How to write headlines (without sounding like they were written by a robot AI copywriting overlord)

Headlines are like doors. They serve as the connecting link to new possibilities on the other side.

This happens every. single. day. Millions of web pages and ads are unread, ignored and abandoned.

The reason? Boring headlines.

Between 2015 and 2019 Mr. Robot gave us 43 of the most intense, thought-provoking, emotional episodes in television history. Ever.

Mr. Robot tells the story of a genius hacker and an underground hacker group (Fsociety) trying to take down powerful corporations... AND save the World.

In the second season of Mr. Robot there's this scene when Angela is kidnapped and locked in a dark room. 4 hours later she meets Whiterose.

Whiterose is the leader of the Dark Army, a Chinese hacker group. Angela is a childhood friend of Elliot Alderson (a cybersecurity engineer, hacker...and the main protagonist of Mr. Robot).

So Whiterose says, "You've been here close to four hours, and you never thought to walk out the door."

Angela, puzzled, looks back to the door.

Then she says, "The door was locked.

Whiterose replies, "I’ve always found doors fascinating inventions. They hold the entry to unlimited imagination."

Then she adds, "Before you open any door, a World filled with possibilities sits right behind it. And it isn’t until you open it they are realized. Such potential they bring to our minds. And yet a lock stopped you from all of that. How...lazy. "

Every trade has it tricks. You see, in copywriting, getting people's attention is the job of the headline.

That's why headlines are like doors. They serve as the connecting link to new possibilities on the other side.

In other words, the #1 job of your website headline is to get people to read your second sentence.

OR as as ad legend David Ogilvy once said, "It's the ticket on the meat". But the reader will never read past the headline unless what you have to say is clear AND relevant to the reader.

Remember, a headline is a story.

You either make it intriguing, or you make it forgettable.

When writing headlines consider using one of these 17 techniques that have been proven to work by real sales tests.

Most homepage headlines are so buzzword-y they sound like they were written by a lawyer or a robot AI overload (aren’t they the same thing?!). These writing techniques and headline formulas are good enough to help you craft headlines far more believable, more vivid and more persuasive than any headline written by the average fluff AI copywriting tools out there.

Type of headline: News Headlines

News headlines work because they are good pullers. They’re fabulously effective (when used correctly) in getting attention and promoting sales.

So use them if you’re launching new products (or things that you want to be perceived as new).

1. Technique: Write a headline that starts with the word “Introducing”...

Headline FORMULA:

Introducing {Product category} good enough to {the desirable thing your product does in an unexpected way}.

Real -World Example:

"Introducing the Margarine good enough to fool Mother Nature."

⇝ Chiffon Margarine print ad, 1971

Headline FORMULA:

Introducing {Brand Name}'s new {Product Name}. For {target audience} who {statement of the need  or desired outcome}.

Real -World Example:

"Introducing Plymouth's new Sport Fury. For the man who wants to go first!"

⇝ Plymouth print ad, 1962.

Headline FORMULA:

{Your Brand’s Name} introduces {Product Name}. A {desired outcome} disguised as {product category}.

Real -World Example:

"McDonald's introduces Big Mac. A meal disguised as a sandwich."

⇝ McDonald's print ad, 1969

Headline FORMULA:

Introducing {Product Name}. The {Villain*} substitute.

Real -World Example:

"Introducing BORATEEM Plus. The bleach substitute"

BORATEEM bleach print ad, 1973.

* Position your brand against a villain. The villain can be some other guy’s overpriced or ineffective product. Or a product category you’re trying to replace.

2, Technique: Write a headline that starts with the word “Announcing”...

Headline FORMULA:

Announcing the {size adjective} price in {Period of Time}. A {Product Name} for just {price}.

Real -World Example:

"Announcing the smallest price in years. A Jeep CJ for just $6765."

Jeep print ad, 1982.

Headline FORMULA:

Announcing  a new kind of {Product category} from {Your Brand’s Name}.

Real -World Example:

"Announcing a new kind of portable TV from Magnavox."

⇝ Magnavox print ad, 1958

Headline FORMULA:

Announcing new {Product name} with {different thing your product does best}

Real -World Example:

"Announcing new with twice the bubbles."

Sani-Flush ad, 1967.

3, Technique: Write a headline that starts with the word “Now”...

Headline FORMULA:

Now {Your Brand ’s  Name} has {key differentiator or unexpected thing that makes your product special}.

Real -World Example:

"Now Jell-O has the just-picked taste of fresh fruit."

Jell-O print ad, 1968.

Headline FORMULA:

Now for {target audience}, a {Product category} so {adjective} you won't believe {key differentiator or unexpected thing that makes your product special}

Real -World Example:

"Now for Schick Injector users, an edge so smooth you won't believe there's a blade in the razor!"

⇝ Schick print ad, 1961

Headline FORMULA:

Now there's a {size} + {Product category} that works like {comparative}.

Real -World Example:

"Now there's a small Husky lawn tractor that works like the big ones."

Bolens Husky Lawn Tractor print ad, 1971.

4. Technique: Write a headline that starts with the word “New”...

Headline FORMULA:

New {adjective} way to {desired benefit} + {time period}

Real -World Example:

"New greaseless way to keep your hair neat all day”

Vitalis air tonic print ad, 1956.

Headline FORMULA:

New! {Product category} with {key benefit that makes your product different}.

Real -World Example:

"New! Soup with faraway flavor..."

⇝ KNORR ”Soup with faraway flavor” PRINT AD, 1961

5. Technique: Write a headline that starts with the word “It’s here...

Headline FORMULA:

It's here ! A new kind of {Product Category} with a new kind of {key differentiator or unexpected thing that makes your product special}.

Real -World Example:

" It's here ! A new kind of soap with a new kind of washing action.”

⇝ Oxydol Clothing Detergent print ad, 1948

6. Technique: Write a headline that starts with the word “At last”...

Headline FORMULA:

At last. A {Product Category} that  {Pain your product solves} without {#1 Fear or Objection that is stopping the reader from trying your product} .

Real -World Example:

"At last. A pantyhose that supports your legs without destroying your ego.”

⇝ Burlington Champagne Pantyhose Print ad, 1973

7. Technique: Write a headline like BBC news (short, clear and informative)...

Headline FORMULA:

{Brand Name} replaces {Old way} with {New way} for {Desirable Outcome} .

Real -World Example:

" India temple replaces elephant with robot for rituals

BBC news, 2023

Type of headline: Price Related Headlines

Price headlines work, but use them very carefully. Because as ad legend Rory Sutherland says, “Price is not perceived rationally, it’s perception driven.”

Which means that
how you frame the price of your product can dramatically affect its perceived value

8. Technique State the price in your headline...

Headline FORMULA:

For those who {Target Audience} a {Product Category} that justifies spending {Price}

Real -World Example:

" For those who know the value of a dollar, a car that justifies spending forty thousand of them

BMW 735i print ad, 1986 .

Headline FORMULA:

The {Price} {Product Name} is designed to {#1 Pain Your Product solves}. Not {#1 fear or objection that is stopping the reader from buying your product}.

Real -World Example:

" The $3999 Subaru Hatchback is designed to carry a burden. Not be one”

⇝ Subaru Hatchback print ad, 1980

9. Technique: State the reduced price in your headline...

If you’re competing by offering mad discounts frequently, you’re in a race to the bottom.

Yes, it’s tempting and easier to sell your stuff giving discounts. But you're basically getting your clients hooked on discounts. And they'll get used to only buy your stuff when you offer discounts.

So keep these reduced price headline formulas for emergencies or for special dates only (For example: Black Friday or Cyber Monday).

Headline FORMULA:

If you still think you can't afford {product or service}, you haven't checked {Your Brand Name}'s + {special discount, new low price, new easy payment terms, etc.}

Real -World Example:

" If you still think you can't afford to go to Europe - then you haven't checked Pan Am's new lower fares”

⇝ Pan Am new lower fares print ad, 1964

Headline FORMULA:

From {Brand Name}! A {Product category} at the lowest price ever  — only {Your Product Price}.

Real -World Example:

" From Kodak! A Brownie Movie Camera at the lowest price ever  — only $29.95.”

⇝ Kodak Print Ad “A Brownie Movie Camera”, 1957

10. Technique: “Same price, more features.” ...

If your product has more features than your competitors but is available in the same price range, use the "Same price" angle as an anchor and contrast your superior features.

Headline FORMULA:

A {Product category} for the price of a {Alternative way to frame your product}.

Real -World Example:

"A sports car for the price of a sporty car.

(In this case American Motors uses the more features, same price angle).

⇝ American Motors AMX print ad, 1970

11. Technique: ”Same features, lower price.”  ...

If the thing you're selling has the same features as your competitors, then use the "Same features, lower price" angle as the anchor.

Headline FORMULA:

Only {Your Brand’s Name} could introduce a {Product category + key differentiator} and call it a bargain.

Real -World Example:

"Only Pioneer could introduce a Quartz Phase locked loop turntable and call it a bargain.”

⇝ Pioneer PL570 Turntable print ad, 1977

12. Technique: “Higher features, higher price, but designed better”  ...

This is Apple's way of framing products. If your product user interface and user experience is superior compared to your competitors…and if your prices are also higher, use the "designed better" angle.

Because consumers are happy to pay more for products that are beautifully designed and easy to use. But they won't care about your superior features if your product is difficult to use.

Headline FORMULA:

It can {key differentiator that makes your product special} like {comparative}, {second differentiator or unexpected thing that makes your product special} like {comparative} and {third differentiator or unexpected thing that makes your product special} like {comparative}.

Real -World Example:

"It can sing like Caruso, talk like Barrymore and calculate like Einstein.”

⇝ Apple IIgs Introduction
print ad, 1986

Type of headline: Benefits headlines

Hunt for revelations about what your audience needs, but communicate what they want in a way that resonates. It’s much more lucrative.

Headline FORMULA:

After {analogy or story that makes the reader feel their pain deeply}, it helps {unspoken consumer need or want}.

Real -World Example:

"After a long day at the office, it helps to go off by yourself and scream.”

⇝ 911 Turbo Porshe print ad , 1989

Headline FORMULA:

{Product Name} turns {painful problem the reader is experiencing} into {secret consumer want or need}

Real -World Example:

" It turns garages into recording studios”

⇝ Sharp GF-555 X print ad, 1980

The truth is, making a distinctive claim (and backing it with evidence) is much more persuasive than saying that your brand is the best/ the smartest/ the cheapest/ the simplest / the blablaest something.

Headline FORMULA:

In the {Product category} started by {State a distinct/ fun/ weird/ interesting fact about the Founder}, {signal the ONE big virtue of using your product}.

Real -World Example:

"In the church started by a man who had six wives, forgiveness goes without saying.”

⇝ Fallon Mcelligott “Episcopelian Church” Henry 8th print ad from the 1980s

Headline FORMULA:

You can’t expect {desired outcome} unless you have {desirable thing you’re selling}

Real -World Example:

" You can't expect great music unless you have great equipment”

⇝ Pioneer print ad, 1974

Write copy that clarifies who you’re talking to (and makes the reader nodding his or her head in agreement)

Headline FORMULA:

{Period Of Time} ,{Target Audience} {Action Verb} {Pain The Reader Wants To Eliminate} Without Even {Classic objection or stereotype linked to the pain reader wants to eliminate} .

Real -World Example:

"Every day, Thousands Of Women Experience Labor  Pains Without Even Being Pregnant”

⇝  “Working Opportunities For Women” ad

Type of headline: Use Key words in headlines

As ad legend John Caples once said, “Times changes. People don’t.” That’s why headlines that appeal to a reader's self interest still work. People may disagree about what self improvement is important, but we all want to improve ourselves."

16. Technique: How-To Headlines

Headline FORMULA:

How to choose the right {Product Category} when there are so many right{Product category} to choose from.

Real -World Example:

"How to choose the right stereo when there are so many right stereos to choose from”

⇝ Panasonic print ad, 1972

Tip: Use this formula if your business is selling a product with many SKUs.

17. Technique: Start your headline with the word “if”...

Headline FORMULA:

If you {Interesting / fun / weird product fact that makes your product special} you’d be {key differentiator that makes your product stand out} too.

Real -World Example:

"If you spent years trapped inside the wall of a barrel, you’d be a little intense too”

⇝ Jim Beam “If you spent years trapped inside the wall of a barrel”, print ad, 2012