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11 Proven Headline Formulas that Sell Like Crazy

The best sales headlines can be written in an infinite number of ways.

But, how do you write a sales headline in the first place?

Certain types of titles have repeatedly proven themselves for many years, and these headline formulas can give you an edge when you’re serious about persuading someone to read and respond to your copy.

Why is the headline that important?

Still not quite sure why the headline is that important, and why you should spend a good amount of time figuring out the right one for your audience?

Think of it this way:

If your headline doesn’t hold a reader’s interest, they won’t ever see the rest of your writing.

If you wrote something great, it deserves an equally great headline that persuades someone to check it out.

How do you write the best sales headlines?

The following 11 headline formulas are some of the easiest to write and the most powerful.

When it comes time to write headlines that sell, try one of these first. At the very least, you’ll get a creative jumping off point to craft a winning headline.

1. Say it simply and directly

The direct headline should be used far more often than it is. No cleverness, jokes, or wordplay. The direct headline gets right to the point.

It works particularly well with strong offers, recognized brand names, and product or service types with which the reader is familiar.

2. State the big benefit

One of the first techniques to write the best sales headlines is transforming your major benefit into a headline. After all, your number one selling point should be up front.

You stand the best chance of selecting the right audience and preparing them to respond. Plus, if they read nothing else, they’ve at least seen the best selling point of your copywriting offer.

If you have trouble writing this kind of headline, it’s a sure sign you need to think a bit more about your product or service.

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3. Announce exciting news

People read newspapers and magazines online because they love news. It’s just basic human nature. We’re curious. We not only want to know, we need to know.

Casting your headline in a way that suggests news, rather than advertising, can have the same powerful appeal of a feature story.

And the product or service doesn’t necessarily have to be newly created to qualify as news. It merely has to be news to your reader.

  • At Last, American Scientists Have Created the Perfect Alternative to a Mined Diamond
  • Introducing the Newest Idea in Cross-Training, from NordicTrack
  • This Breakthrough in Driverless Cars Is Going to Change Everything

4. Appeal to the “how-to” instinct

The how-to headline appeals to the need most of us have to improve ourselves or our lives in some way. The secret here is to focus on a need or want and promise to fulfill that need or want.

Be careful, though. The how-to must highlight the benefit or final result, not the process itself. Look at this example:

  • How to Make Money Working from Home with Your PC

Suppose instead it read, “How to start a full-time computer business in your home.” This misses the point, doesn’t it? It sounds like a lot of work. It says nothing about the real motivator, which is using a computer you already own to make money easily.

To write a how-to headline, begin with the words “How to” or “How” then immediately fill in the benefit.

How to …

  • Stop Smoking in 30 days … or Your Money Back
  • Profit From the 3 Greatest Service Businesses of the Decade
  • Travel Central America on $17 a day

5. Pose a provocative question

Some of the best sales headlines ask a question that directly involve the reader.

However, your question cannot be random or clever. It must relate directly and clearly to the major benefit of the product. It must also prod the reader to answer “yes” or at least “I’m not sure, but I want to know more.”

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6. Bark a command

Ready to learn how to write a sales headline that packs a punch?

Sales copy often falls flat because it fails to tell the reader what to do. This headline type allows you to be direct, provide a benefit, and take a commanding posture simultaneously.

It’s not conversational; it’s dictatorial — but in an acceptable way that readers have come to expect in clear writing.

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7. Offer useful information

Let me clue you in on a little secret. Most people don’t want information. I know you’ve always been taught otherwise, but it’s true. People are drowning in facts.

What people really want is a sense of order and predictability in their lives. We want to feel a sense of power over our world. Therefore, we seek out the secrets, tips, hints, laws, rules, and systems that promise to help us gain control and make sense of things.

Notice how these headlines promise information that does just that.

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8. Relay an honest, enthusiastic testimonial

A testimonial headline can do two things for you. First, it presents your reader with a third-party endorsement of your product or service. Second, it capitalizes on the fact that people like to know what other people say.

Take a look at these testimonial examples:

  • “Quite simply, the finest design software ever released”
  • “This diet program worked for me. It can work for you, too”
  • “It’s the first book on personal finance that really made sense to me”

A variation of this strategy is to write a headline in the first person and put quotation marks around it. This “virtual testimonial” gives you a more interesting headline and improves readership.

9. Authenticate your proposition with a little something extra

People distrust sales copy. And for good reason. A lot of copywriting proves inaccurate or downright dishonest.

To cut through this distrust, you can add a little something extra to your headline that seems out of place, yet rings true.

Look at the following headlines and notice how the words “Ohio Man,” “Obsolete,” and “Frustrated Bartender” stand out. Their specificity or quirkiness adds a truthful aura that traditional copy could never achieve.

  • Ohio Man Has 21-year Tested Formula to Create Multimillion-Dollar Business from Scratch, without Bank Loans, Venture Capitalists, or Selling Stock
  • Small Company’s New Golf Ball Flies Too Far, Could Obsolete Many Golf Courses
  • Frustrated Bartender Develops Incredible Device to Clean and Disinfect Your Entire Home

10. Get relevant from the start

People want to immediately know they’re in the right place. So, the better you know your ideal prospect, the better you can craft the most specific headline for them.

Imagine you’re speaking to someone in person. What would you say to capture and hold their attention?

These examples show how you can engage someone and guide them into the rest of your copy:

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  • The Easy Way to Fit Back into Your Favorite Pre-Pandemic Jeans
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11. Add emotionally stirring and action words to your headline

We know trigger words and persuasive words can make all the difference in your content and copy, so don’t forget to add them to your headlines to connect with your reader.

Showing your reader empathy lets them know that you understand their problems — and that you can help them.

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There are many other ways to write headlines that sell. Whatever strategy you choose, don’t make a decision too quickly. Take time to brainstorm. Write dozens or even hundreds of headlines.

You never know exactly what you want to say before you say it, so giving yourself plenty of choices is the surest way to arrive at the best sales headlines.

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