How to Turn Blah Headlines into Eyeball-Grabbing Powerhouses

Direct response headline writing is tricky.

You know that you have to “grab the reader’s attention,” but that doesn’t help much when you’re facing headline-writing writer’s block and nothing is flowing. How can you work your SEO copywriting magic when you don’t even know how to begin?

We’ve all been there — you just need a little jump start. If you’re feeling stuck, here are some tried-and-true headline archetypes, compliments of the American Writers and Artists Institute.

Idea Starters: 52 Headline Archetypes to Get Your Creative Juices Flowing…From The Best of The Golden Thread

  1. How to (accomplishment) by (doing something unexpected)
  2. How to (accomplishment) in (time frame)
  3. How to turn (problem) into (benefit)
  4. How to get (goal) from (something common)
  5. How to improve your…
  6. How to start…
  7. How to have…
  8. How to make (someone/something) do (something great)
  9. (Problem) – how to fix it
  10. How to get free (product/program)
  11. How you can (action) in the next (time frame)
  12. How an uninformed (person/action) make a fortune in (business type)
  13. How an unexpected (event) changed my (situation)
  14. How I (accomplishment) in (time frame)
  15. How I (accomplishment) by (something unexpected)
  16. How I improved my (problem)
  17. (#) ways to (promise)
  18. (#) ways to avoid (problem)
  19. (#) steps to…
  20. (#) ways to…
  21. (#) ways to beat (problem)
  22. Get rid of your (problem) forever!
  23. Buy no (product type) ’til you’ve seen (product name or description)
  24. Read this and (promise/threat)
  25. Dare to be (promise)
  26. Read this or (threat)
  27. What makes…?
  28. Do you make these mistakes in…?
  29. Want to be (better condition)?
  30. (Problems) – Which do you want to overcome?
  31. (Personalized greeting), here are (#) (products) of interest to you. Which (#) do you want free?
  32. Are you ever (problem)?
  33. Tired/fed up with (problem)?
  34. Should you (something your prospect is thinking about doing)?
  35. Are you…?
  36. Are you ashamed of (problem)?
  37. Secrets of (some kind of expert)
  38. What never ever to (common chore/action)
  39. The truth about…
  40. What you should know about…
  41. The one sensible way to…
  42. What every (person) should know…
  43. The secret of…
  44. Why…
  45. What it takes to…
  46. What everybody ought to know…about this (business type)
  47. Little known ways to (benefit)
  48. The wrong way and the right way to (do something directly related to your business)
  49. The secret of (accomplishment)
  50. The secret of…-Yours, if you qualify
  51. Your (something important to you) is in imminent danger
  52. When experts (failure/problem) – this what they do

This article appears courtesy of The Golden Thread, an e-letter from AWAI that delivers original, no-nonsense advice on how to build your freelance copywriting business. For a free subscription, visit

8 replies
  1. Marilyn Schwader says:

    Great list to spur ideas. Do you suggest stream of consciousness writing, developing a list of words, or some other method to take one of these ideas and expand it? Can you give an example?

  2. Heather says:

    Hiya, Marilyn!

    What works for me is stream of consciousness writing. I’ll spend a set amount of time (say 15 minutes) writing whatever headlines come to mind. Some are good – some are horrible. :) No matter what, I won’t let myself edit during that time…no matter how much I want to.

    Then, after I take a break, I’ll come back and see what I’ve done. In most cases, one headline will stand out over the others. That’s the headline I’ll focus on, massage and edit.

    Sometimes the process will take me 20 minutes. Sometimes, two hours. The more I do it, the less time it (typically) takes me.

    Thanks for your post!

  3. Gabriella Sannino says:

    Great ideas and thanks sharing this article. [it’s bookmarked for my next dry spell:)] I have a question regarding bad press that has affected a clients page rank.

    Should they consider writing a rebuttal press release? What can they do other than what I would consider some effective steps? Any suggestions or ideas would be greatly appreciated.

  4. Heather says:

    Hi, Gabriella!

    Good question. When you say that it’s affected you client’s “page rank” – are you referring to their conversions (that is, people may see a bad result on the search results page and not want to contact your client’s company?)

    Glad the post helped – hopefully, you’ll be dry-spell free and not have to reference it for awhile. :)

  5. Scott Salwolke says:

    Great post. I think what the success of SEO will eventually focus not just on rankings, but the response of visitors to the site. Too many SEO people look at the title or the H1 tag as a place to incorporate keywords. This is probably necessary, but they should focus on whether people respond to the h1 tags and especially the title tags. Not just when they are on the site, but just as importantly when they come across the listing in the search results.


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