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7 Strategies for Writing Compelling Headlines for Your Website

Updated April 12, 2015

7 strategies for writing compelling headlines and why these numbered articles work.

Tim Brown

Tim Brown is the owner of Hook Agency, an SEO and Web Design company focused primarily on driving traffic and leads for small businesses, roofers and construction companies.

7 strategies for writing compelling headlines and why these numbered articles work.

A common problem for people producing a lot of content is to look for people’s attention. And when your content piece is about to publish, or even while you’re coming up with ideas of what your content could be about, you look for some sensational headline to grab the attention of readers, and get them clicking like mad and give people new insights from what they’ve gotten from other content. However, choosing strategic headlines can put you few steps ahead in terms of page-views and building audience trust.


If you do not know how to write effective and compelling headlines for articles, guess what “nobody knows!”. But, at the best we can take a cue from a lot of marketing research materials and past proven success records to quickly list down 7 effective strategies to adhere to.


People have varied opinions on when a writer should think about a tangible headline. Some people suggest to make the headline first, so you can have scope and objective defined prior to writing that material. I followed the same for this article. Another set of opinion suggests to write the content and based on the body of your article, the headline will emerge as a natural phenomenon.


There’re no essential tips, but the strategy described here will help you to give a sense of direction in a vast ocean of contextual marketing. If you’re writing unique content for your blog, such as a how-to guide, tips & tricks etc., never lose yourself in the crowd by not finding an appropriate headline. Refer to these specific tactics to build a framework on your own. Each of the strategies has impact area written in parenthesis which is basically taken from “Branding Management” ideas by Philip Kotler which has been rephrased and introduced for better understanding in some places.

  1. The “Number” Games (Breadth of Scope)

I love to use this strategy when you have something to add on to the same topic with a different perception. Have you heard of “7 habits of highly effective people” or “50 shades of gray”? There are many blockbuster titles under such naming convention. Psychologically it gives a to-do list to the readers to perform based on their choice or given conditionality. The title of this article makes use of this easy attention grabber.


  • 3 quick tips for a healthy sleep
  • 5 ways to write an effective algorithm
  • 7 tips to boost your PC performance and avoid new investment

Why do these numbered posts work?

  • They allude to something very specific.
  • They are organized for quick consumption. You could likely scan the 7 items and then move on.
  • In a world of vague illusive promises where many titles are diluted beyond any value, a small number holds the promise of scannability, meaning, wholeness and accessibility.
  • A number acts as a provocative hook because it strikes questions in the viewers mind. Why only 7? I wonder if I agree?
  • There’s a definite end. Just like starting a meeting with the declaration you only will be presenting for 20 minutes, people know they won’t have to endure an hour-long meandering presentation. The promise of this article only being 7 main points, allows your mind to rest easy, knowing you won’t come to an hour from now reading unnecessary fluff.
  1. The “How to” meet your success strategy (Depth of treatment)

This is a common but effective headlining technique, which works well with how we search the internet. It results in a specific result in a search query and article writers can target a good amount of traffic by creating content around this strategy.

“How To” books for dummies trends all over, even industry stalwart like Dale Carnegie started with same kind of pitch. Some of the examples are:

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  • How to get fat in 30 days
  • How to make $1000 per day working from home
  • How to create a multi-billionaire asset-light business plan
  1. The “Testimonial” branding strategy (Relevance)

Originality is quite rare, even you write it on your own. When think about a specific topic you’ll find numerous articles, videos and blog mentions. How to earn the trust of your audience? You can do it by showing them value. Not only do you want to share testimonials about your brand, and incentivize people to leave testimonials for you on your site and on big reviews sites, but sometimes you can create original content that catches peoples attention just by creating an in-depth piece of content around a review or testimonial type piece of content for a product or service.

Testimonial strategy works best when people are searching for some hands on experience or reviews of product and services. You can write it in a headline in such a way that shows some value to end consumer of the same product or service. Some of the examples are:


  • “Plugin X” for WordPress helped me save $500 dollars on digital marketing
  • I drove Tesla for a week and you should buy it right away
  • How “Exercise Y and medicine Z” cured my neck pain
  1. The “Soft Sell” Strategy (Originality)

Whenever your articles have a direct benefit attached to it, try to use it as a compelling headline. Because people love to receive direct benefit items such as free meals, discounts, and coupon codes, it helps attract the audience to your article with a promise of getting some direct tangible benefit. Are you a growth-hacker that is giving away some sweet tactic? Try to mention specifically what they’ll receive in the title.


  • Laptop buying guide which saves you 30%
  • E-mail automation tips and tricks to save guaranteed 2 hours
  • How to choose best phone covers and save on repair costs
  1. The last “Product” Strategy (Pivot)

Whenever when we look out for some help on internet, every pitch is about ending your problem with just one product or service. A valued article must inform readers that no further tab or search is required. It tells them “your search ends here”. It attracts the attention towards the intended purpose of the writer. Some of the examples are:

  • Introducing a software to automatically manage your investment
  • At last, a proven technique to grow your hair faster!
  • Complete guide to mastering WordPress development


  1. The “Eye Opener” Strategy (Shock)

This strategy mostly followed by paparazzi and media blog/websites, it shocks the reader with the headline. The headline often suited for viral stories or trending topics can also be used for creating inorganic curiosity and excitement for the readers. Some of the examples are:

  • Is it normal to make $10000 online in a day with 3 simple tricks?
  • Exclusive: Game of Thrones Season 5 episodes leaked
  • Real pictures of alien landing in Texas!
  1. The “Blue Ocean” Strategy (Disrupt)

More often than not we follow. Herd mentality, a unique behavior of human being, means that we have a tendency to make a group together and follow the guidelines. But, you cannot break a market while following the rest. Innovation is the key, and making your competition irrelevant is the objective. You can’t win the heart of readers if you publish the same story at the same time in same perspective, just like newspapers. How about releasing an e-book or making a video. You need to jolt the market of written pieces to making an interactive ball game of buying (your idea) and selling (your content). Some of the examples are:


  • Free excel template to do your tax calculation with guide
  • WordPress development guide with 3 free framework kit
  • Leave the article, which topic should you write to get 10,000 views in 36 hours


If you’re looking for ways to generate blog titles – try our blog post title Generator!

Blog Post Title Generator

Thanks for reading! If you found this useful, please tweet this so others can check it out too.

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It does mean alot to me that you read this article. I try to provide useful tactics and resources in my blog articles, and I don’t usually pitch or sell my services in them. My real intention though, is to increase brand awareness for my primary work which is often centered WordPress Web Development. Yessir/ma’am, now that you’re done reading this post I can be more flagrant with my self-promotion. I provide Branding in Minneapolis and surrounding areas, and love working on beautiful Website Design in Minneapolis as well. And… cut. Seriously thanks for reading and sharing!


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Tim Brown

Tim Brown is the owner of Hook Agency, an SEO and Web Design company focused primarily on driving traffic and leads for small businesses, roofers and construction companies.

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