The Psychology of Writing Headlines that Grab Attention

How To Write Headlines That Grab Attention


If you give the reader an irresistible headline, they’re going to want to read the next sentence, and then they’re going to want to read the sentence after that, and the sentence after that, etc.


After all, that’s the point, right?




In this post, I share these 5 headline writing strategies from Carly Stec, Content Marketing Manger, IMPACT, that are designed to grab attention, invite clicks, and move people to the next sentence (and the sentence after that, and the one after that, and……..)


1. Use intriguing adjectives

  • Adjectives like valuable, interesting, and bad are simply underwhelming.
  • Having been used and reused in countless headlines already, they’ve seemingly lost their appeal, and as a result, they blend in.
  • To avoid vanilla headlines, try replacing an ordinary adjective with one of these:
  • Irresistible
  • Mind-altering
  • Sensational
  • Stinky
  • Tremendous
  • Astounding
  • Outrageous
  • Treasured
  • Flavorless
  • Captivating
  • Unthinkable
  • Shocking
  • Dreadful
  • Startling
  • Stale
  • Outstanding


2. Focus on the ultra-specific

  • “Specificity increases credibility because specific details are simply more believable than broad assertions,” says Copyblogger’s Brian Clark.
  • Narrowing the focus of your headline can do a great deal in terms of creating a unique level of interest.


3. Address a “common enemy”

  • Theorists Georg Simmel and Lewis Coser insist that there are benefits that come with defining a “common enemy.”
  • Through their exploration of the concept, they found that often times the creation of a shared opponent helps to create a sense of unity. (Source:Beloved Enemies: Our Need for Opponents)
  • To leverage this notion that people seek a sense of coherence and mutuality, consider the benefits of positioning your blog title to address a shared enemy.
  • This approach is designed to play into our cynical side.
  • You know, the side of us that sees the glass half empty?


4. Make a BOLD proclamation

  • When it comes to creating attention-grabbing headlines, don’t be afraid to stir the pot, as people are drawn to headlines that disrupt conventional wisdom.
  • If you’re looking to draw attention to your content, you’ll want to hone in on a controversial topic that people aren’t already talking about.
  • In other words, find something unique to say and be the first to say it.
  • And when you do, be sure to tune into the conversation that follows to spark even more ideas.


5. Put a number on it

  • When you put a number in front of a post (e.g. 5 Outdated Design Trends That Are Plaguing Your Website) the reader knows exactly what they are going to get out of it.
  • In this case, readers know before they even begin reading that they are going to learn about five outdated design trends.
  • Not three. Not four and a half. Five. 
  • This type of exactness plays into our psychological need for certainty.
  • The Psychology of Waiting in Lines reveals that “the most profound source of anxiety in waiting is how long the wait will be.”
  • For this reason, people tend to be less annoyed waiting in situations where the time is both known and finite, as opposed to uncertain.
  • So when we tie this concept back to the function of a number in a blog title, it’s easy to understand why people are drawn to list-style posts that set the expectation up front.



So there you have it, the 5 psychological ways of writing headlines that GRAB attention.



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To Your Success,
Joan Harrington

About Joan

Joan is a full time blogger/network marketing coach whose passion comes from helping others learn how to brand themselves through blogging and become an expert blogger

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0 thoughts on “The Psychology of Writing Headlines that Grab Attention

  • Sherman Smith

    Hey Joan,

    I really like point #2. Specificity increases credibility. I like the sound of that! I’m attracted to those sites and ads that are more direct and specific with what they’re getting across.

    I’ve been playing with my headlines and opt in forms to be more specific. Your readers want to know what they’re going to get out of it and are attracting to those that put it out with confidence!

    Thanks for sharing! Have a good one!

  • Donna Merrill

    Hi Joan,

    Fantastic tips you have shared here. My favorite one is #5 – put a number on it. Whenever I do this, people know instantly what they are in for when they click the post. Keeping the numbers low has a better rate than using larger numbers.

    I found this out by trial and error lol. But it sure does work. No one wants to get stuck on a great big pillar post. They just don’t have the time. So by cutting down the numbers there is a longer time people stay on my blog.