How to Write Good Headlines

Good Headlines

Headlines – why are they such a big deal?

Most people see a headline as just a simple one-liner with a few words. But as content writers and managers, the headline is a huge thing.

Getting the reader’s attention is a lot of work. Doing it with succinctly, with as few words as possible, whilst hooking the reader in is a real skill. In this fast and fleeting world of online content marketing, a successful click-through depends on that one-liner. In fact, traffic on storytelling site Upworthy varies as much as 500% simply based on the headline.

That’s how important the headline is.

Why should you spend more time writing the headline?

There’s always a battle for attention out there. Just imagine that there are over 2 million blog posts and 294 billion e-mails sent out in a day. This does not even include the audio and video content produced and social media posts made in a day. That’s how much your headlines are competing for.

With that stiff competition, another thing you should consider is the audience’s attention span.

The headline is the first touch point of most content pieces. 8 out of 10 people on average will read your headline, but only 2 of them will read the rest of your blog post. Besides, there’s also the fact that 35% of email recipients open emails are based on the subject line alone so a good headline is really a game-changer.

Most Common Types of Headlines Used Online

A lot of articles out there suggest so many formats or patterns in creating headlines. It’s not at all bad; it’s just that there are too many of them that it becomes too specific for a niche or even for content purpose.

However, that long list can be trimmed down and categorized into these five most common headlines for online content.

Number

Numbered headlines work best to provide your reader a glimpse of what they’re going to get from reading your article. It also conditions their mind on what exactly they are getting from your content.

Examples:

  • Top 15 Digital Marketing Interview Questions and Answers You Need to Know
  • 5 Ways To Fight Off Monday Blues
  • 5 Reasons to Interview, Even If You Don’t Want the Job

How-To

How-to’s give an instant impression to your reader that they’ll be reading a step-by-step guide. It targets their desire to get things done or to achieve something they’ve been meaning to do but just don’t know how to.

Example:

  • How to Write a Good Instagram Caption
  • How to Answer Tough Interview Questions
  • How to Choose Between 2 Job Offers

Question Headlines

One of the easiest headlines you could use is asking a question. It should be a question that you think your readers might be searching for; a specific pain point, or just something they’re curious about. Your question headlines can target that. At the same time, your content should provide answers to that question.

Example:

  • Are Flexible Working Hours Good or Bad for Your Career?
  • Unlimited Paid Time Off, is it a good idea?
  • Is Your Job Killing You? 6 Of The Most Stressful Industries In Hong Kong

Resource Headlines

This headline is used for created curated content to provide a solution to your reader’s problems. Content like these are often long but is packed with value. They often contain the words ‘ultimate guide’, ‘pro tips’, or ‘every X should know.’

Example:

  • The Important UI/UX Knowledge Every Marketer Should Know
  • The Ultimate Interview Preparation Checklist

‘###Best’ Headlines

These are the headlines that contain the word ‘BEST.’ It gives your reader an idea that what they’re going to read is simple ‘the best’ among all the others out there.

Example: PRO-TIPS: The BEST Questions to Ask in an Interview The Best Office Perks that Motivate Staff

Personal experience

It is always nice to add a warm touch on the headlines, as personal experience is something readers are constantly looking for.

Example:

Lessons I’ve Learned From Doing Digital Marketing for 10 Years 3 Years Working at Google, Here’s My Advice to Google Applicants

Reader centred

Involve readers in the headline by simply adding “you” gives an explicit linkage between the content and the readers.

Example:

You’re Not Lazy, Bored, or Unmotivated Why You Should Work in eCommerce

Which Type Should I use?

Now that you’re presented with many options, you might wonder which one is the best one to use for your content. To know that, ask yourself these: what is your content goal?

You need to ask these questions because not all types of headlines are suited for everything. While most content aims for high CTR, there are other online content goals that you might want to target.

Search Engine Results Page – Answer a question

How-To and ‘Best’ headlines are great for search engine optimization because they are common phrases that people would type when searching for something.

Not everyone would think about ‘x number of ways’. However, a lot of people would look for a solution (meaning, a ‘how-to’) or ultimately look for the ‘best’ answer. Always remember that the headline is one significant factor in targeting SEO.

Suggested titles

  • How to
  • What
  • Resources

Social Media - Getting Engagements and Shares

A question headline is one of the best types to get your engagements and shares because it sparks a reaction or conversation. It’s like asking the reader a question. They might not click the article and read it, but they’ll surely react or comment on the post as an answer to your question. They can also share your post as if asking others for their opinion.

For the example cited above, a reader can share his insight on having flexible work hours – may it be through the comments section or by sharing it to his timeline. In doing so, the people in his network will do the same. That means your post will increase in reach even if they did not click through and read.

Suggested titles

  • Number
  • Question
  • Best
  • Personal experience
  • Reader centred

Email – Informing readers

Not all content marketing goals are directed towards data and numbers. Some would aim for the intangibles. Giving help and advice to your readers is a tangible goal, especially on emails.

Using a ‘how-to’ headline can help you achieve that goal. Number headlines will also work only if the list contains help or advice. Resource headlines are also good, but it depends on which channel you’re aiming to place your content.

Suggested titles: - ‘Best’ - Resource - Question

Tips on How to Write Good Headlines

You’re now equipped with the knowledge of knowing the types of headlines and when best to use them. It’s now time to create one yourself. Below are a few tips on how you can write good headlines for your content and gain your audience’s attention.

Simple and straight to the point

Make your headlines easy to read and understandable. If your reader doesn’t understand what you’re trying to say in your headlines, they won’t even bother reading the entire article.

Focus on value

What can your write-up offer? How can it solve the pain points of your readers? Include it in your headlines, so they’ll know what they’re about to read is something valuable for them.

Start right

The first few words of your headline are crucial. Some of the most common effective headlines start with the 5 W’s, ‘How’, or ‘How To’. Others begin with ‘This’ or ‘The’ along with a number or the specific topic the article tackles.

Involve the reader

Don’t forget who you’re targeting and writing about – the reader. Use ‘you’ and ‘your’ to invoke them and play to their egos. Let them feel that this piece is written for and with them in mind.


Creating headlines can be considered both science and art. With data and statistics of your own or other studies, you’ll know which one works best for the goal you have in mind. However, it is also an art. Stringing together words and their perfect combination to get your reader hooked with a one-liner is an excellent piece of art.

So, the next time you look at a headline, never think of it too over-simplistic. Know that a content writer or creator spent the time to craft one. And if you’re able to click or share that article, then it is one compelling headline worth all the effort.

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