3 Unusual Cures for Boring Headlines

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blog-headlinesI bet you’ve read your fair share of headline posts. These posts give you a list of best practices that will attract people to your blog. Some are good. Some stink, but for the moment, it seems that the social intelligentsia agree that -

The best headlines follow a formula

Problem is the formula prescribed by most doesn’t work.


People Change

Your reader reads thousands of messages. Most of these messages start with a headline. Your emails have subject lines. Your favorite RSS reader lists headlines in chronological order. Heck, your to-do list is a series of productive headlines!

This means that you’re pretty good quickly filtering out homogenous headlines. Since everyone uses a similar headline playbook, you know exactly what to ignore.


Last night I realized that none of the 700 posts in my RSS feed caught my attention. After a closer look I saw most of the posts followed the approved headline method. Yet, they still failed because – I didn’t see anything unique.

To be successful, you need to change the game.

3 Unique Headline Tactics That Work in 2013

Let’s have a little fun and poke the headline experts in the eye. In the process, you’ll build your audience quicker, stick readers to your blog like super glue, and position your blog to make money.

Here we go:

#1: Hyper Relevancy:

Promise to solve a very specific problem.
Example: “How to Make $300 a month From Your Hobby Blog

This headline tells you exactly what I have on the agenda. It’s not clever. It isn’t going to make any English Lit teachers smile but it will attract tons of readers.

Before I wrote this headline, I picked a problem to solve. In this case, an empty wallet.

The only way to short-circuit your reader’s headline filter is to speak directly to an issue that bugs the hell out of them.
Look at the post you’re writing – what problem are you solving? Does your headline state that?

#2: Hyper Focus:

1,000 True Fans is a cult classic post among savvy content marketers. The post promises that 1,000 committed and engaged fans can support a blog, business or non-profit. Every great movement started with a small group of people who believed and worked their butts off.

The key here though is the number – just a 1,000. To be effective, you need to speak to someone not everybody. Your goal is to find a small group of people who passionately believe in what you do.

Next translate this hyper focus into effective posts:

New Mom? How to Run Your Next 5K in 30 Days after Birth.
This headline would sicken most women but a fitness-focused few would read the post immediately.

Hyper Focus takes guts. You have to be “ok” with being totally irrelevant to most of your audience. The rewards however, are worth it.

#3: Hyper Voice:

The sound of nails scratching across a chalkboard drives me into blind rage. A close second is bland, corporate speak. Jargon screams “idiot”. I hate it because jargon is meant to stifle each voice. The goal is to make everyone sound the same.

Headline templates are quickly becoming a pet-peeve too. They seem helpful, but people have adjusted their B.S. radar to squelch the “Discover 7 Ways to xxx” posts.

Instead, find and use your singular voice. Your voice is a blend of your experience, sincerity, and background. I’m an African-American man who grew up in a middle class neighborhood. My voice reflects that. If you joined my family in Akron at Christmas time you’d hear “my voice” from everyone in the room. I tried to sound like Chris Brogan and Brian Clark. My blog suffered until I decided to just by Stan.

You need to put your unique voice in your headlines -

Example: “Why Nana Hates Your Girlfriend, and What To Do About It”. Although people may not know who Nana is – they are still intrigued about the relationship advice Nana would give. Feel the “voice” coming through?

A Wake Up Call

Master the new art of headline writing and you’ll boost your readership, subscribers and income. The good news is that using Hyper Relevancy, Focus, and Voice will reflect your true authentic self.

Give it a try and tell me what you think in the comments.

About Stan

Stan Smith is the Managing Director of Pushing Social a content marketing consultancy for aggressive, results-focused organizations.

11 thoughts on “3 Unusual Cures for Boring Headlines

  1. Don

    Great post, I definitely am in need of this. My headlines have become a bit boring as of late. Thanks for sharing!

  2. SunnySide Social Media

    These are some great tips! It’s all about the title, you have to have an interesting title to entice your readers. Even I won’t read certain blogs if the title sounds boring. Great post, thanks for sharing!

  3. Stefano

    I also get bored of the usual headlines. What I do when I see one that I like, is analyze why I like it. Then I will use the same formula for my blog and see what happens.

  4. LeadGenix

    Thanks for sharing! Headlines need to catch people’s attention. If everyone is using the same “great” formula, then all of the headlines will all be the same and uninteresting. Love it!

  5. Rogier Noort (@rogiernoort)

    Something we all run into every time we write a blogpost.

    I think your view for the 2013 headline simplifies this process by miles. Always trying to be clever in your posts takes a lot of time and effort. Telling it how it is in headline has the benefits mentioned above.., but it’s also easier to do.

    Thanks for this Stan.

  6. Scott

    I agree your blog posts should be more personal but with that, you run the risk of alienating some reader’s especially if you throw in a lot of opinion. Although, the most popular blogs are either loved or hated!

  7. Ozio Media

    Headline formulas may have worked well once upon a time, but in 2013 you need to have something individual to make you stand out. Just posting ’10 ways to solve your problem’ style headlines isn’t likely to attract a lot of attention because readers have become inured to this sort of pitch. The advice to use your own voice is spot on. Most readers want to connect with an individual who they can identify with so that they can develop trust. Your own voice is the fast track to building these relationships.

  8. Heather

    Great post,thank you Stanford! I agree with you – we’ve been bombarded with so much content these days that headline formulas tend to set off our ‘BS’ meters. What you say about ‘Hyper Voice’ is very important to me; stick to your own voice and people will respect that and you will develop a following that is really interested in what you have to say.

  9. Angelica Simpson

    @David yes I totally agree with you, it’s very difficult to find a good topic or subject to write on. I struggle myself, people these days are very demanding, they want something interesting, gossipy or striking :)

  10. dgmattichakjr

    The most important place to use your own voice is in the headlines that you choose. This is where your potential readers can get a glimpse of who you are and what you are about. The most eye catching headlines will be the ones that are an expression of your individuality because you are inviting people to come in and get to know you.
    Great post Stan- keep ‘em coming mate!

  11. David Lawyer

    Another good one, Stanford and a subject in which I find myself struggling to address, with every post and tweet I write. There are so many good ideas out there about how to create that “knock ‘em dead” headline, but the problem with that is that everyone is using them :). Staying one step ahead of the crowd is the challenge and posts like this one are going to be the driving spark towards crafting more creative, attention-grabbing headlines. I love the ‘Nana’ reference as well! :)

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