Great headlines are a big deal. They’re also frustratingly elusive.
At some point, every copywriter gets stumped thinking of article headline ideas. Fortunately, there’s plenty of sage advice out there to help you find a winning formula.
Good article title examples tend to fall into certain categories:
- Asking questions – Will One of These Startups be Your Next Employer?
- Courting controversy – Why Agriculture was a Terrible Invention
- Emotional appeals – This Porcupine Loves Pumpkins and We Can’t Stop Laughing
- Offering explanations – The Real Reason Why Idiots Get Promotions
- How tos – How to Declutter Your Desk in Four Simple Steps
- Mystery and intrigue – Grandma Loses One Million Dollars in Couch
- Short and sweet – Get Rich Overnight
- Listicles – The Top 15 Most Deceitful Animals
All of these strategies are different ways to convince readers that a piece of content is valuable, whether for information or entertainment.
Web viewers constantly run micro cost benefit analyses when scrolling through web pages and scanning headlines, always asking themselves, “Is this worth my time?” That, combined with shortening human attention spans means many headlines will miss the mark.
You need headlines that stick to get readers to engage with your content, and we’re here to help. We’ve put together six great article title examples to help you learn how to write the best copywriting headlines and amass a larger following.
1. Does this Recording Say “Yanny” or “Laurel”????
This article headline by Julia Reinstein was Buzzfeed’s fourth best performing news headline in 2018. Using a question for this article title proved to be a great way to hook readers and generate web traffic.
By the time the article was posted, many web viewers had already heard of the viral audio phenomenon. A simple statement headline wouldn’t be enough to attract readers who had already heard of the trend. However, a question would work.
Questions beg replies. Using one for a headline works best with a target audience that:
- Want the question answered themselves
- Already have opinions and want to weigh in
- Are curious about other people’s responses
Questions also help with search engine optimization, as many search engine queries are questions. If you write a blog piece that is meant to inform or be a guide, consider starting a title with “How do I,” “Why does,” or “When.”
2. Three Years of Misery Inside Google, the Happiest Company in Tech
This post by Nitasha Tiku was Wired’s most accessed long-form article in 2019. While the article is exceptionally interesting in its own right, the headline does wonders when it comes to drawing in viewership.
It would be an understatement to call Google “ very popular” Some would even call it “beloved,” and tech workers and students alike would kill to land a job at the company.
This headline artfully incorporates irony to generate intrigue and motivate clicks without outright alienating viewers. The jarring statement instantly draws both pro- and anti-Google readers that have an emotional stake in the topic.
3. 5 Reasons Modern-Day Parenting is in Crisis, According to a British Nanny
Emma Jenner from HuffPost delivers a clean one-two punch with this headline.
- The title clearly indicates the article is a listicle. Listicles are incredibly popular and perform well consistently because they promise quick, authoritative, and bite-sized hits of information.
- The headline makes an emotional appeal, combining a close to home topic with the loaded term “in crisis” to evoke strong feelings in any parent or parent-to-be.
By combining an obvious cue for convenient and valuable information with emotional appeal, Jenner creates a nearly irresistible headline for her target audience.
4. How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation
Here, Anne Helen Petersen of Buzzfeed gives us another example of combining multiple strategies. The headline she writes:
- Promises to offer an authoritative explanation
- Contains emotional appeal
- Is about a topic that is timely and relevant
As with the best copywriting headlines, this example is clear and concise in explaining what it has to offer. Readers know what they’re getting before they’ve clicked the headline and feel confident that they will get value out of what the author has to say. This headline does such an excellent job that it became the number one BuzzFeed News article in 2019.
5. 30 to 50 Feral Hogs, Explained
If your immediate reaction to Dylan Matthews’ headline is confusion, don’t worry. Some of the best article titles of all time have this effect. This headline from Vox is a perfect example of how keeping things short and sweet can help with adding intrigue and mystery.
Making the reader do a double take forces them to pause at your headline. If the headline manages to play coy and give little away, all the better. The reader has no choice now but to click through and satiate their curiosity. That’s what happened in this case.
This article was Vox’s most accessed Future Perfect piece in 2019.
6. How Successful People Stay Calm
During LinkedIn Pulse’s first year, this article by Travis Bradberry was the platform’s most popular. Written for Forbes, it received nearly three million views after being shared to the aggregate platform.
There are thousands of great article titles on Pulse, so to occupy the number one spot takes some great headline craftsmanship. This article headline works wonders because it promises a simple, authoritative, and topical how-to guide and makes it easy for readers to know exactly what they’re being offered.
As Bradberry’s article title demonstrates, simple, powerful, and authoritative promises can make headlines pop off the page and bring in curious readers.
There are many ways to write creative and cool article titles. The strategies you employ will of course depend on the content you produce and the blogging platform you work with. But remember that at their very core, the best copywriting headlines target readers’ internal cost-benefit analyses of whether a piece is worth their time. The best article titles always convince readers that the content is worth their time.
This article was written by Compose.ly writer Laura Holt.