Copywriting 101: How To Nail A Killer Headline Part 2

Last article, I kicked off this series with part one of how to write a headline:

I stated that the headline is arguably the most important part of your copy. Because your headline must capture your intended customer’s attention and make them stop and read the rest of your copy.

Don’t Make This Headline Writing Mistake

I don’t think there is anything wrong with writing your headline first or last. There are benefits to doing it either way.

Sometimes the angle of your headline or “the hook” will change the follow up copy a little bit. So if you write your headline last you may need to tweak your body copy to fit in with it. Depending on the project you may feel you cannot get started without a good headline to get the momentum of the copy going and really get into it. If you write your headline last you will thoroughly know the product, the flow of your copy and it may be easier to pick out an angle or Unique Selling Proposition to push in the headline.

Regardless of writing the headline first or last, don’t make the fatal mistake of not investing enough time in the headline. For the above mentioned reasons the headline is not an afterthought, it is your foot in the door, it is the start of your sales “conversation” with the prospect. It is your first impression so don’t blow it. You only get one chance before your prospect closes the browser window or throws your letter in the trash.

Many a great copywriter has spoken about spending hours or writing hundreds of headlines until they found the perfect one. So do not underestimate this part of copywriting and do not feel bad investing some serious time into it.

Use Of The Pre-Headline

People may know the pre-headline as that yellow highlighted text at the top of a page that sends a “caution sales letter ahead” warning sign into their brain.

But to be honest I don’t mind the pre-headline and a lot of the most successful sales letters use them. I think nowadays on the Internet with so much clutter and pre-avenues (search engine results, Adwords, Facebook, Twitter links, resource boxes in articles etc) that can lead to landing on a page  – the pre-headline can help let your prospect know straight away that they are in the right place and you have something that can potentially help them.

Pre-Headline Example

Let’s look at one from a successful Clickbank product called Tinnitus Miracle. Tinnitus is the medical term for ringing in the ears.

ATTENTION! If You or Someone You Love is Suffering from Tinnitus, Then This Will Be the Most Important Letter You Will Ever Read…

This is great. Straight and to the point. If you are losing your hearing or have some other hearing problem then this letter is not for you. Conversely the letter is not only written to sufferers of tinnitus, but also their spouses or family members who no doubt have heard the frustrations of their tinnitus suffering loved one. So straight away the target audience is identified and reassured that what follows is very important to them.

Where To Get Great Headline Ideas

Many people may scoff at this idea, but once you start doing it you will realize how powerful it can be. Just like reading good copy and sales letters can be beneficial, reading good headlines can help you get into a groove and feel what a good headline does.

It is a little known fact that some of the highest paid writers in the country write the cover headlines for magazines like The National Enquirer and other popular magazines like Cosmopolitan and Men’s Health. These a big money making magazines. I have heard The National Enquirer is the largest selling newspaper on earth (funny that cause nobody every admits to reading it!). These magazines occupy prime position at the supermarket checkout and their headlines are among the catchiest you will ever read.

I’m about to give you a priceless education in copy headline writing – seriously, this is worth a ton of money.

Check out this great link from Google images of all the Cosmopolitan covers. If you hover your mouse over the covers they will enlarge enough so you can read them.

The Catchiest Headlines You Will Ever Read!

Do you notice in 8 out of 10 covers what word appears in the headline under the “COS” of Cosmopolitan?

Coincidence? I don’t think so. Companies like this don’t gamble, that is why words like this are repeatedly used.

4 Important Qualities For Writing A Good Headline

  1. Self-Interest – People are always thinking “What is in this for me?” So let them know exactly how they can benefit
  2. News – If you presenting a new product, an update or recent addition to an old product be sure to mention it
  3. Curiosity – Used by itself is the lowest form of headline writing but coupled with either of the above two methods can be very powerful
  4. Quick and Easy – Basically these two universal elements that buyers want in most products from something that cleans the car to teaching me how to play the piano, potential buyers want these two qualities.

Two Easy To Implement Headlines

Two easy to use headlines that can be adapted to most niches are:

  1. How…
  2. If… then…

The “How…” headline was a favorite of master copywriter John Carlton. Here are two classic Carlton golf examples:

“How A Blind Golfer Stumbled Onto The Simple Secret Behind David Duval’s Swing That Can Give Anyone Unbelievable Distance With Total Accuracy!”

“How One Simple “Magic Move” (Which You Can Easily Feed Into Your Current Swing In Just 9 Minutes, Even If You Stink At The Game Right Now) Instantly Uncorks So Much Hidden Raw Power, Balance And Accuracy… That You Can Go Out Tomorrow And Launch A Pin-Point 230-Yard Tee Shot With A 3-Wood… From Your Knees!”

How is that last example for a headline?

Carlton shows you, if done correctly, a long headline with punctuation like brackets and ellipsis can work.

Now a lot of you reading this probably look at both those headlines, especially the last one and think they sound way too over the top. Just put them in context, these were most likely appearing in golf magazines and are targeted at obviously golf players. In that context it would be hard to argue, if you were the intended audience, you are at least not a little curious to read the opening paragraph. If the answer is “Yes”, then the headline has done its job!

I like the “if… then…” headline because it almost allows you to make a disclaimer with a bold claim. So instead of coming out and saying “You Can Get A Totally Ripped Six Pack!” I can say something like “If You Have 20 Minutes a Day To Exercise Then I Can Show You How To Get A Flat Firm Stomach”.

The second headline sounds more believable because there is a condition that needs to be followed. It grounds the statement in a little more reality, so it doesn’t just sound like some unbelievable miracle promise.

Next week, we will talk more about what happens after your headline, the body of your copy or salesletter.

Click here to read part three of this series.

Yaro Starak



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  • How to write powerful sales copy !

    There are those who simply don’t want to make the effort. They buy product after product, open it up and see that work is involved, then stop right then and there. Then they wonder why they are not having the success they feel they deserve.

    At the end of the day, it comes down to focus and desire. The true desire to succeed, then the power of focus to study and put in to action what they learn.

    It also helps a lot to laser focus on one or two particular things at a time. For example, focus on becoming a killer copy writer, or perhaps article marketing, or creating and selling products. In the internet marketing world, there are so many of these sub-niches that it can be hard to focus on just one or two.

  • Great tips, i reckon my headlines could use some improvement, especially with incorporating SEO.

  • As a freelance copywriter myself, I agree with the points in the article. The key is to pique the curiosity of readers and guide them into the content. If the header is of substance, that single line has already accomplished half the job.

    In advertising, you have only three seconds to capture the attention of your audience. Those few precious moments are crucial to setting up your brand proposition and how it can potentially solve a problem for the reader.

    I specialize in writing for small business owners so my common advice is to avoid fancy or cool headlines that mean little. Instead, go for headlines that strike home a message, fast and strong.

    • Very well said. I was not aware of the 3 second rule. When I have been writing headlines they tend to be longer than 3 seconds to read. This is a good tip and I will test this out next time.

      But are their any trigger words that should be incorporated into headlines? Are their any words that are general but stimulate the brain?

  • Great idea about getting learning from the headlines of major magazines.

    Amazon is a good place to check out headlines too. Just look at their best selling books in your field of expertise.

    Then preview the books online and see what headlines the bestselling books use in their chapter names.

  • Definitely prefer writing the title after. If written first it will definitely end up changing!

    • For me it works better if I write the title first because it guides me to write the rest of the article

  • Great post… I write my titles first before creating my content… Its much easier to right that way I can see what my topic is and it will guide me on what to right…

  • I mix it up. Sometimes I write the heading after writing the post and vice-versa.

  • Thank you, Leevi,
    I often write my headline before the main body. And sometime, when I’m through with the main body, I’ll go back to the headline to see if there is any adjustment to make so it could blend finally with the main body. Writing headline is worth taking much time to, as it make or mar your reader from going through your write up to know what is in it for her.

  • Really interesting article ^_^ thanks for sharing, I’ve just started blogging 🙂

  • True! This just reminds me of what my mentor used to tell me when I was still involved in inter-school journalism competitions that titles play a very crucial role in the articles or stories written. It has to be attention grabbing and everything else written in this post. I totally I agree with this. And thank you so much for posting I’m reminiscing now of the good old victorious days. 🙂

  • Thanks for the second part of this series.I have used “HOW” in the headlines of my blog posts and it really works.I’m eagerly waiting for your next post.

  • The Headline is the most important part of an article or blog post. If you don’t capture their attention with your Headline, then it doesn’t matter how great your article or post is, because no one is reading it.

    I choose my headlines first. I do the necessary keyword research, pick the keywords I want to rank for and make sure to include them in the title.

  • Its rather a very subjective topic, but thanks for the tips, shall try to employ them as i continually write my opinionated snapshots of this and that. Cheerios Aussies and some folks elsewhere

  • great tips for anyone trying to start being successful at copywriting

  • Headlines are made to capture one’s curious mind and get them to read what one has written.

  • I prefer to write the Headline first after trying different approaches for several reasons. Whether it is a post or an article it gives me the orientation I need to write and also the opportunity to include at the beginning my keyword after doing a preliminary research. I alwyas revisit my headline after writing my post just to make sure that is still in line to what I wrote.

  • I miss Yaro’s original articles…

  • Great tips on writing headlines. I would also add that, when writing
    content for the web, you should try and get your primary keyword/phrase in your headline.

  • This is a great blog – I love the idea about studying newspapers and magazines for inspiration.

    Thanks for sharing


  • Nobody might *admit* to reading The National Enquirer, but I saw plenty of ashamed customers adding it to their checkout during my first high school job at a grocery store. Many of them would even pretend it was for someone else! The headlines are ridiculous, but I’ll admit that many are pretty catchy – definitely something to learn from.


  • Wow that was a great post. Just proves over and over that sex sells…

    Thanks very much for the info

  • I usually go for the heading first. Thanks for the write up Leevi.

  • Ellie

    Hi Leevi,

    What would you recommend as a spiel for a local real estate agent for a flyer?

    I deal with prestige properties and want to be out of the norm.


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