You’d think that a headline’s short length makes it easy to write, but I bet you know from experience how tricky it can be to craft one. Whether you consider yourself a marketer, blogger, journalist, or copywriter, we — as writers — can all relate to this challenge.
Fortunately, we can tackle many writing obstacles when we have frameworks and examples to reference. By learning how to categorize a headline and looking at inspiring examples, it becomes easier to create a headline that lets your writing shine.
In this blog post, we’ll explore 17 popular headline types and look at successful examples of each.
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Take These Catchy Headline Resources
Before we chat about the different types of headlines out there, download this bundle of headline resources to up your writing game! This bundle includes:
- 180 Emotional Words: Using emotional words in your headline is a surefire way to multiply your traffic engagement.
- A Catchy Blog Title Infographic: This is a great visual that includes 500 attention-grabbing words, 100 headline templates, and more, so you can boost your traffic by 438%.
- An Editorial Calendar Template: What better way to organize your content, collaborate with your team, and monitor your deadlines than a template that we’ve made especially for you.
Let’s Talk About Headline Types
Now that you have a great, downloadable resource, let’s get down to the nitty gritty and walk through some need-to-know headline types. These headline types are the ones you’ll see used most commonly and — if used correctly — most effectively.
These headlines include the phrase “how-to” and label a piece that explains, well, how to do something. With this headline format, you can summarize exactly what your article will teach someone. You’ll see this type of headline leading instructional writing.
Of course, when you use a “how-to” headline, you’ll want to use it to title a piece that follows through with your promise. For example, if you use the headline “How to Build a Boat”, you should include at least a basic overview of how to construct a boat.
You can add details to your “how-to” headline to give your audience clear expectations about your piece. Check out one of NPR’s training articles headlines:
When you read this headline, you know that you’ll get five tips from the text with accompanying examples. The “how-to” half of the title before the colon uses adjectives, like “great” and “engaged”, to maintain a positive tone. Meanwhile, the “5 tips (and examples)” after the colon sets the expectation that the article will have five pieces of advice and examples that illustrate them.
Just as “how-to” headlines title writing that explains how to do something, “why” headlines lead into content that describes the reason behind something, and they can highlight an explanatory or opinion piece. For example, “Why Frogs Are Amphibious” would explain something, while “Why the Rainforest Matters” would present an argument.
The MarketSmiths blog post Why Headlines Matter & 3 Secrets to Master Them clearly outlines the focus of the piece: an argument for why headlines matter and three tips for creating high-quality headlines.
MarketSmiths’ title stays concise with just eight words that communicate the article’s two distinct goals.
As the name implies, question headlines pose a question to the reader. They sometimes overlap with “how-to” and “why” headlines, and they follow a similar principle: make sure to answer the question you bring up through your title.
Copyblogger points out that you should strive to write question headlines that you can’t answer with a simple “yes” or “no”. After all, if your audience feels like they can answer the question without reading your article, why would they need to read it? As Copyblogger explains, you can ask “Are Your Weeds Out of Control?” — a yes/no question — or “What’s the Secret to Keeping Your Weeds at Bay (Year After Year)?”, whic[content_upgrade_shortcode]h provides a selling point with an open-ended question.
In possibly the most self-aware example on this list, NPR poses the question, Should you write a question headline? It depends…
Generally, if you’re asking whether you should utilize a question headline, you’ll need more than a “yes” or “no”. The extra phrase “It depends…” in this example headline offers some additional context that entices the reader to find out why the answer can depend. Those last two words encourage further questions that the reader will want the author to answer.