Headlines are arguably the most important part of any piece of writing. A compelling headline will catch the eye of your ideal reader and entice them to keep reading.
But coming up with that perfect headline is often the most challenging part of the writing process. As a freelance copywriter, I sometimes find myself lost in hours of brainstorming and tweaking to get it just right.
Fortunately, there are a few methods you can use to make headline writing a breeze. In this post, I’ll show you how to write catchy headlines in 5 minutes or less.
Decide When to Write the Headline
If you’re writing a blog, email, ad, sales letter, or any other piece of copy, the headline can help inform the rest of the piece. So it’s often best to write the headline first. Then you can make sure the rest of your content supports the message of your headline.
With that said, I’ve had success writing headlines after the piece is complete. Sometimes it’s easier to come up with a headline that accurately reflects the content when I can see the finished product in front of me.
Test this yourself and see what works better for you. If you’re struggling to come up with a headline before writing, wait until after the piece is done and then go back and add a headline later.
Know Your Audience
Before you start writing headlines, it’s important to know who your ideal reader is:
- Who are they?
- What do they want?
- What’s stopping them from getting there?
If you don’t understand their pain points and goals, you won’t be able to write a headline that resonates.
Let’s say you’re writing an email to promote a health cookbook. Your ideal buyer is a busy mom who wants to make healthier meals for her family.
What’s stopping her from achieving her goal? She doesn’t have a lot of time or energy to cook complicated meals and she’s worried that her family won’t like healthy food.
With this understanding, you can brainstorm headlines that speak to her specific needs.
8 Elements of High Converting Headlines
While there are an infinite number of ways to write headlines, the best ones tend to have certain elements in common:
- Curiosity: Drive the reader to want to know more
- Power words: strong words that evoke emotion (check out this list of 401+ power words)
- Pain Point: Call out their biggest frustration, concern or challenge
- Promise: Offer a solution or benefit that will make their life better
- Specificity: Use numbers and details to establish credibility
- Simplicity: Focus on clarity over creativity
- Address Skepticism: Overcome objections or concerns
- Time Frame: Show how soon they can expect results
Use a Proven Headline Formula
Copywriting has been around for centuries, and there are tried and true methods that work. Even the most successful copywriters will say you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Instead use proven formulas, frameworks and templates that are known to convert. Here are a few of my favorites:
The “How To” Headline:
How to _________ even if ________.
How to _________ without ________.
How to _________ so you can ________.
The “Way” Headline:
The new way to [GET RESULT].
The best way to [OVERCOME OBSTACLE].
The fastest way to [GET RESULT].
Headlines with Numbers:
And the most compelling headline will be a blend of these:
Blended Headline Formula:
___________ in X time so you can ___________ even if/without __________.
There’s no need to overthink this. Just choose one of the formulas and start filling in the blanks.
Set a Timer
Ever heard of Parkinson’s Law? It’s means that work expands to fill the time available for its completion. In other words, if you give yourself 2 hours to write a headline, it will take 2 hours. But if you give yourself 5 minutes, it will only take 5 minutes.
This is because when we have more time, we tend to procrastinate or get lost in perfectionism. But when we’re under a time crunch, we have to come up with solutions quickly. And more often than not, our best ideas come when we’re forced to think creatively under pressure.
So give yourself a 5-minute time limit when brainstorming headlines. Pick your favorite and move on!
Brainstorm a list of possible headlines
Brain dump is one of the grossest terms ever, but it’s also one of the most effective brainstorming techniques.
To do a brain dump, set your 5-minute timer and just write down every single headline that comes to mind, no matter how silly or far-fetched. The goal is to get all your ideas out of your head so you can see them in front of you and start to play around with them.
At the end of the 5 minutes, eliminate any headlines that are clearly not going to work. This includes anything that’s too general, off-brand or just plain boring.
Now it’s time to get picky. Go through your list and circle the 5 headlines that stand out the most to you. Then, use free tools like an email subject line tester or headline analyzer to test which headlines are most likely to perform well.
Even if you don’t get a high score with those tools, trust your gut and go with the headlines that you think are the strongest. Which headline do you think would get the most clicks and shares?Which one would make you stop and read if you saw it in your own inbox? That’s the one you want to use! If the headline stands out to you and has at least 3 of the 8 elements of a high converting headline above, it will likely be the most effective for your audience as well.
Test Each Headline
Not every headline will be a winner, but the only way to know for sure is to test them out. Sometimes the one you love will totally bomb, while the one you thought was so-so will convert like crazy.
The best way to test headlines is to create a split test, also known as an A/B test. This is when you create two different versions of your email, landing page, blog post, etc. and compare their performance. Once you’ve collected enough data, you can analyze the results to see which version performed better. You can then use variations of that headline going forward.
Writing headlines is an art and a science, but following my 5-minute method will help you create headlines that are both effective and efficient. So what are you waiting for? Go forth and write some click-worthy headlines!
Want to make a career out of writing headlines? Grab my FREE guide + 30 day success planner here to learn how I make FANTASTIC money from the comfort of my home as a freelance copywriter!