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50 Examples of Headlines that Forced Me to Read On

Back when I was a journalist, I used to be a horrible headline writer — my editors would replace whatever headline I wrote just about every time. I would get pi$$ed, but they were right.

I’ve since embraced the notion that if a headline is no good, the reader won’t continue on to your actual story or ad.

I’ve studied headlines over the last 5 years and gotten a bit better. Whenever I see a good headline idea, I try to jot it down, especially if it strikes an emotional chord.

Below are a list of my favorite headline templates/examples by categories. The categories are proven winners at getting the reader to continue reading (you will notice that many of the categories are directly related to the “10 Easy Tips On How to Write Better Headlines (Warning: Response Rates May Soar 20X” that I previously covered).

Here they are (obviously you can mix and match ideas):

How-To & Learnings

  • “How to Do [X] Times Better than [blank]” (e.g. “How to do 500 Times Better Than AdSense”)
  • “Build a Beautiful ____” (e.g. “Build a Beautiful Home in 90 Days”)
  • “Discover How To…”
  • “What You Can Learn From [Controversial Character]” (e.g. “Sarah Palin”)
  • “How to Compete With [Name of Dominant Company]
  • “The Road Map to [some skill]” (e.g. The Road Map to a Healthier Sex Life”)
  • “[Verb] Like a Monster”  (e.g. “Invest Like a Monster”]
  • [name of a Subject] 101 or 201 or 301 or 401 (e.g. “Blog Marketing 101: …]

Steps or Tips (Numbered)

  • “5 Things Everyone Should Know About [something]”
  • “The Step by Step Process to [something]“
  • “16 Things to [Verb] Productivity” (e.g. “16 Facebook Apps to Boost Your Fan Page Popularity”)
  • “The [number] Habits Of _________” (e.g. “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”)
  • “The Checklist For ___________”

Questions

  • “What Would You Do If You Couldn’t [Verb]” (e.g. “Fail”)
  • “Could Your [blank] Be Ruining Your Biz” (e.g. “Could Your Hiring Be Ruining Your Biz?”)
  • “How Popular is [   ]” (e.g.: “How Popular is Social Networking Outside the U.S.?”
  • “Why Someone Does Something Better Than Someone Else” (E.g. “Why Men Park Cars Better Than Women”)
  • “Do You Make This Mistake When [  ]” (e.g. “Do You Make this Mistake When Trying to Close a Deal?”)
  • “Are [adjective] People More [adjective]?” (e.g. “Are Creative People More Dishonest?”)
  • “How Big A Threat Is [   ]“

Curiousity (Insider/Privileged/Shortcuts/Secrets/Newsworthy)

  • “The Truth About [noun]“
  • “Rumor: _______”
  • “Confessions of a [person/position] (e.g. “Investment Banker”)
  • “Secret [something] That Amassed/Attracted/Generated XX Reach/Traffic” (e.g. “Secret London Facebook Group Amasses 180,000: Morphs into Startup”)
  • “The Next [Successful Co.]” (e.g. “The Next Google”)
  • “[Topic] Cheat Sheet” (e.g. “Google Buzz Cheat Sheet”)
  • “Why I believe [such and such]“
  • “The [name of famous person] Secret to [Fill in Blank] (“The Alfred Hitchcock Secret to Story Telling”)
  • “The [name of some process] Decoded” (e.g. “The NFL Draft, Decoded”)
  • The Myth of [something]” (e.g. “The Myth of Black Friday Deals”)
  • “Why Doesn’t [Something] Look Like This?” (e.g. “Why Doesn’t Facebook Look Like This”)

War & Tension

  • “The [Blank Versus Blank] War” (e.g. The iPhone Versus Google Phone)
  • “X Co. Declares War on Y Co.”
  • “Are [adjective] People More [adjective] Than [adjective]  People?” (e.g. “Are Creative People More Dishonest”)

Open with Power Words

  • “Shocking [Fill in the blank]” (e.g. “Shocking Edelman Survey Results Reveal Less Trust…”)
  • “Eye-Opening” (just a good power-word to begin with) (e.g. The “Eye-Opening Insights from the Lebron James Documentary”)

Use Analogies or Metaphors

  • “The Reason Why the iPad is the “Right Church, Wrong Pew”
  • “Selling Your Home Now is as Good as Gold”

Other

  • “For [a position or type of person] Only” (e.g. “For CEOs Only: How To Lead Your Business”)
  • “You’re Probably [fill in blank] & Don’t Know It”  (e.g. You’re Probably on a bunch of Twitter Lists & Don’t Even Know It)
  • “Everything You Want to Know About  ___________” (“Everything You Want to Know About Chinese Cooking”)
  • [Amount of Time] to Something (e.g.”37 Seconds to Great Storytelling”)
  • “[Subject] For Smart People” (e.g. “Personal Development for Smart People, Internet Marketing for Smart People”)”
  • “Everyone Will Relate To This: [fill in blank]” (e.g. “Make More Moola”)
  • “Ok, You’re a __________ Get Over It” (e.g. “Ok, You’re a Runner. Get Over It” (Chad Stafko wrote that one)

Good luck!

And if you know more great headlines, please share!

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