5 Steps to Writing Compelling Headlines to Attract More Customers

Did you know that 80% of your visitors will read your headline but only 20% will actually finish reading the article? In other words, catchy headlines are essential and even game-changing.

For all those who, like me, struggle with writing anything catchy never fear. We’ve got you covered with this step-by-step process that will get you writing not just one good headline but consistently great headlines! Regardless of the type of article or the content it contains, a powerful, attention-grabbing headline can transform your engagement.

With these headline writing tips, you’ll learn how to immediately capture your audience’s attention and win readers’ interest.

Step 1: Think Numbers

Several studies have shown that numbers in headlines work! In fact, headlines that include numbers tend to produce 73% more social shares and engagement. Numbers cause our brains to automatically organize information into a logical order. So a single, small odd-numbered digit, like 7 for instance, is kind of like candy for our organizational minds. Neat!

Not only that but science has shown that the brain actually believes odd numbers more than even numbers and odd numbers seem to help people digest and remember information more easily.

Interestingly, when a headline includes the odd number 7, click-through rates increase by 20%. Plus, using the actual digit 7 instead of the word “seven” has proven to be more attention-grabbing to readers so it’s better to write “7 Steps To Becoming Your Own Boss,” rather than “Seven Steps To Becoming Your Own Boss.”

When it comes to step-by-step guides, keep it to a maximum of nine steps, because the human brain usually finds it too hard and intimidating to process and commit to more than nine steps at a time. On the other hand, if you’re writing about product features, benefits, or different ways to do something, there’s actually no limit to the number of items you can include.

Step 2: Think About Why People Should Read Your Content

Do you have a good reason that people should read your content? If so (and I’m sure you do!) include it in the headline. By including words like tips, reasons, lessons, tricks, ideas, ways, principles, facts, secrets, or strategies in your headline you’re sure to catch your reader’s attention.

For example:

  • 5 Tips On How to Write Webinar Introductions Like a Pro
  • 13 Lessons I Learned the Hard Way as a Single-Mom
  • 9 Principles for Crafting a Perfect Landing Page
  • 11 Facts About Content Marketing That Everyone Should Know
  • 7 Insights into the Future of Web Design
  • 3 Secret Ways to Enhance Your List Post

Step 3: Consider the “4 U’s” of writing attention-driven headlines

Remember that a headline’s actual mission is to draw your reader to your first sentence. If you can achieve that goal, the introduction, subtitles, bullet points and storytelling will do the rest, converting your reader into a customer.

Consider that your customers are busy people who have several things vying for their attention at once. A study by Statistica found that people’s attention spans have been on the decline every single year and a person’s attention span is now only an average of 8.25 seconds! Yikes!  

That’s why a catchy headline is so important which is where the “4 U’s” of writing come in:

  • Be Unique
  • Be Ultra-Specific
  • Convey a sense of Urgency
  • Be Useful

When it comes to unique headlines, it means that your headline is different from others. Sure, thousands of people are targeting the same keyword but if you can use a keyword to write a headline that no one else has used, it can help to draw your audience in.

Remember that your prospects have questions that they want answered and an ultra-specific headline is a great way to answer these questions effectively and efficiently. A vague headline isn’t going to be as appealing as a headline that doesn’t just hint at real content but provides reliable information right in the headline itself. As Neil Patel stated, “Don’t confuse your readers with your headline. Avoid vagueness. Get straight to the point.”

The more exact you can be, the more authority you’ll secure in your industry and you’ll find it much easier to build a strong connection with your customers. Headlines that are ultra-specific also give the reader a sense of what they should expect when they click to read the content because readers like to know what they’re going to get.

Here are some examples of ultra-specific headlines:

  • 3 Simple Steps to Write a Small Business Plan for Beginners
  • Top 10 Small Business Plan Templates with Proven Success
  • Learn How to Write a Small Business Plan from Scratch

The parts in bold are the parts of the phrases that make the entire headline ultra-specific.

In terms of having a sense of urgency, Derek Christian, founder of Cleaning Business Today, explains that “effective marketing boils down to creating a fear of losing out on an amazing deal.” If you don’t add a sense of urgency to your headline it’s likely your readers will put off reading your content. The purpose of urgency is to get readers to click on your headline right now.

Potential customers tend to respond to urgency because their psychology is trained to persuade them to buy based on emotions, but to justify that decision with logic. Scarcity and urgency are two powerful elements of writing that usually work together to generate incredible results. Urgency-based headlines will always catch people’s attention since it makes the reader anticipate what comes next.

And of course, there’s the content marketing approach to your headline; it should be useful. The first three rules will only work if your headline (and your content) is actually useful. If your headline and content aren’t useful, nothing else will matter and it will fail.

So what does useful mean? Think: practical, helpful, valuable, informative, factual, worthwhile, beneficial, advantageous etc. The main point is to solve a problem for your customers and that is truly useful.

Step 4: Structure Your Headlines

Every good headline has a structure. When using this structure, be sure to include power words that will get people to buy your product or join your list.

One popular headline formula is used by many fitness experts. First, they identify the problem, then they offer a solution and then they make a promise. For example:

Feel Better Faster. We are the Answer to Your Stressful Days. Visit Gym ABC and Begin to Feel Better.

The first sentence identifies the problem: you don’t feel good. The second sentence offers a solution: we will help you with your stressful days. The third sentence makes a promise: the ABC gym will help you feel better.

There are many other ways to structure your headline. One example is by using the “little-known ways [put your solution here]” formula. Example:

  • 7 Little-Known Ways to Take Portrait Photographs

Another structure is the “Get rid of [problem] once and for all” formula. Of course, anyone is going to want to permanently get rid of an annoying problem that they’re faced with on a daily basis. When you write your headlines keeping this strategy in mind, you’ll captivate your audience because they want to know the secret, too. Example:

  • Stop Wasting Time: Get Rid of Inefficient Business Tools and Get More Done

Step 5: Practice makes Perfect (or at least better)

Justin Blackman from Pretty Fly Copywriting recently set himself the task of writing 100 headlines for 100 companies in 100 days. Wanna know what he learned?

A LOT – he learned a lot – but #14 on his list of 16 painful lessons he learned was that “Copywriters aren’t born. They practice.”

If you’re worried you can’t do it. If you’ve ever said “I suck at writing” – don’t give up. Just keep at it. Will you become the best writer in the world? Probably not, no – but, you will get better and you will start developing an instinct for what’s likely to get your customers nodding as they move their mouse to that Buy Now button and what belongs on the trash heap.

Bringing it Home

How do your headlines compare to the suggestions we’ve outlined here? Keep these tips in mind and understand that a great headline will only work in conjunction with great content. If you can find that perfect recipe, you’re sure to boost sales and generate more leads. The best approach is to use storytelling and data-driven content to build your authority, while solving your target audience’s problem. Be consistent and keep learning new ways to turn a good headline into a catchy headline that begs to be shared. If you need help, don’t hesitate to contact us (we know some kick-ass copywriters we’d be happy to get you in touch with)!

Related Article: A Proven Process for Prospecting

Meet your host

Sandra Booker, Founder of Changemaker Inc. (home to Sidekick COO and The VA Studio) and creator of Scale Society and The Advisory Board, is a mentor, Fractional COO  and growth strategist. She specializes in helping overworked, overwhelmed, multi-hatted entrepreneurs become the CEOs of sustainably scalable, and powerfully profitable businesses. 

After helping local businesses thrive, and receiving accolades in her community (like the 40 Under 40 award) Sandra turned her attention to the world of online service providers, and her clients include familiar names like Chanti Zak, Tarzan Kay, and Laura Belgray.

In her (efficiently used) spare time, she teaches others how to build and grow their own 6-figure virtual assistant practices and is on a mission to create a million jobs by helping her clients and students scale their businesses.

The Great Big List of KPI's

Want more? Check these out!

Dip your toes into transformation with these resources that pack a punch, all on the house.

Get started with KPIs with this free guide that will show you what KPIs you need to track, how many is too many, how to identify trends, examples of KPIs for every area of your business.

Washup & Reset

An annual business review to get you off the “set goal, miss goal, try-same-thing-again” merry-go-round, The Wash-up shows you haw to use the lessons from this year to get the most out of next year.

4D-90 Framework

This process is designed to be completed every quarter so you always know exactly what to do to hit your goals without putting in more time, create a new offer, or adding yet another launch to your calendar.

Budget Template

Struggling to know where you're money's going and whether you can afford that new course you've been eyeing? You need a budget and this template will help.

KPI Business Dashboard

Your easy answer to "What the heck do I track?"  You'll have all of your numbers in one place, and have at-a-glance information so you always know whether you're on track to meet your goals.

Grab your Budget Template