101 Headline Formulas that Capture Attention and Get Your Message Read

101 Headline Formulas - The Ultimate Swipe File

“The Only Swipe File You’ll Ever Need”

The headline is the most important part of any text.

It will either keep people reading what you have to say, or send them away.

How many headlines do you read during a day? Twitter, Facebook, email, magazines, etc. Altogether 100? Maybe more?

And how many of those make you read more?

An average headline gets around 25% of people to read on. And even fewer read to the end. Even when reading and leaving are the only possibilities (landing pages, magazines, etc.).

What do you think happens to those percentages in Twitter where dozens of headlines fight for attention?

So, what can you do to beat the odds?

1. Using Formulas

Why would you use formulas when you can invent new ones?

  • …because it takes too much time to create new ones.
  • …because it’s almost impossible to create new ones.
  • …because everybody else does it, and nobody cares.

Every copywriter uses the same old headlines again and again. Sure, some may seem new and unique, but most often they’re modified copies of the old great formulas.

A headline formula that worked yesterday works today, and it will work tomorrow. So, trying to create something no one’s done before is an unnecessary risk.

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be creative. If you want to write attention capturing headlines, you need to learn how to modify the formulas.

When you understand why they work, you’ll write them intuitively and only use the formulas for inspiration.

2. Know what should come next

Getting readers to read the first paragraph is just half the battle; if you fail to meet their expectations, they’ll leave even if your content is great.

So, you need to understand two things:

  1. Which headline formula to use. They all create different expectations…
  2. How to write content that matches the expectations and keeps people reading to the end.

Obviously there isn’t just one “right” way to write content, but the expectations are pretty universal. When you know how to meet those expectations, your readers will read all the way to the end.

3. How to use sub-headlines

Even a great headline is weak compared to one backed up by a great subhead.

For example “Cost of Unmotivated Employees” is okay.

But when you add a sub-headline, it becomes a lot better: “Cost of Unmotivated Employees – How Much are You Willing to Pay?”.

Good sub-headlines add meaning, interest, and/or value to the headline.

You should use them whenever you can make the headline better with it. But remember that the function of sub-headlines is to make the headline better, not to replace a strong headline.

Learning how to write great headlines and back them up with sub-headlines is one of the key copywriting skills. Invest some time into learning it; it’s well worth it even if you don’t sell anything.

The “Ultimate” Swipe File

What’s in the swipe file?

  • 101 Headline Formulas. If that’s not enough, then you’re not using them as well as you should.
  • Examples of each formula (some heavily modified to give you more ideas).
  • What expectations each create. In other words, what are the best ones for a particular article.
  • What should come after each different type of a headline. Don’t lose readers before they reach the end.
  • What makes a headline great. How to capture attention, create fascination, and create anticipation.
  • How and when to use sub-headlines.

Get it FREE Now

  • Get enough headline formulas to last a lifetime + examples.
  • Learn when, where, and to whom you should use each different formula.
  • Know how to meet the readers’ expectations and get them to read the entire article.

What’s your favorite headline?

Have you written one you’re especially proud of? Share it in the comments and feel free to leave a link to it ;)

Which one of the 101 formulas you like the most? And what would you add to the list?

Increase your conversion rate quickly

Whenever I build or evaluate websites and landing pages, I use a three-step system.

It helps me find the issues that are causing low conversion rates.

And it works as a solid guideline for creating effective conversion paths...

Type your email...

Your email will stay 100% private, and you can unsubscribe anytime.

 
Peter Sandeen

Do you want to improve your value proposition or conversion rates?

Or create an effective marketing strategy based on your strengths?

Click here to see how I work with businesses and how I can help you.

36 Comments

    Share Your Thoughts...

    * (real name—no keywords)

    (optional)

    *

  1. There is no doubt about the importance of headline.

    Most known copy writers recommend spending 50% of your writing time on headlines.

    • Peter Sandeen said:

      Hi Rana,

      You’re right, most if not all copywriting experts say that. And for good reason: it affects the conversion of your copy about as much as everything else combined.

      That’s why I like to use formulas (the “right” way); I can create a good headline much faster than if I’d start from scratch each time when I know I’ll get a good conversion with the formulas…

  2. Peter,

    I agree. Writing strong headlines is something you should learn. Best way to do this is to study existing formulas and use them as basis for your own headlines.

    I have to admit that I’m still in a process of learning this stuff, but consistent practice makes things easier.

    Cheers,
    Timo

    • Peter Sandeen said:

      Hi Timo,

      I believe you’ll find the ebook helpful in learning (if you decide to download it…). Writing effective headlines is about understanding why and when each formula works.

  3. It’s all about the Headline… Without a doubt, not even a close second it’s all about the Headline…

    Thanks Peter…

    • Peter Sandeen said:

      Hi Ryan,

      As Rana pointed out, most copywriters use 50% of their time writing the headline. Your conversion will be non-existent if your headlines aren’t good. I hope you’ll find the ebook helpful ;)

  4. Headlines are undoubtedly important, and formulas can be really useful for this, but I do think that some writers rely too heavily on formulaic headlines … and if I am bored by the headline and think the writer is being lazy I won’t read the copy!
    Use formulas by all means, but use them well and wisely!

    • Peter Sandeen said:

      Hi Gemma,

      Yup, many writers have completely misunderstood how to use formulas. In part that’s because most swipe files have formulas that are too recognizable; if you’ve read the same formula before, you’ll notice it immediately.

      That’s why I only used headline formulas that aren’t so “specific”, but instead formulas that get you going with your own headlines (that’s why there’s also so much talk about when and how to use each formula and what should come after the headline).

      If you decide to check it out, I believe you’ll get new ideas for your own headlines even if you decide never to use the examples in the ebook ;)

  5. You could have written the greatest most profound, most inspiring content ever written, but if your headline sucks no one will ever read it. It’s like having an amazing party, but not sending out any invites. Thank you so much for sharing your formulas, going to use them for sure!

    • Peter Sandeen said:

      Hi Steve,

      That’s so true and I think it happens a lot: the most inspiring content never gets read because of a poor headline.

      I hope it’ll help you, and please share your favorite ones here and ones you’ve written and are proud of ;)

  6. Shanna said:

    Man, do I hate writing headlines. I’m one of those people that puts “email” in the subject line of emails. Personally, formulaic headlines turn me off. I’ve been burned too many times by internet churn-mills that spent 45 minutes on the headline and ten on the article. But what are you going to do? That’s how the game is played.

    • Peter Sandeen said:

      Hi Shanna,

      I should’ve wrote about this in the post… The formulas that I’ve used in the book aren “formulaic”. In other words, even if you just replace the [blank] you won’t end up sounding lazy. Most swipe files have formulas that sound very specific, so they’re recognizable too.

      Do you think that “How to Write Great Headlines in 3 Easy Steps” sounds formulaic? Or what about “5 Best Ways to Increase Your Landing Page Conversion”?

      Those are both based on the formulas in the eBook. Let me know what you think, even if you disagree with me, I’d really like to hear your opinion :)

      • Shanna said:

        Hmm. Maybe not formulaic, and I know industry wisdom is that numbers convert, but honestly, unless it’s a copyblogger headline (or you know, someone *IN* marketing) I often feel like they’re pushing content that will generate pageviews, with little interest in longterm value. Often, the *better* the headline, (in terms of compellingness, intrigue and concreteness) the worse the content, because all they really wanted was the click. I’ll grant, the headlines that most catch my critical eye are the so-called ‘Cosmo headlines’

        • Peter Sandeen said:

          My wife recently told me that the few times she’s bought a Cosmo, the headlines have created expectations that weren’t met with the content. And so, she won’t buy any more Cosmos…

          You’re right about that many bloggers, websites, magazines, and others are more interested in pageviews than anything else. Though that’s idiotic: you don’t make a living with pageviews :D

          I actually wrote a lot in the book about the expectations each headline type creates. So, you’ll know how to get readers to read to the end and want even more of your writing. There’s also a lot about for whom each formula works and what content fits best. All that for one reason (that you mentioned): the promises made by headlines are rarely met. And actually writing great content isn’t enough if the expectations created by the headline don’t specifically match the content ;)

  7. Hi Peter,
    I also agree about the importance of headlines. The way I see it, it’s like a house with a welcoming and interesting facade. You wonder if it’s also nice inside. You get curious and interested enough to want to enter.
    These formulas can be a great help to guide a beginner and an additional resource for experienced copywriters. They can start with what works and learn something new in the process.

    • Peter Sandeen said:

      Hi Theresa,

      That’s a great metaphor :D And you’re right, formulas (that are explained in detail) can help a beginner incredibly much. And most experienced copywriters use formulas as the basis for their headlines.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts :)

  8. Great stuff Peter! The headline is definitely what gets through the noise in today’s world. I have been trying recently to use the AIDA method when creating post or videos.

    A = Attention (headline)
    I = Interest (initial copy and sub headings)
    D = Desire (copy and subheadings)
    A = Action (closing and what action do you want them to take)

    But the Headline is key! Thanks for sharing.

    • Peter Sandeen said:

      Hi Chris,

      AIDA is great and thanks for bringing that up. But I don’t use it; in my opinion it’s too simplified to really give a solid backbone for writing copy that would convert readers.

      If you decide to take a look at the eBook, you’ll notice that a headline that only grabs attention but doesn’t create interest and desire and prompt action, is only okay. Actually if your headline fails to accomplish any of these goals, it probably won’t get people to read on. Why would you read something that doesn’t interest you? Or that doesn’t create any desire to read more? And you wouldn’t read on if the headline didn’t prompt action (to read more) ;)

  9. Peter,

    I agree on the importance of the headline. I’ve written some good ones and some bad ones. I’ve even gone back and rewritten them when I’ve had second thoughts…. For example I wrote a post called “The Myth of Easy”. I realized later that that wasn’t enough for people to go on (even though it was fairly popular) so I renamed it “The Myth of Easy. Why you don’t want easy online marketing”.

    • Peter Sandeen said:

      Hi Tom,

      That’s a great example (and a great post too). I think most of your audience could figure out what the post was about even before adding the “sub-headline”. But still it definitely made it stronger :)

  10. Ah! Headlines! Definitely one of the (if not the) most important process of creating awesome content that people are going to read. I say this because I, myself, decide what I read and what I don’t read in news sites in accordance to who intriguing the headline may be. Copywriting is definitely a skill we all need to master and keep working on.

    • Peter Sandeen said:

      Hi Hector,

      Yup, headlines are at least almost the most important skill.

      What would happen if the news sites you read wouldn’t match the headlines with appropriate content? As Shanna mentioned, your content has to live up to the expectations or your audience will leave…

  11. [...] 101 Headline Formulas that Capture Attention and Get Your Message Read by Peter Sandeen [...]

  12. [...] 101 Headline Formulas that Capture Attention and Get Your Message Read by Peter Sandeen Posted in Internet Marketing Pinterest for Business: How to Use Pinterest to Build Your Brand » « Marketing in Facebook: 5 Secrets to Using Facebook Insights to Grow Your Fan Base [...]

  13. trevor said:

    I’ve found that the best way to write online headlines is to give your readers some sort of news that they will benefit from, but also make them feel as if you’ve left something out so they want to find out more.

    • Peter Sandeen said:

      Hey Trevor,

      That’s a good addition and principle. People will never pay attention if they don’t expect to learn something new.

  14. trevor said:

    How to write a newspaper headline is one of my favourites because it has the curiosity factor built into it. How to do something. You may have to do something and need to know how. It could even be a problem that needs to be solved.

  15. [...] you’re unfamiliar with headline formulas, go here, here and here to find a bunch – and check out some easy-to-complete ones [...]

  16. [...] Peter Sandeen’s 101 Headline Formulas [...]

  17. Until I read your free report, I had no idea how important headlines were. So, I decided to put them to the test. From the first one I tried, my new headlines brought more traffic to my website and sold more books. Your information is priceless, Peter. Thank you so much for sharing.

    • Peter Sandeen said:

      Hey Cat,

      That’s great to hear :)

      Let me know if you have any questions I can help with.

      Cheers,
      Peter

  18. [...] they’re told and send on Tuesdays. Don’t worry if you aren’t using one of the 101 headline formulas that “work.” Write a unique headline that makes people’s head [...]

  19. […] framework used. You can easily do this by simply answering some specific questions such as, “What headline formula did he use?”, “Does the introduction include a story that outlines the problem or is it just […]

  20. […] 101 Headline Formulas by Peter Sandeen […]

  21. […] do is take what they’ve learned and apply it to your website.  In particular, pay attention to headline formulas.  A simple Google search for this term will turn up hundreds of formats you can copy in order to […]

Trackbacks

  1. [...] 101 Headline Formulas that Capture Attention and Get Your Message Read by Peter Sandeen [...]

  2. [...] 101 Headline Formulas that Capture Attention and Get Your Message Read by Peter Sandeen Posted in Internet Marketing Pinterest for Business: How to Use Pinterest to Build Your Brand » « Marketing in Facebook: 5 Secrets to Using Facebook Insights to Grow Your Fan Base [...]

  3. [...] you’re unfamiliar with headline formulas, go here, here and here to find a bunch – and check out some easy-to-complete ones [...]

  4. [...] Peter Sandeen’s 101 Headline Formulas [...]

  5. [...] they’re told and send on Tuesdays. Don’t worry if you aren’t using one of the 101 headline formulas that “work.” Write a unique headline that makes people’s head [...]

  6. […] framework used. You can easily do this by simply answering some specific questions such as, “What headline formula did he use?”, “Does the introduction include a story that outlines the problem or is it just […]

  7. […] do is take what they’ve learned and apply it to your website.  In particular, pay attention to headline formulas.  A simple Google search for this term will turn up hundreds of formats you can copy in order to […]

Copyright 2013 Peter Sandeen | about | services | contact | privacy | affiliate disclosure

contact {at} petersandeen {dot} com | +358 41 433 0144