How Do You Write Attention-Capturing Headlines that Aren't Clickbait?

How Do You Write Attention-Capturing Headlines that Aren't Clickbait?

Crafting headlines that stand out can be an art form, so we've gathered seven expert perspectives, including those from a Content Strategist and a Marketing Director. From speaking to reader's psychological drivers to combining evocative imagery with honest promises, discover the range of strategies these professionals employ to draw readers in without falling into the trap of clickbait.

  • Speak to Reader's Psychological Drivers
  • Create SEO-Friendly, Precise Headlines
  • Prioritize Buzzy Words and Clear Ideas
  • Craft Engaging, Honest Titles Like Menus
  • Balance Catchiness with Clarity in Headlines
  • Understand Audience for Gripping Headlines
  • Combine Evocative Imagery with Honest Promises

Speak to Reader's Psychological Drivers

As a copywriter, one of my go-to tricks for grabbing attention with headlines is speaking directly to the reader's wants, fears, and curiosities. At the end of the day, we're all human—we want to better ourselves, avoid screwing up, and learn those "secrets" that others know.

So for blog posts and articles, I'll tap into those psychological drivers without going over-the-top. A great example is "The Little-Known Negotiation Tactic That Can Double Your Salary"

This headline is compelling because it:

  • Promises valuable insider information ("little-known") that triggers curiosity
  • Offers a massive aspirational benefit (doubling your salary? Yes, please!)
  • Hints at an actionable strategy ("tactic") that feels empowering
  • Focuses on a high-stakes situation (salary negotiation) we all experience

In just a few words, it combines curiosity, aspiration, empowerment, relevance, and specificity into an irresistible reason to click and learn more. Playing to those psychological motivators is key to writing clickable headlines that deliver on their promise.

Some other examples include:

  • "The 5-Minute Morning Ritual That'll Make You Way More Productive" - Who doesn't want to be more productive, especially if it's easy? Curiosity = piqued.
  • "This Mom's Simple Meal Prep Hack Saves $200+ Per Month" - Now I'm intrigued to learn a smart trick, especially one with a big payoff like saving money.

You get the idea—hinting at interesting intel, life hacks, or potential dangers to stoke curiosity and desire. But always leading with real, valuable content behind it.

It's about slipping into the reader's shoes and understanding the itch that needs scratching—whether it's to gain an edge, avoid a pitfall, get inspired, or just satisfy your curiosity about something interesting. Pair that psychological pull with a dash of specificity, intrigue, or aspiration...and you've got a pretty irresistible reason to click through.

Maheen Kanwal
Maheen KanwalHR Executive, B2B Tech SaaS Copywriter, Founder, Call to Authority

Create SEO-Friendly, Precise Headlines

I always aim to write headlines that are click-worthy, clear, and precise, focusing on the target keyword with traffic volume and keeping it within 60 characters. I start by identifying the search intent and using power words to evoke emotions without misleading readers. For instance, I rewrite headlines multiple times to ensure they capture attention while remaining true to the content.

Here are three headline samples for different intents:

1. "The Only 5 SEO Tips You Need Now to Boost Your Traffic"

2. "Use These Proven SEO Strategies to Increase Rankings"

3. "Don’t Make These 5 SEO Mistakes That Most Experts Are Making"

These sample headlines are SEO-friendly, clear, and evoke curiosity without resorting to clickbait. They address the search intent and use powerful words to attract readers, ensuring clarity and relevance. I consistently practice by writing at least three sample headlines and then finalize the best one for my content.

Roy Michael Yungco
Roy Michael YungcoSEO Specialist, Fidelitas

Prioritize Buzzy Words and Clear Ideas

Put the most important, buzziest word or phrase first in the headline, then follow with the idea that comes after. Make the title clear. For example, do not say something like, 'This city is the number one new U.S. tech hub.' Instead, think about why the top city being named is important. Is it surprising? Is it tied to a sudden industry boom? Is it related to costs, geography, weather, etc.? So, perhaps something like this is better: 'AI Tech's Hottest New Hub? Miami, Thanks to Good Weather and Low-Cost Housing.' Think about the 'why,' not just the 'what,' and then you'll have that perfect title that both informs and intrigues.

Jacqueline DiChiara
Jacqueline DiChiaraContent Strategist

Craft Engaging, Honest Titles Like Menus

I think of writing titles like writing a restaurant menu. Think about the last time you went to a fancy restaurant and read their menu options. It likely didn't tell you that the gourmet Margherita pizza is heated to 400 degrees and cooked with some salt, baking powder, and wheat.

Instead, it probably highlighted the best parts of the pizza to make your mouth water right then and there: 'In-house, handmade crust,' 'garden-plucked basil,' 'light drizzle of our signature tomato sauce.' Alternatively, a 'clickbait menu item' (or title) would be lying about the ingredients, i.e., mentioning something that isn't actually present or addressed in the article.

In essence, my rule of thumb with clickbait versus non-clickbait titles is the same. Creating an engaging title is about pulling the best part of the blog article (the meal) to the front so it can make an audience's mouth water. As long as you're not lying about the ingredients (the content), or overcompensating for a little value-add, you're on your way to some great content!

(So next time you're writing a headline, think about how you can make it sound as delicious as your latest favorite restaurant item!)

Kira Violet
Kira VioletContent Creator, Musician, Violet Gaze

Balance Catchiness with Clarity in Headlines

When I write headlines, I always make them catchy without sacrificing clarity. Catchiness grabs attention, but clarity ensures the audience understands the message quickly and accurately. It's a balance that needs careful attention because while a strong vocabulary can make headlines appealing, it shouldn't hinder comprehension.

A common mistake many writers make is overcomplicating their headlines, thinking it will add depth or intrigue. However, this often backfires, as not every reader has the same level of vocabulary or interest in decoding complex headlines. The goal is to engage readers without making them work too hard to grasp the core message. Keeping headlines simple and straightforward, but catchy with the right words, can effectively attract a wider audience while still being impactful.

Patrick Beltran
Patrick BeltranMarketing Director, Ardoz Digital

Understand Audience for Gripping Headlines

Everything that I do starts with understanding the audience and what resonates with them. Through this, I get to know their interests, pain points, and motivation, and I can sculpt headlines that are well-suited and gripping for them. This means not writing clickbait headlines — for example, when advertising a new gadget, instead of "You Don't Want to Miss What This Gadget Can Do!", I would use "Revolutionize Your Daily Routine with Our Latest Smart Home Device".

The latter will also scratch that clarity-and-specificity itch for your compulsive parental-strategy-making self, which I also touch on below. The headline needs to give the reader a clear insight into what they can expect and make them click through to read more because what you have to share is legitimately valuable. For instance, a headline such as, "5 Strategies That Always Work for Skyrocketing Your Marketing ROI" cuts to the chase and offers something tangible, which will attract those who are seeking a more direct answer.

Ultimately, I weave in aspects of narrative and immediacy as well (when applicable). Headlines that either hint at a story or give a news peg will always bring in readers. For example, "How One Company Improved by 30% with IoT – Get Their Tips Now" not only triggers curiosity but also implies instant value.

Alex Cornici
Alex CorniciDirector of Marketing, Awesome Hibachi

Combine Evocative Imagery with Honest Promises

Great headlines are part art and part science. Using evocative imagery and words will capture attention, but you need to make a promise to the reader that you will, by the end of your piece of content, fulfill.

This means that the headline for your content should not only catch their interest and curiosity but also briefly explain to the reader what they will learn by reading your content.

Don't try to craft a headline that is salacious or 'click-baity' for the sake of getting clicks, because this will establish a lack of trust with your audience. Instead, make sure your potential reader will know what they're getting into, and why it will be important to them.

Business content, by its very nature, tends to be unfortunately a bit less interesting than, say, celebrity gossip or sports, so your headline needs to make a compelling promise that your intended audience will want to read about.

Phillip Mandel
Phillip MandelOwner, Mandel Marketing

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