4 Tips To Write Better Headlines, That You Can Start Using Today

A few weeks ago I read a great post about headlines.

The article was called “We Analyzed Nearly 1 Million Headlines. Here’s What We Learned”, which is a pretty amazing headline in itself. (p.s. Noah’s site is awesome)

In the post they shared their findings and talked about how to use headlines to get more people to share your articles and come to your blog. This  was great for me, because I have a blog (you’re reading it), I want more readers and I love writing headlines.

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After playing with some of the ideas from that post for my blog, I decided to experiment with the same tactics on one of my live online marketing campaigns.

The results were great – the new headlines beat the sh#t out of the old one I was using on all of the important factors, Ad CTR, Landing Page CTR and Conversion Rate.

So, based on those results I believe that the headline techniques for growing a blog audience can also be used to improve an affiliate marketing campaign’s performance.

But not all of the the ideas from their list are relevant. So today I’m sharing a new, shorter list of things from their article that can help you write better headlines for your affiliate marketing campaigns.

* The takeaways from the original post are italicized at the beginning of each list item, followed by my thoughts on how they apply to affiliate marketing.

1. Put Numbers in The Headline

“One of the first things that I saw was that lists posts are huge and were the most likely type of post to be shared more than 1,000 or even 100 times”

List posts get more engagement. This not only means shares, but more importantly, clicks-throughs.

It’s not just list posts that work well, it’s any headline with a number at the beginning of it. The numbers 5 and 10 seem to work best for list posts and 1 or 2 works well for steps to solve a problem. Remember, one of the most widely used and most successful headlines ever is “1 Weird Trick to…”.

Why it works:

  • People are lazy
  • You’re telling them they only have to do 1 thing to solve their problem
  • The word “Weird” creates curiosity to make them click

2. Use ‘You’ and ‘Your’ A Lot.

“…content that written in the second person – the point of view you take when you are speaking directly to the reader – is far more likely to be shared than content that comes from a first person narrative. …Readers like to see themselves in what they are reading…”

People don’t want to read about your products ingredients, awards or creation process, they want to know how you are going to solve their problem.

Help Your readers imagine a better life:

  • Bad: “We’ve Got This Cheap Sleeping Pill That Has Diphenhydramine In It!!”
  • Good: “Do This And You’ll Fall Asleep In Seconds”

Why it works:

  • People want results, not facts and figures
  • They don’t want a sleeping pill – they want sleep
  • To find out what “This” is, they have to click

3. Emotional and Cliffhanger Headlines Work

“On Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, for example, word’s like ‘thing, should, and reasons’ seem to clearly indicate the use of a list… these list-like terms are also highly emotional terms, a strong signal that the data will touch on more about bit later…”

People love a cliff-hanger, so don’t give it all away in your headline.

By leaving the key details out of the headline you’re forcing the user to click. It’s called click-bait and it works very well. It works so well that Facebook just changed their algorithm to stop showing so many click-bait posts in newsfeeds (because people can’t stop themselves from clicking them), but it still works great for paid ads.

Example: Let’s say you’re selling an ebook on how to get 6-pack abs.

  • Bad: “Bananas, Grapes and Potatoes Have A Lot of Carbs And Can Make You Gain Weight”
  • Good: “These 3 Odd Foods Are Hiding Your 6-Pack (Even Though You Think They’re Healthy)”

Why it works:

  1. Readers must click to get the answer to their problems
  2. There are only 3 things to learn and that won’t take much time
  3. Calling them “odd” causes curiousity
  4. The ending implies they’re currently making a mistake

4. Test Your Headlines


You can test your headlines using a free tool called the “Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer”. This thing will analyze your headline, count the emotional words and give you a score.

My Best Headline

Here’s how the headlines analyzer works:

This score indicates that your headline has a total of 57.14% Emotional Marketing Value (EMV) Words.

And for comparison, most professional copywriters’ headlines will have 30%–40% EMV Words in their headlines, while the most gifted copywriters will have 50%–75% EMV words in headlines.

And it works. I ran my top 5 headlines from this blog through the tool and they all scored well over 30%. My most shared blog post ever “10 Decisions That Probably Saved My Life” got an EMV Score of 57.14%. I ran my best affiliate marketing campaign headline through it and it scored a 67%.

It’s not a magic bullet, but it’s a cool way to pre-test your headlines before you go live. Of course, testing your headlines on live traffic is the only way to see if they’re winners or not.


Headlines are huge in marketing. Whether the headline is on your banner ad or landing page it’s the first, and sometimes the ONLY thing your visitor will read. If your headline is good you can do amazing things, if not – you’re screwed.

That’s why sites like Upworthy write their headlines up to 25x for each article they post. It’s a big deal.

And great headlines aren’t just good for click-bait sites. They can make or break an affiliate marketing campaign as well. Higher CTRs get you lower CPCs, especially if you’re buying CPM, so as an affiliate, you need to learn this stuff too.

For a great headline:

  • Put a number in the headline (10 Tips, 1 Weird Trick)
  • Use ‘You’ and ‘Your’ A lot
  • Use emotional words and cliffhangers
  • Use the headline tool and go for 30%+ EMV score

How to Start Today:

  • Set a timer for 20 minutes and re-write the headline for your main campaign 25x using the techniques from this post.
  • Test your best 3 new headlines against your current one (I use Voluum)
  • Then, come back to this post and share your results in the comments. (I want to hear what happens)

My guess is that you’re going to see a lift in engagement, click-through rates and most importantly, PROFITS.

And that my friend, is the name of the game.

  • Vasco

    Great post Malan!

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      thanks Vasco – writing headlines is one of my favorite parts of the gig

  • Nick8008

    The headline analyzer tool is very cool. Although it’s funny how some of the most famous headlines get really low scores.

    My best attempt is “Do you want to be happy?” which scores 100.00%. And it’s given me lots of new ideas to test…

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      yeah Nick – it’s definitely not foolproof but like you said – it’s really interesting and has helped me come up with new ideas. what headline did you run that scored low (if you can say)

      • Nick8008

        It was just a few random ones from Victor Schwab’s “100 good advertising headlines” ad.

        It’s fun writing headlines and getting instant feedback, instead of just writing them in a vacuum, so to speak.

        • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

          yeah it’s a great place to start. then – the real test comes when you put it on live traffic 😉

  • bigaffdreams

    way to bring the heat Malan!

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      thanks for reading bigaffdreams

  • Dennis

    Nice article Malan. I really enjoyed it.
    I was wondering if this applies to dating headlines as well.

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      The only way to find out is to test it 😉

  • Kuldeepofficial

    Hello Malan, I’m silent reader of your blog and for the first time I’m commenting…cuz I’m too lazy to comment!

    I’d like to add one should understand the media types where headline to be used.

    For example, if someone looking badly for any product, then your headline should define a sense of urgency.



  • Denis Collage

    Awesome info Malan. Been tweaking headlines using your tips and got it ranked at 65% on the headline analyzer tool. Launching today, gonna be a killer campaign! Cool tip: take headlines that are ranking at 30 to 40% and try combining them. Thanks my friend. On a side note, I liked your minimalist post as well, want to get there one day but the closet thing gave me heart palpitations.

  • Eric Allred

    Read this yesterday, plugged it into a campaign that has been pretty steady for a few months. Like the initial results I am seeing. My control was 40% but was able to write a 50%/43%/57% and potentially has some promise. I would love to know your recurring optimization process for landers. Headlines > images/cta/etc. > offers? I can get overwhelemed with the “always more can be done” nature sometimes.