The success of Buzzfeed, PopSugar, and Upworthy in the realm of clicks, views and site visitors is likely a complex web of expert audience targeting and an eye for trending content development.

Leading the way with super-charged copy, headlines are the first step towards successful blog posts, landing pages, opt-in forms and quizzes.

But it’s well known that at the very top of their pyramids rest engaging, unique and leading headlines that inspire people to click through to content. (Whether the blog post or article satisfies the promises of its title is another story).

Headlines are markedly different from the stories they represent in that prospective customers make their first impressions of your brand based on them.

That means your headlines shouldn’t read like a sales pitch but instead as an invitation to read on.

Fake headlines or “click-bait” may be easier to write, but rest assured that credible, engaging, and powerful alternatives exist to prevent both false advertising and boring leads. Get to know the 4U Formula.

Writer’s Block? Stick to the 4U Formula

It’s well documented that as many as 80% of online visitors will read typical headlines, but only 20% will patiently read your painstakingly crafted blog post. Increasing the odds that readers stay put on your content means you have to make your headlines as compelling as possible.

Melanie Duncan’s 4U Formula outlines an intriguing headline as “useful, urgent, unique and ultra-specific.”

Useful: Solve Problems

Offer value by knowing what your audience needs. Whether your business is based in service or product offerings, your headlines should identify a problem and offer a solution, as should the articles that accompany them.

Examples of useful headlines include how-to posts like this one from Psychology Today.

Urgent: Think FOMO [i.e. Fear Of Missing Out]

While time-sensitivity has the greatest potential to convert a reader, it’s also the hardest to potentially capture in the context of your content. It’s no wonder that news outlets often employ urgent headlines in online content with formulas like, “Avoid THIS Problem Before It’s Too Late” and examples like this one from Fox News.


Unique: Puns, Wordplay, High-Interest

If you’re writing about it, you’re not the first. The internet is oversaturated, which means that interesting topics and unusual phrasing are the way to make your content enticing in a way that leads to a click every time.


Ultra-Specific: Name It with Numbers and Adjectives

Prospective readers prefer to know the content of the article before they click, and the most enticing headlines take it one step further with qualifying numbers or adjectives.

For example, don’t simply write about the best Christmas gifts to buy for kids. Write about the best Christmas gifts under $20 for toddlers. And don’t just mention interior design ideas. Talk about DIY interior design for modern farmhouse lovers.

In this example from Video Fruit, the headline uses “10,000” to draw you in and a smaller “5” to put your effort into perspective.


financial times newspaper with tablet

Writer’s Block 2.0? Try Out Simple Headline Formulas

Headline formulas are a starting point to create creative phrasing customized for your industry. The following formulas are versatile and can hold their own as title headlines, chapter titles, subheadings, and off-set text to keep body copy and lists interesting.

  1. [Product Name] is a [product category] that [alternate thing it wins at]

Example: The Skimm is a news app that gives you stories that makes you smarter.

  1. The Only [SEO Keyword or Phrase] Made Exclusively to [Best Outcome]

Example: The only weight-loss medication designed to give you results without the risk.

  1. Now You Can [Do Something Helpful] [Opposite of Expectations]

Example: Now you can get the look without the designer price tag.

  1. [Get rid of pain in a surprising way]

Example: Get your annual eye exam using your smartphone.

  1. Here’s the [Adjective] Way to [Solve a Common Problem]

Example: Here’s the Eco-Green way to keep your kitchen spotless.

  1. [Action verb] like [world-wide famous example]

Example: Serve like Steffi Graff.

  1. Get the [Unique Adjective] Power of [Product] Without [Common Industry Problem]

Example: Get the organizational power of a spreadsheet without juggling dozens of documents.

  1. [Action verb] in [Length of Time]

Example: Whiten teeth by nine shades in two weeks.

  1. Can your [current answer] pass the _______ Test?

Example: Can your dating app pass the Protective Dad Test?

  1. [One word.]

Example: Rebel.

Headline formulas serve as inspiration, not as crutches. Guaranteed. Your prospects have seen these all before, and it’s your job to make them special from scratch.

Make your headlines work hard by crafting compelling leads that leave people no choice but to click. For content development strategies to reach your target audience, our digital marketing experts at RLC Media would love to chat.

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