10 Proven Headline-Writing Tips to Make Your Small Business Content Irresistible

A catchy, curiosity-inspiring headline is a valuable tool for content marketing.

It’s nearly impossible to get someone’s attention with a weak headline or title.

According to the writing experts at copyblogger:

On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest. This is the secret to the power of your title, and why it so highly determines the effectiveness of the entire piece.

A headline (often called a title) is an advertisement for your content.

A catchy headline will entice, capture attention, set expectations, and motivate your audience to click through.

Here’s what to remember when writing your headline:

  1. Create urgency.
  2. Make it useful.
  3. Make it enticing.
  4. Be ultra-specific.
  5. Consider including alliteration.
  6. Consider including numbers.
  7. Trigger curiosity.
  8. Use powerful words.
  9. Feature your keywords.
  10. Optimize length by platform.

Copywriting is more than the narrative. Use these ten proven tips to help you punch up your titles and headlines… and entice your audience to click through and read your content.

Let’s take a look at each of these tips in detail, with examples.


Remember the Four U’s


I’m usually skeptical of any one-size-fits-all solution.

But, I find it hard to argue with Michael Masterson’s “4 U’s” formula for writing headlines.

Michael Masterson is a serial entrepreneur, author, business coach and copywriter. Masterson recommends that all headlines should follow his 4 U’s formula.

A headline must be:

  • Urgent
  • Useful
  • Unique¬†
  • Ultra-specific

1. Urgent

Creating a sense of urgency motivates people to take action now rather than later.

This is a valuable tool when you want a reader to click your headline and read your copy.

Urgency plays on people’s anxiety and desires – two powerful emotional hooks.

There are a few ways to create urgency.

Urgency exists whenever there is scarcity – the viewer either has a limited amount of time to act, or there is only a limited supply of something valuable. (“Act Now, They’re Going Fast!”)

You can also create urgency by implying risk or danger.

For example, “7 Cancer-Causing Foods You Must Avoid” or “3 Marketing Techniques Your Business Can’t Afford to Ignore.”

The prospect of loss creates an urgent desire to protect oneself. Demonstrate urgency in your headline and readers will respond.

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2. Useful

A good headline must show the value your content offers to your readers.

Hopefully, your copy follows through and provides valuable, relevant information – this is what will compel them to keep reading.

But, you have to advertise that value through your headline or they’ll never take a second look.

Show your reader what content they can expect to find – and make sure that you’re offering something of value.

For example, we regularly write about marketing, design, and entrepreneurship in our small business blog – one of the top 50 business marketing blogs in the world.

Our content tends to be longer (2,000+words) because we believe that it’s difficult to deliver value in a 750-word post. We take a deep dive into every topic and look to unearth useful and unique information.

Our recent article about logo design¬†offers a good example. The title for that article: 2018 Logo Design Trends: Your Guide to Navigate Hot Trends and Avoid Fads. A prospective reader knows they’ll likely find useful information in a guide about trends and fads.

3. Unique

If you want to grab a reader’s interest, it helps if your headline is unique.

There’s no sense in reading an article if you’ve already seen it before. People have limited time and most don’t see the value in reading redundant content.

And, more importantly, a unique headline is more likely to grab a reader’s sense of novelty.

In a world where we’re bombarded by media, and often feel like we’ve seen it all before, a novel headline feels like a whiff of fresh air.

Don’t write tired headlines – inspire your viewers’ curiosity with unique language.

4. Ultra-specific

Ultra-specificity helps to make content both useful and unique.

The more precise your headline is, the more clearly you can communicate the unique value of your content.

There are a bazillion articles about business marketing on the internet. And, there’s not enough time to read them all (nor would you want to).

How do you know which you should read?

You’ll look for the ones with headlines that speak to your specific concerns or questions.

Be as specific as you can with your headline and you’ll draw the readers who really care about your topic.


Make it Enticing

People don’t just want information. They want it in an engaging, entertaining, easy-to-read package.

But what engages and entertains one reader may be a total miss for another.

Remember to keep your target audience in mind when choosing the tone or voice for your headline. The best headlines resonate strongly with their intended audience.

Which of these techniques will connect best with your audience?

5. Use Alliteration


Alliteration, the practice of stringing together words that begin with the same letter or sound, is a classic stylistic device.

The human mind loves patterns. And, alliteration provides an auditory and visual pattern that is endlessly appealing.

Here’s a perfect example from American poet and lyricist Paul Simon:

Gazing from my window/ To the streets below

On a freshly fallen, silent shroud of snow…

Awesome, right?

But alliteration isn’t just for poets. It can be a powerful tool for perking up a lackluster headline.

The Digital Marketing Institute explains:

People like alliteration as it’s catchy and rolls off the tongue. The tasteful use of alliteration can have a subtle yet powerful impact.

Subtle alliteration can be used to reach nearly any audience. But, more overt alliteration is likely to attract a more playful audience.

6. Include Numbers

The human brain likes organization.

Using numbers in your headline plays to that natural desire for order.

According to digital marketing expert Neil Patel,

Integrating specific numbers and data into your headline is an effective way to make your headlines more enticing to readers. Several research studies have shown that headlines with numbers tend to generate 73% more social shares and engagement.

Whether it’s the visual interest created by including a numeral among letters, the clearly set expectation of how many items are included, or the organization provided by a numbered list, headlines with numbers¬†have proven to be powerful.

Numbers 10 and 5 take the lead as the most effective numbers to use in a headline; with numbers 3, 4 and 7 following close behind.pa

Try using a number in your next headline and see for yourself.

For example, crowdspring helps thousands of entrepreneurs and small business owners to name their companies and products.

It’s not easy to come up with a great company name¬†so we offer lots of advice.¬† When we write about naming, we are specific and typically use numbers. Here’s a recent example: 10 Tips for Naming Your Startup or Small Business.

7. Trigger Curiosity


While it’s important to help the viewer understand the value promise of your article, you don’t want to give everything away in the headline.

Then there would be no need to read the article, right?

Headlines that activate a reader’s curiosity create their own sense of urgency without the threat of scarcity or danger.

People are motivated to read on because they simply “need to know.”

So, when you’re writing your headline, leave a little something to the imagination. A good example is our recent 8 Powerful Psychology Principles Behind Great Product Design.

8. Use Powerful Words


Strong adjectives, precise nouns, and intentional verbs make for great headlines.

Headlines should be concise and, as we’ve already mentioned, ultra-specific. There’s no room for weak language in a headline.

Positive words like “awesome,” “proven,” “stunning,” and “brilliant” all have a powerful impact.

So do negative words like “hate,” “awful,” “terrible,” and “miserable”.

Choose words with extreme points of view.

Nobody wants to read a wishy-washy article with no perspective.

So, engage readers with strong language. A good example is our recent article about the Biggest Product Packaging Design Trends in 2018.


Optimize for Search Engines and Social Media

When writing a headline it’s essential to keep in the mind the realities of the platform on which it will appear.

Web content needs to be optimized for the ecosystem in which it will live.

If your headline can’t compete on search engines and social media platforms it will disappear as though it had never existed at all.

Here are a few tips for helping your headline stay visible on the web.

9. Feature Your Keywords

Every piece of content has keywords.

Before the internet, a keyword was just the word or topic that created the central focus of your content. In web content, a keyword is that and so much more.

Keywords are vital to both your audience and the search engines that connect your audience to your content.

People will find your article by searching for a keyword in a search engine. And, placing the keyword prominently in the title (as well as throughout the content itself) allows search engines to retrieve your content and deliver it up to the people who are seeking it.

If you want viewers to click on your content it needs to include the keyword that they are looking for.

How else will the reader know that they’ve found content with the information they’re seeking?

I speak from experience.

As a writer and designer, I spend a lot of time doing research.

With so little time and so much to do, the only headlines I click are the ones that most closely align with the topic I need.

10. Optimize Length by Platform

Google continues to be the most popular search engine on the net.

For that reason, it’s a good idea to tailor your headlines and titles to fit within Google’s search results without getting cut off.

As of May 2016, Google’s search results show 70 characters¬†for the title of each result. So, keep your content headlines to 70 characters or less.

If you’re targeting a specific social media platform, customize your headlines to meet their best practices.

Corey Wainwright at HubSpot shares:

According to our own analysis at HubSpot, headlines between 8‚Äď12 words in length got the most Twitter shares on average. As for Facebook, headlines with either 12 or 14 words received the most Likes.

Know where your audience spends their time on the web. Then customize your headlines to succeed on those platforms.

But, you can’t always anticipate how a reader will find your content.

So, despite optimizing your headline length, there’s no guarantee that your reader will see it as you intended them to.

With that in mind, place your keyword early in your headline. This way it’s sure to be seen regardless of the platform on which your viewer finds it.


Wrapping Up

Marketing is all about creating connections between your business and your audience.

And, a strong headline is the writing equivalent of a good, solid handshake. It gives the rest of the conversation its best possible introduction and chance of success.

Keep these tips in mind as you craft your next headline and then watch your readers click through.

They won’t be able to resist.

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