How to grab your reader’s attention with an optimized headline

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What do you look at as you scroll through search results? If you’re like most people, you focus on the headlines.

The headline tells you what to expect if you click on the link. It’s also the first thing that people see.

If your headline doesn’t stand out, your content may suffer from low click-through rates. An infectious headline may also limit conversion rates and boost bounce rates.

The headline is one of the most important elements in any piece of content. Luckily, you don’t need years of experience to craft a killer headline.

Attention-grabbing headlines connect with readers. They point out a problem or question that the reader is seeking an answer to.

So, how do you write an optimized headline that speaks to both readers and search engines?

The following steps will guide you through the process. Let’s get started.

Include a target keyword in your headline

Keywords help search engines read your content. They also help give context to human readers.

Every piece of content should have a focus keyword. Use the keyword in several spots:

  • Headline
  • Meta description
  • Subheadings
  • Content

Using the keyword in the headline is good SEO and helps readers find your content.

The right keyword can tell a reader what your content is about. It verifies that your content contains information related to their search.

For example, the headline for this article includes the keyword phrase “optimized headline.” Based on the keyword, you know that the content talks about headlines.

You should also form your content around the keyword. Use the target keyword to keep your content focused. This boosts conversions and helps with search rankings.

Select the right content-type for your headline

The type of blog post you plan on publishing should influence the headline. 

Articles come in a variety of formats. You may find how-to posts, listicles, and Q&A posts. Each format requires a different type of headline.

Some of the most common types of blog posts include:

  • How-to
  • Why
  • What
  • List
  • Curated
  • Trend
  • Q&A
  • Opinion
  • Data
  • News
  • Guide
  • Comparison

The top few formats make it easier to craft attention-grabbing headlines. The headline often starts with “how-to,” “why,” or “what.”

These three types of posts also include trigger words in the title. How, what, and why make people curious, which grabs more attention.

A how-to post offers a step-by-step guide on how to do something, such as how to write a headline.

How-to posts are among the most common options. They are often educational and include a simple structure. 

A “why” post is often used to signify the importance of a topic, such as:

  • Why is the headline the most important part of content creation?

The headline makes a statement in the form of a question. Readers expect to find the answer when they read the content.

A “what” post is great for introductory articles. If you need to explain a concept to beginners, ask readers “what” they want to know:

  • What are the basic steps for writing a headline?

Along with these three types of content, you can choose from any of the other options. No matter which option you select, make sure that you base the format of the headline on the content type.

Optimize the word balance of your headline

Analyze the word balance of your headline to grab more attention. Every sentence, including a title, includes a mixture of common and uncommon words.

About 20% to 30% of your headline should include common words. Common words help make your headline readable. Examples include:

  • How
  • What
  • Why
  • About
  • After
  • Your
  • With
  • An
  • A
  • To

Uncommon words should make up about 10% to 20% of the title. These words grab attention and add substance. 

Examples of uncommon words include:

  • More
  • Here
  • Most
  • Must
  • Better
  • Easy

Your headline should also include the right balance of emotional and power words. 

Emotional words are often uncommon words that pack emotional weight. They make your title more enticing. Emotional words are often adjectives, such as:

  • Free
  • Fast
  • Fun
  • Easy
  • Mind-blowing
  • Attention-grabbing

The power word or phrase commands more attention. Here a few useful examples:

  • Need to know
  • Without trying
  • In the world
  • No questions asked
  • Without any experience

About 10% to 15% of the title should include emotional words. You only need one power word or phrase.

Choose the right length for your headline

The best headlines are short. They include up to six words. 

Researchers have found that people tend to only grasp the first three and last three words of a title. If your headline includes 10 words, most people will skip the four words in the middle.

Unfortunately, you sometimes need more words to give your title more context.

Ten is the greatest number of words that you should include in a title. People may skim a few of the words, but your headline may make more sense.

Along with the word count, you need to pay attention to the character count.

Google cuts off your headline if it exceeds about 70 characters. The maximum characters used to be closer to 50 to 55. Google recently increased the maximum length.

While you can include up to 70 characters, the ideal length remains around 55 characters.

The total character count includes spaces. Try substituting long words with shorter ones.

Use a formula to simplify your writing process

The most effective way to write a killer headline is to use a formula. A formula gives you a set structure to follow. 

Here are two tried-and-true headline formulas you can use:

  • Number or Trigger Word + Adjective + Keyword + Promise
  • Keyword: Number or Trigger Word + Adjective + Promise

Most headlines start with a trigger word. A trigger word compels someone to act. 

Common trigger words include:

  • How-to (how to do this)
  • What (what you need to know)
  • Why (why you need to do this)
  • When (when should you do this)

Instead of trigger words, some titles start with a number. Listicles, curated content, and Q&A posts often start with a number:

  • 5 Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About SEO
  • 5 of the Most Common Headline-Writing Mistakes
  • 5 Examples of Effective Headlines from Major Brands

An adjective is often included after the number or trigger word. Adjectives help make your keyword or promise more compelling. 

Stating that something is fun, free, easy, or fast is likely to grab attention. 

Unless the headline starts with the keyword, include the keyword after the adjective. Finish the headline with your promise.

The promise should be specific. Readers should know what they can achieve by reading the content based on the promise, such as:

  • How to Write Killer Headlines to Boost Click-Through Rates
  • 5 Ways to Write Better Headlines for Driving Conversions

Keep the headline simple. Ensure that it provides a clear description of what the content is about.


Writing attention-grabbing headlines is not rocket science. Start by choosing a target keyword and a type of content.

You should also aim for a headline that contains about 6 words and 55 characters. Longer headlines may get cut off. Using one of the formulas discussed can help you keep the headline concise. 

After writing a headline, analyze the word balance. Try to include a mixture of common, uncommon, power, and emotional words.

As a final tip, write several drafts. Try to rephrase your headline in different ways. 

Before long, you’ll be a pro at writing better headlines.

Got questions about writing headlines that grab attention? Leave us a message and we’ll see what we can do.