Headline Magic: 10 Secrets to Gain Readers Everyday

On the aver­age, five times as many peo­ple read the head­lines as read the body copy.” ~ David Ogilvy 

Is your head­line mag­ic? It should be. Hav­ing a great head­line is crit­i­cal for the suc­cess of your blog post. Ogilvy wrote these words back in the 1960s when peo­ple only saw a small per­cent­age of the head­lines they do today. Get­ting the head­line right is more cru­cial today than ever before. Copy­blog­ger says that 80% of your vis­i­tors will read your head­line – but only 20% will go on to fin­ish the com­plete arti­cle. One of the keys to improv­ing read­er­ship is hav­ing a bet­ter head­line to bring in more read­ers then write more pow­er­ful prose to keep them engaged. 

1 — Attract Readers

The pri­ma­ry pur­pose of the head­line is to attract read­ers, get them to read your arti­cle. Your ulti­mate goal is to con­vert them into return­ing readers.

Some of the steps required are small, sim­ple ones. Accord­ing to Neil Patel the “Con­tent Mar­ket­ing Insti­tute, found that includ­ing a hyphen or colon in the head­line increased the click-through rate by 9%”. This is with­out chang­ing a word in the title, an easy win. Maybe head­line magic! 

Oth­er quick wins include:

  • Being noticedLim­it to 55 or 60 char­ac­ters.
  • 6 to 8 words is the per­fect length.
  • Make the first and last 3 words most alluring.
  • Use inter­est­ing adjec­tives.
  • Make it allit­er­a­tive.
  • Ask ques­tions.
  • Use num­bers.
  • Make it rhythmic.

Try these as the first step.


2 — Create Alternative Titles

Patel sug­gests we should spend as much time work­ing on the head­line as we do writ­ing the arti­cle in the first place. His first sug­ges­tion is that each piece should have 25 alter­na­tive titles, which should each be analysed before decid­ing on the final one.

This idea has a lot of mer­it. It has become clear to me that head­line writ­ing is rapid­ly becom­ing a lost art. Blog writ­ers need to pay more atten­tion to the head­line. Place each head­line into a search engine and see what the results are. If there are items in the search results match­ing your head­line then you need some­thing more unique. Do this for each head­line in your list. This can also help you under­stand the exist­ing posts you will com­pete with once pub­lished. Is your head­line mag­ic? Will your arti­cle com­pete with the oth­ers on the search results? Two impor­tant ques­tion to ask yourself.

Many blogs writ­ers, don’t spend the nec­es­sary time to cre­ate a pow­er­ful, mov­ing, head­line. Peo­ple love to rush to pub­li­ca­tion, they often do so with­out hav­ing an attrac­tive head­line, per­haps a title already used by some­one else. Even news providers are writ­ing poor val­ue head­lines. Is your title tan­ta­liz­ing? If not then pub­lish­ing could be a wast­ed effort.

3 — Match the Content

If the head­line doesn’t match the con­tent then, it may fail. If your head­line asks “The Fly­ing Car: How close is the Dream?” The cor­re­spond­ing arti­cle should exam­ine via­bil­i­ty of the fly­ing cars and whether any prod­uct releas­es are imminent.

When you write your title you should ques­tion whether it match­es the con­tent and when you write the mate­r­i­al you should ques­tion whether it relates to the head­line. Of course the mate­r­i­al you write can go beyond the scope of the head­line, but it should start there and come back to the point. 

Writer Jeff Goins states that he “delib­er­ates over titles for 30 – 60 min­utes before set­tling on one that works. And I often go back and change them.” It takes much thought to pro­duce a catchy head­line. I con­cur, and have spent sev­er­al hours because I am not sat­is­fied with the choic­es made. “Is the head­line mag­ic?” Too often the answer is “no”.

4 — Use a Headline Generation Formula

Try using the fol­low­ing for­mu­la (cour­tesy Kissmetrics):

Headline magic - formula

Num­bers show to the read­er that you will give them a spe­cif­ic num­ber options in your con­tent. A title like “101 Tips to make your PC Faster” is most like­ly to pro­vide a sum­ma­ry of each method. “6 ways to Crack an Egg” on the oth­er hand is more like­ly to show some of the details.

The trig­ger pro­vides the under­ly­ing rea­son the per­son must read your post. It ini­ti­ates a process or course of action and car­ries an emo­tion­al charge. These are words like: cure, ener­gise, empow­er, unscrupu­lous, con­spir­a­cy, reclaim, etc. Phras­es like “cure can­cer” will turn heads, or make them think, the pur­pose of the trigger. 

Adjec­tives help set the scene. Look at the fol­low­ing; effort­less, easy, painstak­ing, com­plex, strange, each changes how you under­stand the rest of the head­line. The key­word is per­haps the most impor­tant word in the title and will be in the first or last 3 words, it is the cen­tral focus of the piece. The promise is a short state­ment about the val­ue of the article.

If you promise to show ways to bathe an ele­phant indoors then you must live up to that promise.

5 — Understand the Ways Headlines Fail

There are plen­ty of rea­sons why this may hap­pen, it nor­mal­ly starts because enough thought has not been giv­en to cre­at­ing the head­line in the first place. They include:

  • The head­line doesn’t match the content.
  • It is not specific.
  • Words can have mul­ti­ple meanings.

If you know why they fail, then you are less like­ly to make the same mis­take. But we will all make these mis­takes from time to time.

Remem­ber that despite all the tech­niques demon­strat­ed here if you are not using social media or your pages are not being seen by the search engines then it doesn’t mat­ter how pow­er­ful your head­line then the cause of your con­tent not being seen lies else­where. Here head­line mag­ic will not help. Solve your vis­i­bil­i­ty issues first.

6 — Use Action Verbs

Action verbs are part of head­line mag­ic. They express the need for either phys­i­cal or men­tal action the read­er should take. The use of action verbs, intend­ed to dri­ve the observ­er to read the mate­r­i­al you have writ­ten. Action verbs include: analysed, improved, moti­vat­ed, inter­pret­ed, invent­ed. They show lead­er­ship, pro­vide pow­er­ful means of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, build­ing tech­nol­o­gy, teach­ing, and gen­er­al accomplishments.

If you use action verbs then, the asso­ci­at­ed arti­cle will also be empow­er­ing, built to encour­age peo­ple to improve. You should use sim­i­lar words in your content.

7 — Use Emotive words

Head­lines or titles with high­er emo­tion­al val­ue get more shares and in turn get more reads. It has been pos­si­ble to link head­lines to the use of emo­tive words and mea­sure how they have per­formed since the 1960s. Emo­tive words cre­ate a pre­dictable response, this is good news to blog writ­ers who need to bring in new readers.

When we write, we will do so using a mix of words. 20% of these in every­day writ­ing trig­ger some form of emo­tion. With head­lines the idea is that you pro­duce a greater emo­tive effect and a high­er per­cent­age will trig­ger an emo­tion­al response. It is this that dri­ves searchers to read your post.

Emo­tive words include; free, chal­lenge, com­plete, last chance, helpful.

8 — Use Powerful Words

This oper­ates in the same way as emo­tive words. These also give a set of emo­tions which trig­ger a response. This includes words like: pit­fall, cau­tion, brave, help­less, spir­it, daring. 

9 — The 5 Most Persuasive Words

The five most per­sua­sive words in the Eng­lish lan­guage are:

  • You
  • Free
  • Because
  • Instant­ly
  • New

Every day you will encounter these words, most like­ly in the form of either a head­line or an adver­tis­ing slo­gan. Truth is these words work. The next 20 influ­en­tial words, orig­i­nal­ly iden­ti­fied by David Ogilvy are: sud­den­ly, now, announc­ing, intro­duc­ing, improve­ment, amaz­ing, sen­sa­tion­al, remark­able, rev­o­lu­tion­ary, star­tling, mir­a­cle, mag­ic, offer, quick, easy, want­ed, chal­lenge, com­pare, bar­gain, hurry.

Remem­ber the rea­son that many peo­ple read blogs is because they are look­ing for per­son­al or busi­ness focused improve­ment. Thus, either improve or improve­ment is a good word for a headline.

10 — Analyse the Power of your Headlines

With pri­or posts, I have reviewed two head­line ana­lyz­ers:

Headline Analyzer Main screen CoSchedule Headline Analyzer entry

You should read those arti­cles for details of the capa­bil­i­ties of each head­line analyser. Even if you use a head­line analyser, it doesn’t alle­vi­ate the need for you to per­form the oth­er steps iden­ti­fied here. You must still cre­ate a list of alter­na­tives, then be ready to spend time tweak­ing your best head­lines to make them even bet­ter. Your head­lines should include both emo­tive and pow­er­ful words. It is pos­si­ble to find lists of such words on the Internet.

The process of analy­sis should allow you to cre­ate bet­ter head­lines over time. You still need mul­ti­ple options. If you wish to under­stand the emo­tions that par­tic­u­lar words dri­ve, then you will need to do some research. Get­ting the emo­tive response right is important.



My per­son­al pref­er­ence is to avoid the use of for­mu­la based head­line, sad­ly too many peo­ple use them. Often they don’t pro­vide the right impact. It requires work to make your head­line mag­ic. Many sub-head­ers sued with­in your mate­r­i­al do, arguably, need to have the same rules applied. Pow­er or emo­tion­al words, or a call to action, can cause a per­son to read on when they were think­ing about not read­ing any fur­ther. Not all sub head­ings demand high­ly emo­tive words.



Buy Peter B. Giblett a cof­fee to thank him for pro­vid­ing his thoughts on improv­ing your head­lines and titles. Is your head­line mag­ic? If you have ques­tions then please ask them via a com­ment. The images includ­ed here are from roy­al­ty free pub­lic domain image col­lec­tions, Pix­abay, or from Peter Giblett’s collection.


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2 Replies to “Headline Magic: 10 Secrets to Gain Readers Everyday”

  1. Well, I think I’ll go change some head­lines right now. Very good advice. Thanks for shar­ing this.

  2. […] Head­line Mag­ic: 10 Secrets to Gain Read­ers Everyday […]

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