Blog Headline Formulas for the Digital Marketer - dummies

Blog Headline Formulas for the Digital Marketer

By Ryan Deiss, Russ Henneberry

Everything you know about digital marketing is moot if you don’t create blog post titles, also called headlines, that entice and engage your audience. The headline is the most important part of your post because it cuts through the noise to grab your readers’ attention and convince them to give you their precious time by reading your article.

But how do you come up with these stellar blog headlines that increase clicks? You follow a formula. There are six different categories that great blog headlines fall into, and we’re going to detail each.

Tapping into self-interest

The first headline formula is the self-interest headline. These are your bread-and-butter blog post titles and should be used frequently. Self-interest headlines are usually direct and speak to a specific benefit that your audience will gain by reading your blog post. These headlines start to answer the “What’s in it for me?” question, as well as help prequalify readers by giving them a clue about what the article entails.

Here are some sample self-interest headlines:

  • Grow Your website Traffic with the 3-Step Content Marketing Plan
  • How to Retire in Style Even if You Haven’t Started Saving
  • Top 10 Organic Food Markets in Austin, Texas

Piquing curiosity

If self-interest headlines work because they communicate a direct benefit of reading a blog post, curiosity-based ones succeed for the exact opposite reason. These headlines pique the interest of readers without giving away too much information, which leads to a higher number of clicks. Curiosity headlines create an itch that needs to be scratched, and readers have a hard time resisting reading the blog post.

Be careful, though, because curiosity-based headlines can fall flat if you miss the mark. Because curiosity headlines are more ambiguous, you might annoy your reader when the content fails to live up to the expectations set by the headline. So make sure that your curiosity headline doesn’t mislead your reader.

Here are some examples of curiosity headlines:

  • 25 Things You Didn’t Know Your iPhone Could Do
  • Grill the Perfect Beef Filet with the “Butterfly Process”
  • This is Why You Should Never Drink Raw Milk

It’s rarely a good idea to use pure curiosity in a blog post title. Instead, as with the example preceding headlines, combine curiosity with benefit to craft a powerful blog post headline. For example, you might be interested in reading a blog post about grilling the perfect beef filet, but the added curiosity created by the “Butterfly Process” makes the headline even more compelling.

Employing urgency and scarcity

The most powerful way to get someone to read your blog post is to impart urgency or scarcity with your headline. Headlines that communicate urgency and scarcity tell readers they must act now, or they’ll miss something. Don’t overuse this technique, or you’ll likely aggravate your audience. Use urgency and scarcity headlines only when you truly have a deadline, limited quantity, or limited availability.

Here are some urgency and scarcity headlines:

  • Get Tickets Now! Woody Allen Speaking at Lincoln Center on October 15th
  • Free Photography Classes: Last Chance for Open Enrollment
  • New Book Reveals Ancient Weight Loss Secret; Supplies are Limited

Issuing a warning

Often, people will be more motivated to take action to avoid pain than gain a benefit. Well-crafted warning headlines, like the following, incorporate the promise that you can protect yourself from a threat if you take action:

  • The Big Lie Hiding in Your Apartment Rental Contract
  • Warning: Don’t Buy Another Ounce of Dog Food Until You Read This
  • Is Your Child’s Mattress Harmful to His or Her Health?

Borrowing authority

A fundamental characteristic of humans is that people look to the behavior of others when making decisions. You can leverage this trait in your headlines by mentioning a person’s success story, citing familiar and influential names, or highlighting how many people are already using a product or service.

Smart marketers use this “social proof” — the propensity for people to make choices based on the choices other people have made — wherever they can. The more people making that choice and the more influential those people are, the more influential the social proof.

Consider these “social proof” headlines:

  • Why 1000’s of Bostonians Will Gather in Boston Common on December 8th
  • What Dr. Oz Eats for a Midnight Snack
  • The New Justin Timberlake Video Everyone is Talking About

Revealing the new

Keeping your audience informed about new developments in your field builds authority and keeps your audience tuned in. Blog posts that center on the cutting edge need a headline that stands out and conveys the newness or urgency of the latest information. These headlines often work well when combined with a curiosity element and are known as news headlines.

Take, for example, these news headlines:

  • Ancient Human Cancer Discovered in 1.7 Million-Year-Old Bone
  • Vibrant New Species Discovered Deep in the Caribbean
  • New Tool Changes Webinars Forever