The Cheater’s Guide to Writing Great Headlines

The Cheater’s Guide to Writing Great Headlines

Reader Comments (26)

  1. I’ve been reading advice espousing multiple different techniques for writing both posts and headlines – to the point that I’m not sure what approaches to take other than to fly by the seat of my pants.

    You’ve got great timing and I’m looking forward to your insights on this topic.

  2. So using your headline as a swipe, we get: The [Someone]’s Guide to [Some Activity / Outcome]

    The Groaner’s Guide to Total Happiness
    The Engineer’s Guide to Romance
    The Blagger’s Guide to Getting Free Stuff

    I think I got the idea!

  3. Liz, you’ll have to wait till next post with everyone else… no cutting. 🙂

    Peter, I actually wrote that headline all by my lonesome, so it’s basically untested. Use it as a template at your own risk.

    But those examples look really good, so I might have done ok.

    I especially like “The Engineer’s Guide to Romance.” But can that product actually be created? 🙂

    Joseph, “free” is still plenty powerful, but when so much is free, you still have to sell it just to give it away, because the reader’s attention is expensive.

  4. Peter, I think “The Engineer’s Guide to Romance” is a really nice headline, effective? I don’t know.

    Any engineer around that could help us with more data?

  5. free has 2 faces—one on the internet where it is expected and one above ground where it may not have as much power due to overuse/saturation. Question: if google charged a $1 a search, would use pay?

  6. I use delicious’ automated services which compiles my surf ‘links’ for the day to my blog with the unlovely headline:
    ‘links for 2006-7-13’
    and then publishes them once nightly automagically.

    It’s time to rethink this service… and not allow the links to get published until I rewrite the headlines! After all, the links are carefully picked and I often write a short blurb for each one.

  7. Brian, great introduction. I agree with Alexis, the first paragraph really conjures up a vivid mental image and immediately grabs the readers interest.
    Looking forward to subsequent posts.

  8. Just a thought: when did we leave behind the idea of just writing good stories well?

    That’s what brings back a reader. Give him a snappy headline that leads to a story which disappoints, and you’re just doing bad journalism. Bad storytelling. And losing audience.

    Forget the quick fix. Do the job right first time.

  9. We never left behind the idea of just writing good stories well. That’s a crucial element as well. A story that dissappoints is a bad story, and if you’re a regular reader here, you know I’m not a fan of bad stories.

    The idea I’m trying to get across to you is that writing a good story well that no one reads due to a poor headline is a good story no one reads.

    And writing a good headline first will help you tell better stories. Try it.

    Or don’t … do whatever feels right for you, Brian.

    I’m sure you will anyway. 🙂

  10. I think that Rob nailed it on the head when he said, “Rewriting a headline can be the difference between obscurity and a Digg.”

    The roll that the title plays is insanely out of proportion to the actual content. Not saying that it isn’t important, but if nobody reads it, it is useless.

  11. It’s worth bearing in mind David Ogilvy’s advice to know your subject. Research is where great headlines come from. You can’t sell a bad idea with a headline formula, no matter what the result. He spent hours researching facts about Rolls Royce cars and came up with what many consider to be the best ad headline in history: “At Sixty Miles an Hour, the Loudest Noise in this New Rolls-Royce Comes from the Electric Clock”.

  12. This is an excellent article about writing headlines. The whole SEO thing really confuses me and is really hard to follow.

    My wife and I started a blog about our faith and relationship with each other and we try to write good headlines that are catchy and the also meaningful to the content of the post.

    I read a lot of blogs and the headline grabs my attention, but the first paragraph is what keeps me reading. This is very true when the article a really long. I like short articles. The longer the article, the better the first paragraph or two has to be for me to read on. SEO is cool if there is good content and it means something to somebody. A blogger needs to be passionate about what he or she writes and readers will come. That is just my 2 cents. I enjoy reading your blog and the conversations in the comments.

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