In previous blogs I’ve often emphasised the importance of a good, attention-grabbing headline. So I was fascinated to see a recent article on the Social Media Examiner blog called 6 Tips for Writing Headlines That Drive Traffic

It’s well worth a look, because it tells you how much more likely your email is to get opened if a particular element appears in the headline.

6 top tips

Summing up the key points:

  • Headlines with a numeral in the headline are more likely to get opened – and odd numbers perform better than even numbers.
  • Headlines should promise something – ideally something specific.
  • Use questions in a headline to pique curiosity, but not a question to which a reader can answer ‘no’.
  • Don’t use positive superlatives (like ‘best’, ‘fastest’ or ‘cheapest’) in headlines. Negative superlatives like ‘worst’ can be effective, though.
  • Do use adjectives and ‘power words’ like beautiful, brilliant, effortless, essential, fun, horrifying,incredible, strange, useful and valuable.
  • A colon or hyphen just after a keyword at the start of a headline improves opening rates. Put your ‘inducement to open’ (what they call ‘clickbait’) after the hyphen.

It’s true that this is an American article for an American audience, and I would personally bet that the same statistics would not apply to an exclusively UK audience, but the article does give you some very useful ideas for new approaches to headline writing.

And 19 more tips for killer headlines…

Another article on the Wordstream blog goes even further with 19 Headline Writing Tips for More Clickable, Shareable Blog Posts. Six of the 19 look strangely similar to the tips on the Social Media Examiner blog, but there are a few more:

  • Use numerals in your headline (as I’ve done for this one!)
  • Define what the article is about. (How you can create your own killer headlines)
  • Demonstrate your value. (Read this: and get your emails opened)
  • Breed distrust. (Are your headlines getting noticed?)
  • Educate the masses. (Headline writing 101: a beginner’s guide)
  • Get readers excited to read your article. (Otherwise why would they bother?)
  • Don’t be afraid to embellish. (The 26 least known headline writing secrets)
  • Create an eye-catching, unique title.
  • Think about your audience and what matters to them. (For more on this see Sell? No, I’d rather talk about myself.)
  • Remember the 5Ws – Who, What, When. Where and Why.
  • Address readers in the second person (i.e. use plenty of ‘you’s!)
  • Break conventions. (‘Why the iPhone 6 is the worst smartphone in the world’)
  • Brainstorm lots of different headlines. (Don’t rush it – sometimes it takes time to come up with the right one!)
  • Use strong adjectives and verbs. (’26 proven techniques to power up your opening rate’)
  • Ask questions. (Why wouldn’t you ask questions?)
  • Use keywords. (Always a good idea – the keyword for this article is, of course, ‘headlines’!)
  • Keep headlines under 70 characters.
  • Don’t forget to A/B test. (Try out your headlines on Twitter and see which works best.)
  • Use images to complement headlines. (As we have done in this article!)

I’d add one more piece of advice with UK readers in mind – don’t push it too hard. We Brits don’t care for exaggerated claims about anything at all!

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