t want to try too hard with your headline because then readers might think that you don’t know what you’re talking about (which can also turn them off).

Helene Fleischer, Content Marketing Manager PolicyMe, agrees,

“I like to start from the “constraint” of word count. Not necessarily what the CMS will allow as a maximum, but I try to ensure that the headline takes up no more than two lines of space when viewing on mobile. Let’s face it, no one is reading your blog post word-for-word. I can go on forever about different ways to make your content more skimmable and easy to follow, but in regards to headlines: Keep it short, tell me what the piece is about, and avoid $5 words like the plague. Readability is king!”

7. Use the Reasons Why Headline

The Reasons Why Headline is a great way to write headlines that compel people to click. It works by answering the question “Why?” in the headline, and it’s a powerful way to get your point across.

Nely Mihaylova, Content Executive at Scooter Guide, says,

“The Reason why paradigm is yet another powerful tool to use while learning how to write headlines. It’s not even required to use the phrase “reasons why” in your body text; instead, simply include a numbered list of the benefits or advice from the product in the body text before including it in the headline. The fundamental idea behind the popular blogger “list” articles is this technique.”

Here are some headline examples:

Why You Should Never Share Your Passwords with Friends or Family

Why an Astronaut Wants You to Know the Truth About the Moon Landing

This headline formula has been used by some of the most successful websites around (like BuzzFeed) and is perfect for any website that wants to get more clicks on its articles.

8. It Hints at a Relevant Context

Robert Weller, Principal Content Strategist,, is of the belief that there is not one factor or formula that makes a good headline.

First, context is extremely relevant. If people are asking “why” and the headline contains “how to”, then this won’t trigger them. Serving search intent, for example, is crucial, but if the search is not the source, then a different headline might be more effective to stick out and grab people’s attention.

Weller also shared some of his “best practices”  that he derived from his own headlines:

  • Include numbers as a preview of the scope. If someone is looking for THE BEST camera, best to write an opinionated article and a headline such as “7 reasons why [Brand Model] is the single best camera out there.”
  • When headlining products or landing pages, communicate features (what), benefits (why), and personal value (how).
  • Ask questions to trigger curiosity, opinion, and emotion and start an inner dialogue.
  • If you are a strong brand, include your brand name to create instant trust.

9. Include Numbers in Your Headlines

Numbers in headlines are a good way to get your readers’ attention and keep them reading.

They can make your content more effective, especially if you’re trying to convince people about something or if you want people to take some sort of action. According to Kristina Gligorovic, Marketing Manager at Localizely, people love numbers.

For example, if you’re writing an article about how to lose weight, the headline “Lose 10 Pounds in 10 Days” will probably get a lot more clicks than one that says “Lose Weight.”

The second headline is vague and doesn’t tell readers what they’re going to get out of reading the article.

The first headline gives readers an idea of what they can expect from reading it, which makes them more likely to read on.

10. Use Power Words in Your Headline

If you want to write great headlines and get them noticed, you need to add power words. Power words are great ways to add personality to your headlines because they help trigger emotions in readers.

If you’re unsure what a power word is, it’s an adjective that describes a feeling or an emotion. For example, “exciting,” “daring,” “confident,” and “relaxed.”

Kristine Thorndyke, Founder of Test Prep Nerds, says,

“Using power words in your headlines can elicit an emotional response in potential readers and increase the conversion rate. When utilized effectively, power words can elicit curiosity, greed, curiosity, fear, lust, etc.

When writing these headlines, first consider what type of emotional or psychological response you hope to arouse from the reader, then a quick google search for the “emotion+power word” will give you plenty of power words to choose from for your headline.”

Tools to Help You Create Catchy Headlines

If you are looking for tools that will help you create headlines that catch the attention of your readers and make them want to read more, here are some of my favorite tools:


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Jasper AI is an incredibly popular AI content writing tool. It works by allowing you to input information about your topic, and then it uses artificial intelligence (AI) to generate a range of different options for your headline. This means that it doesn’t just produce one option but instead provides several different versions for each topic.

It even has a template designed specifically to help you create headlines. You just have to enter your product description, your target audience (customer avatar), tone of voice, and company/product name, and you’re good to go.

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Once you enter your details, Jasper will display multiple outputs for each input. You can favorite the ones you like and trash the ones you don’t.

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This way, you can create headlines for your blog posts, website copy, social media, paid ads, and email marketing. Aside from this, you can use Jasper to create a variety of content, from subject lines and descriptions to long-form articles and short blurbs.


Starts at $24/mo for up to 20,000 words/mo.

Screen shot 2022-10-26 at 6.22.09 pm is somewhat like Jasper and lets you create catchy headlines, social media captions, product descriptions, blog intros, and a lot more. However, it’s more geared toward short-form content and copywriting.

It has three tools for headlines:

  • Facebook Headline
  • Google Headline
  • Subheader

Just like Jasper, you’d be prompted to enter details like your product/brand name and description and pick from a tone of voice.

A set of options will appear when you click the “Create Content” button. You can also choose to make more variations of a specific output.


Starts at $49 per month for up to 40k words. There’s also a free trial that allows you to create up to 2,000 words per month.

CoSchedule Headline Analyzer

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CoSchedule’s headline analyzer lets you see what your headline looks like on social media platforms and on Google searches. It will also give you an overall score of how well your headline is performing.

Just put in your headline, and it will tell you all of the elements that make a good headline, such as:

How many words should it be?

How many characters should it contain?

What is the reading grade level?

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You can also check out your SEO score and get suggestions on current rankings, keyword topics, and search competition. However, it comes with the premium version of the tool that starts at $109 per year.

HubSpot: Blog Ideas Generator

Hubspot is one of the leading marketing tools in the world. Their blog has many great articles on marketing and business.

It also offers a blog idea generator that is not as popular as its other tools.

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The HubSpot Blog Ideas Generator is a free tool that will help you come up with new blog post ideas based on your keyword.

Simply enter a keyword, and the tool will provide you with a list of suggested blog topics.

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You’ll start out with only five ideas to choose from. But once you enter your details like company name, email address, and more, you’ll get access to about 100 additional topic ideas.

What makes a good headline? The same thing that makes anything good: A little bit of substance and no filler

That’s the key to headline writing: giving your reader a sense of anticipation. You want them to read your headline, to entice them with the promise of knowledge that they then consume in the body copy.

There are no tricks here, no gimmicks. No secret headline formulas. Just solid writing and a little bit of what I like to call “substance,” that one ingredient missing from bad headlines that make it easy for readers to see through. And finally, don’t forget to A/B test your headlines!