Mastering the art of blog headline copywriting can make all the difference between growing your traffic and no one reading your content.
Your blog post titles are your first (often only) opportunity to capture your audience’s attention. Sure, you need great copy to promote the blog post and meta descriptions are important. But you know the headline is what gets people to click.
Want to know the secret to writing the most attention-grabbing headlines?
Don’t try to reinvent the copywriting wheel every time you publish a new post. A blog headline swipe file gives you tried-and-true formulas for writing titles that earn clicks.
All Great Blog Post Headlines Share These 4 Fundamentals
Maybe you’ve already read a blog post like this one.
You found a massive list of proven headline formulas and started putting them to work on your blog.
But nothing happened, so you’re back to square one.
Headline copywriting formulas, however powerful, can only do so much on their own. They might grab attention and drive clicks—but then what?
Blog headlines don’t exist in a vacuum. They have to work together with the actual content.
Covering these four fundamentals will ensure you can get the most out of your blog headline swipe file.
1. Great Blog Post Titles Align with Your Body Content
This is the big difference between clickbait and a great headline.
Clickbait intentionally exaggerates the value of your content just to earn traffic. The second someone lands on the page? They bounce. And while that might work to some extent for ad-driven sites, it’s not going to cut it for your content marketing strategy.
Your blog post titles have to align with your content if you want to maximize both traffic and engagement.
This kind of alignment might be extremely obvious. If your headline says there will be 5 key points, your content can’t stop short at 3.
But sometimes it’s more complicated than that.
Say you find this headline formula: “X Secrets to Solving [Audience Pain Point]”.
If the pain point is strong enough and you’re writing about an underserved topic, this formula could work well.
However, you can’t include a handful of the “secrets” your audience has heard countless times before. If you’re promising previously unknown solutions, the content has to deliver. That’s how you attract attention, minimize bounce rates, and build trust with your audience.
2. Great Blog Post Titles Speak the Audience’s Language
It’s not enough to just align your headline with the blog post’s content. Simply describing the value of the post isn’t enough. Remember, you’re trying to sell someone on clicking through as you interrupt their scrolling on social media or try to break through their inbox noise.
That’s why so many copywriting pros will tell you to write 5, 10, even 20 headline options before deciding which one to go with.
Writing multiple headlines will help you work your way toward something that matches your audience’s language. Is there a specific way they talk about the pain point your blog post discusses? Use that.
For blog headlines, clarity beats cleverness every time. You want your audience to quickly understand how the blog post will help them solve a business problem. Clever headlines might get the job done, but they should never come at the cost of clearly conveying value.
Avoid clichés and don’t waste space with plays on words if they take away from your value proposition. And don’t get complacent with overused formulas. Step away from headlines like “The Ultimate Guide to X” or “A Complete Overview of X.” Not because they haven’t been effective in the past, but because an alternative option could help you stand out more.
3. Great Blog Post Titles Are Optimized for Search
Not every blog post has to be written specifically for search. But when they are, your headline has to set the content up for SEO success.
This might seem obvious, but there are still plenty of brands stuffing their headlines with keywords hoping to rack up those Page 1 rankings. Avoid that at all costs. Write for humans, not algorithms.
How do you do that without sacrificing SEO?
First, make sure an exact match of your target keyword/phrase appears in the headline (ideally on the early side). From there, you can build out an effective, attention-grabbing title by focusing on search intent.
Determine whether the people searching for your target keyword are looking for inspiration, education, or help with execution. Use things like Google’s autocomplete feature and Answer the Public to figure out the context around that keyword and write your headline to match it.
This is where many headlines go wrong. Your target keyword phrase might be a few words long already. Then you add in a few additional words to match the search intent. All of a sudden, you’re left with what seems like a long headline that feels clunky.
Don’t be afraid to go long with your headlines. One study found that headlines in the 12- to 16-word range are actually most effective despite typical advice to keep them shorter.
When you give yourself more room to work with in the headline, you can take all the necessary SEO inputs and turn them into an audience-oriented line that will attract the right attention.
4. Great Blog Post Titles Use Active Language
Passive vs. active voice is one of the biggest writing traps. Whether you’re working on long-form articles, email copy, or social media posts, active language makes your point clearer and your text more engaging.
If you’re someone who struggles to naturally write in an active voice, pay special attention to the difference in your headlines.
Look at the headline for this blog post as an example. Originally, I wrote “5 Formulas You Can Steal…” rather than “Steal These 5 Formulas…”. Maybe that doesn’t seem like a major difference. But shifting to the active voice makes the headline feel punchier. “Steal” becomes a true power word instead of a bland filler.
Active voice combined with power/emotion words will really help you capture the audience’s attention. These are the headline elements that help you tap into psychological triggers to stop people in their social media scrolling tracks.
Build Your Blog Headline Swipe File with These 5 Powerful Formulas
There are countless ways to write attention-grabbing blog headlines. But that doesn’t mean you can’t spot patterns in what works time and time again.
Stealing proven copywriting formulas will help you come up with winning titles right now—without having to read dozens of copywriting books, take new courses, or waste time on trial and error.
Here are 7 powerful formulas to start off your blog headline swipe file.
The Exclusive Case Study
Whether you’re studying a customer’s success or analyzing what works for an industry leader, people love to see real-world examples of how others have addressed relevant pain points.
That’s why the exclusive case study formula works so well for blog headlines.
The formula is some variation of: “An Inside Look at How [Company] Achieved [Solution]”
Example: “Peek inside HubSpot’s multi-million dollar SaaS growth strategy”
ROI You Can Replicate
It doesn’t really matter what industry you’re in—exceptional ROI always attracts attention.
One reason is that using real ROI stories lets you get super specific with numbers in your headlines. Instead of a basic listicle, you can write out the thousands of dollars you earned (and that you can teach your readers to earn).
The formula is: “How [Subject] Made [$ Value] Doing [Action] (with [Unique Detail])”
The Subject Matter Expert or Influencer
People want to learn from authoritative experts in their industries. When you aren’t at that level yourself, you can pull subject matter experts from within your organization into the content creation process. Or, you can start interviewing industry experts to get content your audience will love.
This ties directly into an effective blog headline formula. It’s simple, but the power comes from the expert’s name recognition.
The formula is: “X Lessons [Audience] Can Learn from [Expert]”
The How-To Guide
Everyone wants actionable steps to achieving their goals. And while “how-to” posts are everywhere, there’s always room for a truly insightful guide to solving your audience’s biggest problems.
How do you write these headlines to cut through the noise?
Here’s a general formula: “How to [Achieve X Goal] in Just [X] Easy Steps”
Example: “How to Build a Resume in 7 Easy Steps”
I know what you’re thinking—do we really need a formula for writing a listicle headline?
Maybe more than you think. There’s this growing misconception that listicles have become low quality content. And that’s because so many of them fail to deliver real value.
If you’ve put in the work to make yours worthwhile, you need a headline that conveys that value. Databox always does a great job with this. They create lists packed with expert-level insights about highly specific topics, rather than just general overviews of common problems.
The formula is: “X [Noun] for [Verb] Your [Specific Metric/Goal]”
A Blog Headline Swipe File Saves Time—But It Still Takes Work
There are two extremes when it comes to blog headline copywriting.
Are you the person who agonizes over every detail, spending all kinds of time churning through headline options until you find the right one? Or, are you more of a “whatever works” kind of person?
Maybe you’re somewhere in the middle. Either way, a blog headline swipe file filled with proven formulas can help you streamline the process.
But make no mistake—coming up with great headlines consistently will take some work. As you plug your info into the formulas, make sure you’re always covering the fundamentals. That way, you’ll come up with titles that actually grab your target audience’s attention.