Stand Out with Engaging Blog Headlines: A Guide for Marketers [Video]

It's estimated that, on average, 8 out of 10 people will only read your headline. The other two will scroll through and read the article. It seems insane, right? The takeaway here is not how short humankind's attention span has gotten (that's for another piece), rather it's how important the blog headline is for open and engagement rates.

blog headline

We've discussed headlines before, so today will be a bit different. What we want to do is talk about the different varieties of headline styles you can choose from. For every article you write, you have to not only write the best headline possible to capture your reader's attention, but you also have to decide what style to write it in to capture their emotion. Each style has its strengths when appropriate and weaknesses when its better avoided, and we'll review each situation. What we're not going to do is tell you which style to use and when. That has to be your call.

Finding the style that matches the tenor of your article, is true to your brand voice, and will resonate with your target audience is something only you can determine. A/B testing is highly recommended, at least at first, to help with this determination, as you can try the same heading in different styles and see which has the better read rate. Some questions to ask right out of the gate:

  • Is your company vibe laid back? Or more black tie?
  • Business casual, or just casual?
  • Are you more of the ":" sort of company or the "—" kind?

With that in mind, we offer our top 9 headline styles that can help you grab and reel in readers' attention and one to be sure you steer clear of. This list is an amalgam of sorts, with some concrete style recommendations and some concepts to use when formulating your own branded style. Don't have a branding style guide? Get our checklist here, and you'll be well on creating one.

1. "The Best…."

Zero in on a pain point you know your audience deals with, then give them a straightforward way to solve it. Suppose that happens to involve your product or service, bonus. And if not, don't worry about it; the point of content marketing is to show authority in your industry and engender trust in your audience. The key to this headline style is to draw readers in and give them the information they can use. That boosts trust in your brand and will keep them coming back for more. 


2. The List

This is the "Top X ideas for..." headline style, and it's a proven winner. People like numbers, and they love short entry lists that give them ideas to work with. Find a craft or hobby you know your audience is into, then give them a post that lists the 11 best places to do it or the 9 top social media accounts they should be following. This headline style shows your human side and makes your content more relatable when they start scrolling to read more.


3. Personal Anecdote

If your content piece is about how you learned to do what you do, your headline should say just that clearly and straightforwardly. "How we learned to code." "How I figured out what to do with my life.” And so on. This is another way to show your human side and make your audience feel they already know you before reading the story. This style also shows that people trust people, so you saying that you did this thing this certain way will endear you to your readers and make them trust you even more.


4. Personal Afront

Also known as "throwing shade" headlines, this is a tricky one. When used correctly, it can do wonders for your authority on the subject you're writing on. However, if done poorly, it can just turn your audience against you. Styled like "Doing this makes you look like an amateur" or "The mistake you're making that's costing you clients,"  this style is an immediate attention grabber. After all, nobody wants to look like an amateur, right?


5. The DIY

This is your standard "How To" guide headline. When your content is a straightforward tutorial or quick start guide, this is the way to go with your headline. It's clear from the start what you're offering, there's no way not to know a tutorial is coming up when the headline says “How to Install Your New Widget.”

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6. The Ultimate Guide

When you've combined your evergreen How To guides into an all-encompassing guide to…(enter your subject here), this is your go-to headline. Be sure to use words like:

  • Definitive
  • Ultimate
  • Complete
  • Guide


7. The Confidant

“You're doing great, except for this one thing." This headline will catch readers' attention for similar reasons as "throwing shade." Nobody wants to be called out for doing something wrong. And for similar reasons, this is a touchy style to use, we wouldn't recommend using either of these too often to avoid alienating your readers. That way, when you do, it will grab eyeballs and draw readers in to see what could make you so strident.


8. The Emotional Contagion

Words are powerful. Using these or similar words in your headline strikes an emotional chord that people find extremely hard to resist. They'll click or scroll through to find out what triggered such strong emotion in you:

  • Awe
  • Fear
  • Lust
  • Anger
  • Angst
  • Joy


9. The Psychological Trigger

Remember Maslow? Speak to your audience's need for self-esteem and standing in their community or office, and watch the read rate skyrocket. Assuming your audience has their basic needs met (food, shelter, etc.), it's safe to say they're ready for a self-esteem boost to help bring them one step closer to self-actualization. And if you can trigger that in your headline, you've got them.


"BONUS" 10. Clickbait

Don't. Just don't. No matter how strong the desire is to get people to click through to your content, do not use clickbait-y headlines. If a person sees a sensational headline and clicks through, then they find a standard, boilerplate piece of content instead; they're never coming back.

Headlines must be written to draw attention and styled to hold onto them (and have the content to deliver against the promise).


Now it's time to experiment with your headlines. For extra credit, try combining styles to have an impact:

  • "The X Best Ways to…"
  • "We Did These 7 Things and Increased our Output by X%"
  • "How To NOT Look Like an Amateur When You…"


Have fun with headlines, do your research and your A/B testing, and you'll find the right style for your content, your audience, and your brand voice.

Are you looking for more blogging tips? Download our free blogging eBook by clicking below!

Blogging and Content Marketing

Jesse hails from Seattle, Wa. When he’s not creating great content, or staring at his laptop screen waiting for inspiration, he’s probably walking in the trees somewhere in the foothills of the nearby Cascade Mountains.

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