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The 3 Major Types of Headlines in Copywriting

By: Compose.ly — March 03, 2020

Headlines can make or break your marketing strategy.

Of course, there’s a lot that goes into creating quality content, but a headline is a reader’s first impression of your brand and your message. If it doesn’t encourage your audience to read on, then it won’t matter how great your content is—you’ve lost them before they even gave you a chance.

According to content marketing expert Neil Patel, “Your headline is how you capture your audience and convince them that they want to read your content. It’s arguably the most important part of your content.”

That’s why it’s critical to invest time in learning how to craft the perfect headline. And one part of mastering headlines is understanding the different types of headlines and when to use them.

Each type has its strengths and weaknesses, but all of them have their place in marketing. Learn these three types of headlines in copywriting and you’ll be on your way to better and more effective writing.

1. The Direct Headline

The direct headline plainly states the audience’s pain point and your solution to that pain point. With this headline, the strategy is to be straightforward instead of easing into the subject matter.

Formula

[Audience’s pain point] + [Solution to pain point]

Examples:

  • “Same Day Delivery Custom Jackets, Just in Time for the Holidays”
  • “25 Cat Pictures that Will Make You Feel Warm Inside”
  • “A Clinically-Proven Cream that Clears Up Acne for Good”

Why It Works

Award-winning blogger Brian Dean says, “Your headline should answer the question in your customer’s mind: ‘What’s in it for me?’”

The direct headline does exactly that by clearly communicating to your audience. It states the problem and solution in one simple sentence. There’s no doubt that your audience knows the benefit they’ll get.

Drawback

One disadvantage to the direct headline is that it can be overpowering or come across as salesy. There’s a risk that the audience will feel like you’re trying to close a sale and not taking the time to empathize with them.

2. The “Reason Why” Headline

The “reason why” headline explains to your audience why they experience certain pain points. BuzzSumo analyzed 100 million headlines and discovered the best phrases to use at the start of a headline. At the top of the list is the phrase “X Reasons Why.”

Formula

[Number] + Reasons Why + [Audience’s pain point]

Examples:

  • 11 Reasons Why Your Baby Won’t Sleep at Night
  • 6 Reasons Your Boss Won’t Give You a Raise

Why It Works

People want to know why they have certain pain points. Sometimes they search for an answer by typing “why” into a search engine. The “Reason Why” headline answers that itching question perfectly. Readers love getting to the bottom of their problems, so they’re quick to click on these posts.

Drawback

The “reason why” headline can be limited since it explains why your audience has a pain point but doesn’t necessarily explain how to solve it. For example, “6 Reasons Your Boss Won’t Give You a Raise” explains why the reader can’t get a raise, but it doesn’t tell the audience how to get one.

Big Tip
Looking for real-life examples of effective article titles? Look no further with these creative headline examples.

3. The “How To” Headline

The “how to” headline teaches your audience how to solve a tricky problem or learn a new skill. It promises to guide your reader through a step-by-step process that helps them tackle their pain points.

Formula

How to + [Action your audience wants to learn] + [Unique benefit]

Examples:

  • How to Add a Social Media Icon to Your Gmail Signature in Ten Minutes
  • How to Fire an Employee Without Feeling Like a Terrible Person
  • How to Brew the Perfect Cup of Coffee Every Time

Why It Works

According to Buffer, the “how to” headline entices the reader because it promises they will become smarter and better. It’s not just giving the reader more information—it’s equipping them to overcome a challenge or learn a new skill all on their own. This headline empowers and excites the audience.

Drawback

The “how to” headline asks a lot from your audience. Before reading on, the reader already knows they will have to commit time and effort into following instructions. Depending on the audience’s capacity, they may opt for content that’s easier to digest, such as a listicle.

Conclusion

Understanding and using the different types of headlines in copywriting will empower your marketing. Think of them as different tools in your copywriting kit.

Without solid headlines, it’s easy to lose audience interest. That means less traffic, less engagement, and fewer sales.

But here’s the good news: if you understand how to use these types of headlines in copywriting, you’ll keep your audience engaged and excited to read your content.

This article was written by Compose.ly writer Salvatore Lamborn.


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