Which headline will get more clicks, likes, and shares?
a) The Breathtaking Geometry of America from Above
b) America From the Sky
This is not one of those situations where I say that “there’s no right answer”. There is a right answer, and it’s A. Headline A follows a set of effective rules for headlines to entice the target audience to click.
In this Sumo-sized guide, I’m going to show you exactly how headline A does it, with specific headline formulas and templates you can use to do the same.
10 Places To Use Headline Formulas For More Traffic, Shares, And Conversions
Want to take the heavy lifting out of creating mind-blowing headlines?
|The How To Headline
|How to [Achieve a Desired Outcome]
|How to Run Faster
|The Ultimate List Headline
|[Large Number] of Ways to [Achieve an Outcome]
|28 Ideas For Content Upgrades To Grow Your Email List
|The Ultimate Guide Headline
|The Ultimate Guide to [Achieve a Desired Outcome]
|The Ultimate Guide to Eating Healthy on a Budget
|The Fearmonger Headline
|Warning! Are You [Something Undesirable]?
|Warning! Are You Eating This Food That Could Kill You?
|The Rally Cry Headline
|Let’s Stop [A Call to Arms]
|Let’s Stop Eating This Poisonous Food!
|The Proven Methods Headline
|[Number] Proven [Actions/Ways] to [Achieve Desired Result]
|18 Proven Techniques to Build More Muscle in Less Time
|The Mistakes Headline
|[Number] Mistakes Most People Make When/With [Common Action]
|11 Mistakes Most People Make When Washing Their Hair
|The Secrets Headline
|[Number] Secrets to [Achieve Desired Outcome]
|7 Secrets to Becoming a Digital Nomad
|The Outrageous Headline
|Why [Outrageous/Controversial Claim]
|Why Canadians Are Actually Evil
|The Lessons Learned Headline
|[Number] Lessons I Learned When/From [Experience]
|7 Lessons I Learned Doubling Sumo’s Blog Traffic
|The Social Proof Headline
|The [Object] Over [Social Proof] Use To [Desired Outcome]
|The Tool Over 283,000 Websites Use to Grow Their Traffic
|The Testimonial Headline
|How [Company] Got [Result] In [Timeframe]
|How Shopify Store BlendJet Made $163,633.50 Sales In 30 Days
|The Objection Preemptive Headline
|[No/Yes], You [Pre-Empt Objection] to [Achieve Desired Result]
|No, You Don’t Have to Count Calories to Lose Weight
|The Question Headline
|Are You [Provocative Question]?
|Are You Still Eating Dairy?
|The See What Happened Headline
|[Person] Did [Unusual Action] [Timeframe]. Here’s What Happened
|I Did Yoga Every Day for 6 Months. Here’s What Happened
|The How/Result Headline
|How [A Seemingly Inconsequential Action] Can Lead To [Undesirable Result]
|How Your Morning Coffee Can Lead to Heart Disease
|The Celebrity Headline
|How to [Achieve Desired Outcome] Like [Celebrity]
|How Tony Robbins Generates 1,000,000 Website Visitors Per Month
|The How To Without Headline
|How To [Desired Outcome] (Without [Unpleasant Action])
|How To Get Featured on Large Publications (Without Guest Posting)
|The Silver Platter Headline
|[Number or How to] Simple/Easy Ways to [Desired Outcome]
|14 Easy Ways to Save $100 This Month
|The Analysis Headline
|We Analyzed [Number] [Thing You Analyzed] ] (And This Is What We Learned)
|We Analyzed 100 Million Articles (And This Is What We Learned)
|The Tutorial Headline
|A [Power Word] Tutorial to [Achieve Desired Outcome]
|A Comprehensive Tutorial to Make a Budget
|The Hacks Headline
|[Number] Hacks to [Achieve Desired Outcome]
|25 Hacks to Save More Money
|The Explainer Headline
|Why [Thing] Makes You [Outcome]
|Why Spirulina Makes You Smarter
|The Steps To Result Headline
|[Number] Steps To [Achieve Desired Outcome]
|4 Simple Steps To Build An Email List From Scratch
|The WTF Headline
|[Person] And His/Her [Object] Doing [Odd Or Funny Activity]
|John Cena And His Giant Hands Playing With A Tiny Tortoise
|The Quiz Headline
|Quiz: Which [Topic] Are You?
|Quiz: Which Harry Potter Character Are You?
|The Hot Button Headline
|People Called This [Person] An [Controversial Title] After He/She [Controversial Activity]
|People Called This Mom An "Exhibitionist" After She Took A Breastfeeding Pic With Santa
|The Fortune Teller Headline
|You Won’t Be Able To [Claim] Until You [Action]
|You Won’t Be Able to Lose Weight Until You Eat This One Paleo Food
|The News Headline
|Breaking: Whooping Cough Outbreak in Your City
|The Command Headline
|Stop [Strong Command]
|Stop Selling Out
|The Reasons Headline
|[Number] Reasons You’re [Outcome]
|16 Reasons You’re Fighting With Your Spouse
|The Imagination Headline
|Imagine [Desired Outcome]
|Imagine Becoming a Millionaire
|The Little Known Methods Headline
|[Number] Little-Known Ways To [Desired Outcome]
|13 Little-Known Call To Action Hacks You Can Use On Your Website
|The Ignorance Avoidance Headline
|What You Should Know About [Topic]
|What You Should Know About Your Roth IRA
|The Snackable Headline
|You [3 Words or Fewer Summarizing Topic]
|You Aren't That Special
|The Pattern Interruption Headline
|How [Claim That Goes Against What Most People Think Is True]
|How Fruit Will Make You Fat
|The Solutions Headline
|Why [Problem] (And What To Do About It)
|Why You’re Not Getting Traffic To Your Website (And What To Do About It)
|The Expert Roundup Headline
|[Number] [Expert] Share Their [Topic]
|14 Nutritionists Share Their Favourite Plant-Based Recipes
|The Reminder Headline
|Reminder: [Claim or Truth]
|Reminder: Your Weight is Not a Reflection of Your Health
|The Comparison Headline
|Are You More Like [X] or [Y]?
|Are You More Like a Tiger or a Lion?
|The Trivia Headline
|Can You Find The Problem With This [Object]
|Can You Find The Problem With This Photo?
|The Front-Loaded Keyword Headline
|[Keyword]: How To [Long Tail Keyword]
|Healthy Eating 101: How To Eat Healthy on a Budget
|The Promise Headline
|We Can Help You [Promise] By [Result]
|We Can Help You Boost Your Traffic By 20%
|The Results Headline
|How We Did [Desired Result] In [Timeframe]
|How 35 Marketers Would Grow Website Visitors From 0-10K In 30 Days
|The Teaser Headline
|These [Number] [Thing] Could Help You [Desired Outcome]
|These 6 Foods Could Help You Lose 15 Pounds
|The Sidenote Headline
|[Number] Lessons Learned From [Company/Person] (#[Number] Is [Teaser])
|7 Lessons We Learned from General Assembly (#2 is Our Favorite)
|The Branded Headline
|[Headline Formula] (A [Unique Branding] Guide)
|134 Ways To Increase Website Traffic In 2019 (A Sumo-Sized Guide)
|The Urgency Headline
|Fix Your Conversion Rate NOW!
|The Target Audience Headline
|[Target Audience]! Are You [Undesirable Outcome]?
|Bloggers! Are You Leaving Traffic on the Table?
|The Bold Statement Headline
|[Bold Statement]: What We Learned [Data-Backed Evidence]
|Pop-ups Aren’t Dead: What We Learned Analyzing 2 Billion Pop-up Examples
|The Curiosity Headline
|You Probably [Vague Statement to Trigger Curiosity]
|You Probably Won’t Read This
Even though we’re calling them headline formulas, there’s no limit to where you can use them. Here are some creative places you can use these formulas and templates:
Your email subject lines are miniature headlines. They:
So it’s crucial that you use solid headlines in your email subject lines, too.
Paula Pant from Afford Anything uses a headline formula, creating a clickable and compelling attention-grabber which rises above the rest of the boring subject lines in the inbox:
I didn’t have to look far to find this poorly written headline that I sent straight to trash without reading:
You don't want your emails to go straight to the trash box without ever being read.
Think only written content like articles and blog posts require strong headlines?
Every single piece that you want more eyes on needs a strong, compelling, and irresistible headline.
That includes all of your content…
The momentum your reader gains from reading a well-written headline translates over to reading your articles.
Do it like the pros and use strong, compelling, click-worthy headlines in your articles:
Avoid “clickbait” and make sure the article delivers on the promise.
You don’t have to guess at what headline will be popular, though. For every article we publish, we test five headlines:
We put $25 behind Facebook ads over two days to test five headlines and the winner is the one with the highest click-through rate (CTR).
In this case, “49 Headline Formulas to Skyrocket Conversions (And Where to Use Them)” would be the winner.
If you want to test your headlines for free, use Buffer to test different headlines on social media. We’re testing the:
Then, use the Analytics tab to find out which of the headlines your followers clicked on the most.
When people are scrolling through podcast episodes in iTunes, you want them to choose your podcast rather than the thousands of others.
Let’s say you were looking for a podcast episode on healthy eating. Because it’s the new year, and you have resolutions to achieve!
Which podcast episode are you more likely to listen to? This one, titled “Healthy Eating”:
Or “11 Healthy Eating Habits of the Super Fit”?
Trick question. You’ll choose the latter.
Don’t overlook your video headlines.
On a platform with over 400 million videos like YouTube, you need yours to stand out from the crowd.
An example of a strong headline for a video is one of Sumo’s usage of the Celebrity Headline, “How Tony Robbins Generates 1,000,000 Website Visitors Per Month”:
It makes you want to know how Tony Robbins does it, increasing the likelihood you’ll press “play”.
Keywords people are searching for is the most important thing to focus on for SEO, right?
Maybe. But the “key word” (pun intended) in that sentence above is people. Humans are searching for those keywords. When Google drums up the results for them and they’re scanning the first few options, you need to entice them to click on your content first.
While your headline in your content may (and should) differ from what you set as your meta headline, it’s still important to incorporate those keywords into something that people want to click.
For example, when I type “easy healthy recipes” into Google, these results come up:
The first result I wanted to click on was “52 Healthy Meals in 12 Minutes or Less”. That’s because it promised me a lot of what I wanted — 52 healthy recipes — in a short time frame (12 minutes or less).
Just because you need to use keywords in your meta title doesn’t mean you should ignore headline formulas, like Best Health Mag clearly did with their headline “recipes”.
Take a look at your podcast title on iTunes and Stitcher, your Youtube Channel name, or your blog title in WordPress or Squarespace.
Create a tagline using the headline templates above to draw interest, like Nathan Chan does with the Foundr Magazine Podcast:
Instead of “Foundr Magazine Podcast”, he added the tagline “Learn From Successful Founders & Proven Entrepreneurs, The Ultimate StartUp Podcast For Business”.
Rock solid headlines are crucial on your sales page for increasing traffic and conversions.
Nathan Barry uses the Objection Preemptive headline formula ([No/Yes], You [Pre-Empt Objection] to [Achieve Desired Result]) on his sales page subheadline for Authority to catch the visitor’s attention right away.
Jon Morrow uses the Tutorial Headline formula ([Power Word] Tutorial to [Achieve Desired Outcome]) in his sales page for his membership website, Serious Bloggers Only:
In our recent guide about using power words in your marketing, I told you about how your visitors do not read every word of your article.
Instead, they scan over that content you worked so hard to put together, and to throw salt in the wound, they judge you in less time than it takes to take a bite of their breakfast taco — about 10 seconds.[*]
But what if you could capture their attention? What if you could make them actually read your content rather than just scanning over it, making a snap judgment, and hovering their mouse over the “x” button?
Good news! You can by including headline formulas in your subheads.
Subheads break up the text on your page, add visual interest, and a strong subhead will capture interest and lead the reader down the page, increasing the average read rate of your articles.
Your email list is crucial to the health of your business (and your wallet).
But most entrepreneurs let their email lists grow at a snail's pace.
Instead give your email optins a boost by including headline formulas on all of your optin opportunities:
Whether you’re offering an optin bribe on your Welcome Mat or inviting your visitors to subscribe, creating a swoon-worthy headline will boost your conversions like crazy.
Which would you rather subscribe to...
This offer that falls flat?
Or this optin worthy headline from Optimal Performance?
I know which one I’d choose.
Let’s be honest…
You might think they don’t need help from headline formulas to do their job, right?
It’s what you’re offering that encourages people to enter their email address.
And there’s no better way to describe what you’re offering than a powerful headline that packs a punch. Check out how Canva does this with their List Builder pop-up:
Don’t just ask people to subscribe. Give them a reason to with a headline formula.
Your Smart Bar is meant to capture attention when somebody lands on your website -- and therefore, capture emails as well.
It does a pretty good job of it, too, but you can help it live up to its full potential by including headline formulas in your Smart Bar call to action.
Check out how Hello Focus uses a headline formula in their Smart Bar:
A/B test your email optin headlines to find what resonates with your visitors. We tested a Question Headline against a variation of the Tutorial Headline and found that the Tutorial Headline won:
We collected 52% more emails because we ran this simple A/B test.
Your lede (the opening paragraph for an article, sales page, or other written resource) is meant to capture interest, attention, and draw the reader down the page or screen.
You know what does just that?
You guessed it! Headline formulas.
Great ledes often read like great headlines - or maybe vice versa. For example, in this Xconomy article, the lede uses a strong headline formula -- The Fortune Teller Headline:[*]
When you’re writing the opening sentence or paragraph for your next post or sales page, consider how you can weave a headline formula into it.
Can you imagine how effective a testimonial would be if it had a badass headline attached to it?
You could use the Testimonial Headline (How [Company] Got [Result] In [Timeframe]) as a template for your testimonials page.
Or, you could use a different formula to draw attention to those solid testimonials you worked so hard to earn and obtain, like this LeadPages page demonstrates:
You could identify your testimonials by titling them “Testimonials”. Or, you could use something like “Over 10,000 Customers Believe The Language System Is the Best Way to Learn a New Language”.
Using the Social Proof Headline like a boss.
One opportunity for interest, conversions, and sales that most people overlook is their product names.
We showed you how to use power words in your product names (and gave you 401 of them), but don’t just stop there. Use one of these headline formulas, too.
See how The Loop Loft does this with their bundle, The Platinum Pack?
You don’t have to use a long headline formula in your product names, but you may be losing on conversions and sales if you fail to capture your audience’s attention with a strong and compelling headline.
We just covered a lot of ground:
But all of this was pointless if you do nothing with this information.
To start, choose ONE place from the list of 10 places to use headline formulas from this post.
Then, scan through the list of headline formulas to find one that resonates with you.
Apply the formula in the place you chose.
Don’t be afraid to test different formulas. Testing is the fun part! You can run tests for free on your email optin forms using Sumo.
Or plug a few details into our headline generator and let it do the work for you.
We’re using The Silver Platter Headline Formula on this article. Click one of the social icons to the left to share it on your social media. Then tomorrow check-in to see how it’s performed against your other posts.