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How To Create A Headline Nobody Will Read

How To Create A Headline Nobody Will Read

Why are we still talking about writing killer headlines in today’s cluttered multi-channel communication climate?


Because breaking through the cluttered media landscape is crucial for your brand and your business. Whether we are talking about an email, text, Tweet, Pinterest posting, billboard, or pop up Facebook video, you have a few seconds to make your audience care enough to click to read more.

And, not only are you competing for eyeballs with tons of other advertising, you are competing against some truly brilliant marketers.


Here’s the formula we use at FocalPoint:

  • Remember with dealing with short-attention-span humans
  • Keep headlines short, direct and sweet
  • Never lose track of marketing psychology, i.e, people want to avoid pain and angst or gain something important.
  • Track what works


Dangling a prize

Often categorized as a Gain headline or What’s in it for me?, these headers have to be specific. You provide your reader with advance knowledge about how they benefit by taking the time to read more, for instance

  • Do this 10 seconds a day to lose 5 pounds
  • Knowing this iPhone secret will lower your phone bill 50%
  • Use this word to double your sales


How do we create headlines that get people to react? Offering a measurable result (like that above-stated 50% or 5 pounds) or a specific time period (10 seconds a day) is pretty irresistible to we humans.


Of course, there’s got to be real content to back up that headline. And, politics aside, you shouldn’t manufacture fear if it isn’t there already. Nobody wants to click to the rest of your story and feel taken.

Here are some tried and true words we like:

  • increase, more, better
  • update, reinvent
  • stronger, healthier
  • grow, expand
  • avoid, skip, eliminate
  • decrease, escape
  • destroy, conquer


The more creative and unexpected the headline, the better

The famous 1960s headline is a perfect example. “When I sat down to the piano, they laughed,” is a classic. You can’t but help wonder why. Intrigued, you have to know more. Today, it would be great click bait.

Avoiding pain

Humans are hardwired to avoid pain and embarrassment (psychology 101). If you promise a way out of a dilemma or simple tips to protect yourself from an emotional or perceived social disaster (losing clients, avoiding an IRS audit, looking older than you are), we humans want to know what you know. Einstein might write this formula as TA = QS

(threat avoidance = quick solution.) We all want both parts of that equation.


As you might imagine (we are a creative services organization, after all), one of our favorite versions of pain/gain headlines is one that your reader really has to think about. One example of this is a negative reverse headline, where you promise a negative outcome. Yup, like the one at the top of this page.


Stay with us here. Your reader will know that you are up to something, but will be intrigued enough by your set up that s/he feels compelled to click to see how you weave the story together. For instance:

  • How to reduce your credit score without realizing it
  • Do this to lose at least 40% of your friends
  • Go bankrupt in as little as 3 months
  • Drive your best customers to your competitor.


So…. being a savvy user of social (and every other type of) marketing is just as important whether you are a multinational organization, an entrepreneur, or a growing regional business. You have tons of inexpensive marketing tools at your disposal, but knowing how to use those tools to gain (the right) eyeballs (and keep them focused there) is practiced magic.


FocalPoint knows how to focus those eyeballs, playfully, artfully, and successfully. Shall we talk?

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