[Case Study] Master the Art of Writing Catchy Titles

Your catchy titles can mean the difference between writing a Medium article that makes $10 and one that makes $1,000.

Even if you write the world’s greatest blog post, no one will know about it if they don’t decide to click.

From copywriting expert David Ogilvy:

“On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.

There are dozens of skills you have to learn to be a successful writer. The ability to write compelling headlines is more important than everything else on the list.

Headline Writing 101

Your headline has to give people a compelling reason to click on your article.

It has to stand out on the feeds of the platforms you write for. You must capture attention quickly because readers can through feeds with lightning speed. If your headline doesn’t make them pay attention, they’ll whiz right past it.

Some quality headline traits are:

  • Emotions: A great headline plays to either the reader’s fears and frustrations or their hopes and aspirations. Ask yourself “what keeps your readers up at night?” — the answer makes for a great headline.
  • Curiosity gap: Give readers a hint of what’s to come, but don’t give it away.
  • Focus on benefits: Don’t just tell people what you’re going to talk about, talk about what your article will do for them.
  • Be specific: Speak to specific outcomes if you can, e.g., “only takes 10 minutes per day”
  • Use power words: This article goes in-depth about power words, but always look for a phrase that packs a bunch instead of bland literal descriptions in your headlines
  • Add Descriptors: Adjectives and Adverbs give your headline some extra flavor
  • Polarizing: Making a bold polarizing statement will attract people who both love and hate your message
  • Clarity: Most beginner writers struggle because they write vague, cryptic, and even confusing headlines that give readers no clue what the article might be about.

How to Get Better at Writing Catchy Headlines

It’s hard to write catchy titles. Most new writers struggle because they never commit to learning how to write solid headlines, nor do they study them.

If you want to stand out and learn how to write catchy titles that get clicks, these tips will help:

  • Write 10 headline ideas daily: This means 10 headlines for 10 different blog post ideas
  • Study headlines on Medium: Use the same process you’re about to see with the examples I’m going to show you. Each week, take time to read headlines from popular Medium articles and take notes on what works
  • Don’t start from scratch: In the beginning, practice writing headlines by using headline templates you can tailor to your niche. I have 50+ templates you can download here.

Let’s walk through how to find top articles on Medium to study.

How to Find Top Articles to Analyze

On your Medium feed, select a topic you’re interested in, so you can see the topics page. Medium posts show their topics underneath the headlines in the feed, so just click on one that has a topic you’re interested in (bottom left corner):

When you’re on the topic page itself, select the best button at the top of the screen, one you do that a table will appear that allows you to choose between the best articles for the week, month, or year:

I chose a handful of headlines from different niches, blog post styles, and writers to make sure you know the part of writing catchy headlines is a skill any writer must master to be successful.

Quiet the Skeptics

This example comes from one of my students, Khyati Jain. She practices writing headlines regularly. All of my top students practice writing 10 headlines per day.

Let’s take a look at some things this headline does well:

  • In the sub-heading below the headline, she makes sure to note that this article won’t include run-of-the-mill tips
  • Notice the emotionally evocative words in the headline “kill” “rapidly” “stupid”
  • Some people will read the post to confirm how smart they are. Others will read it because they suspect they’ve done some of these stupid activities

Take a Stand

This one comes from James Michael Sama a seasoned relationships writer who has been featured on CNN, CBS, CNBC, and the NY Post. (link to the full post here)

What this headline does well:

  • It makes an absolute statement — men never do any of those 10 things. Bold and polarizing claims spark interest
  • It targets a specific audience instead of being universal. Gendering your posts may come off as out of touch, but it makes your post idea more specific and invites controversy. Remember, on Medium, you get paid for reads whether or not they like your article
  • Men will clap for and share this post because they want to see themselves as good partners. The same goes for the people they date.

Make People Worry

This one comes from Darshak Rana a 24-time top Medium Writer (link to the full post here)

What this headline does well:

  • Gaslighting is a trending word that wasn’t used commonly until recent years. Adding it connects the post to a phrase that’s top of mind for readers.
  • Most headlines take advantage of adjectives and adverbs for added effect. “Casually” even adds a bit of sting because it makes it seem like people can easily manipulate you effortlessly
  • It plays on your fears and frustrations. This works to attract readers who are afraid of being manipulated as well as those who have been manipulated

Tell Your Story

Here’s an example from Lisa S.Gerard to show you that catchy headlines can be used for all forms of writing, including personal narrative essays.

What this headline does well:

  • Read this headline in your head. Do you notice a rhythm or cadence to the way it reads? Think about how your headlines will sound in your reader’s minds.
  • This is a perfect example of a curiosity gap. You think you know what the post is about but you’re not quite sure. Is it about infidelity? Did she reveal a damaging secret? You have to read to find out
  • The addition of length of the marriage makes it more compelling. Ending a 25-year marriage is a lot different, and much more painful, than ending a two-year marriage.

Pose a Provocative Question

Here is yet another example of how to write an emotionally evocative headline without using the word ‘how-to’ or adding a number to it from Katie Jgln (link to full post here)

What this headline does well:

  • For this headline, the topic of the piece touches on a common trope that’s emotionally evocative
  • The target audience is crystal clear. So many women will relate to the headline because they’ve heard this toxic question and have had to deal with the consequences of it.
  • Note the use of evocative phrases like “sex object” and “provocatively” that turn the descriptive and emotional dials up to ten

Use This Type of Phrase to Make Your Headline “Sticky”

This one comes from another student of mine, Anggun Bawi, who has written multiple viral stories with 50k views since joining the program and practicing her headlines relentlessly (link to the full piece here)

What this headline does well:

  • If you can, give the concept you’re talking about a name or use one if it has one. Names tend to stick in people’s minds
  • The use of the word trend sparks curiosity because people want to feel smart, in the know, and caught up with the times
  • Note the power words used in this headline “Ugly” “Truth” “New” and “Trend”
  • The sub-heading does a great job of spiking curiosity by letting you know you’re about to find out whether or not you’re being “roached”

Hone the Skills to Craft the Most Important Sentence

It takes time to get good at writing headlines.

If you try to skip the process of mastering this art and just focus on the writing itself, you’ll make the road to getting more views and making more money ten times as long as it has to be.

I’ve written more than 25,000 headlines in my life and I still practice them to this day.

The more you practice, the more often you’ll find headline ideas for blog posts that will change your life and writing career forever.

By Ayodeji