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5 Surprising Do's and 3 Don'ts When Writing Headlines that Convert

"It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen."

1984 By George Orwell

There's something about going into a book store and reading the first line of a book. There's this whole decision process made before you've even stepped into the store - because the book you'll buy has to equal the amount of time invested in reading.

"Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice."  One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

Fiction books can be one of the hardest to sell, simply because you don't know what to expect. The cover can be filled with numerous stickers as to how many awards it's won, a beautiful striking cover - but if the first line doesn't draw you in - you''ll probably return in back to the shelf.

Just like those first lines - Your headline is the first step to entice your readers to read the rest of your content. It's out there waving its arms waiting for them to notice it. But sometimes what you think is a good headline will get overlooked.

Here's some not-so-generic ways to become centre of attention


  1. Include numbers


The reason why numbers do so well is because they make your headlines and content specific. You give a quantifiable promise so they know what to expect.


Unusual numbers are attention-grabbing

Odd numbers or very specific numbers makes your readers take notice because they are unexpected. (Heck, I even used this technique for today's newsletter title).


The Content Marketing Institute reports that headlines with odd numbers have a 20% higher click rate.


Top Tip - Numbers can work in any position in your headline. If you’re worried that putting a number at the start of your headline makes you look like everyone else, try moving the number to the middle

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2. Make your headline between 5 and 9 (or 16 and 18) words.

In a 1956 psychology report by George A. Miller of Princeton. “The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: Some Limits on Our Capacity for Processing Information found that “the number of objects an average human can hold in working memory is 7 ± 2.

3. Start with a negative

Yes, I'm normally all for being positive but here's something I've noticed while writing on X. My posts on bad copywriting seem to convert and outweigh my posts on good copywriting.

4. Give your headline 2 parts.


Headlines should have a beginning and an end, a thesis and an antithesis.

If your headline isn't completely clear add a subheading. It should re-affirm why your reader is on the page and act as a primer for your content.

You can try a simple hyphen to break your headline.

Or Top Tip: A quick simple fix is to swap your subheading for your headline and make it benefit-driven. The below example shows where the subheadline does a better job than the headline because it leads with the customer benefit.

Swap your headline

Swap your headline

5. Make your headline crystal clear.

Great headlines shouldn't confuse your reader. There's no room for ambiguity. Yes, you want them to ask questions to spark curiosity, but you don't want them ask why do they need to read.


Here's how to be clear:

1. Don’t put cleverness over clarity

We have already seen how important clarity is. A little cleverness may be ok, but not if you have to sacrifice clarity.

2. Don’t assume your customer understands the value you provide

As soon as they land on your page, visitors should know the answer to these two questions: “Where am I?” and “What can I do here?”


3. Don’t bury your value

Visitors need to know they are getting something in exchange for their time. Don’t be afraid to show how much value your product or service provides.

Your headline should be benefit-focused. If it's vague and it has no meaning swap it for your subheading.


If you're not sure - start with a verb:

Instead of “We help you lower your payments by up to 40%,”

Try “Lower your payments by up to 40%.”


If you want to improve your writing and make your words have an impact, work on getting really good at writing headlines.

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