Top Secret Tool For Creating The Best Attention-Grabbing Headlines

By Melissa Brown, MD

The Challenge

One of the biggest challenges people have with content marketing is how to come up with a good headline. Without having an attention-grabbing, scroll-stopping headline for your subject line, your email is passed by and never opened. It doesn’t matter how well the email is written or what’s the story or the offer inside. Without that email getting opened, nothing happens.

The same thing applies to your blog post title–if it’s not compelling enough to click, the reader keeps scrolling and moves on. That article you wrote could be the exact answer the reader is looking for, but if the title/headline doesn’t grab and pull in the reader, they keep going.

The Headline’s Job

Your headline has to be inviting and make some type of promise for what the reader finds inside. It also needs to create instant curiosity. Put all of these together and you now see the job of your headline.

So how do you come up with a good hook as your headline so readers are curious enough to stop and click?

The Surprisingly Simple Tool

One of the easiest ways I’ve found to create compelling titles is to strategically use a very simple tool. This is one you’re likely using multiple times per day every day already–Google!

Google Some Magazine Cover Images

Specifically, you want to Google images of magazine covers to see the headlines printed on those covers. Publishers use headlines to grab the attention of the browsing customer. This leads the customer to pick up the magazine from the magazine rack. The reader is curious to read more.

How It Works

Once the reader is hooked on the headline, they want to buy the magazine. They’re curious to finish that article–and see what other goodies are inside the magazine, too.

Headlines are often combined with eye-catching images to further attract attention–and get the sale. This is especially important for those magazines that rely on impulse buys for much of their sales.

Think about the check-out line at the grocery store and how tempting it is to throw a magazine in with your groceries because you were curious about a headline you saw while you were waiting. You had no intention of buying a magazine. You were there for bread and milk. The magazine became an impulse buy. Thank (or blame!) the headline that pulled you in!

Cosmo Magazine

One of the best magazines to do this is Cosmopolitan magazine. Helen Gurley Brown was the editor for Cosmo for decades. As an excellent copywriter, she used her skills to entice readers to pick up the magazine through her use of the magic of wordsmithing. The headlines on the magazine cover would tap into the reader’s emotions and pull them into the articles, leading to a purchase. Outrageous, suggestive headlines have been the norm for this magazine for years.

Borrow And Adapt The Styles

You can borrow some of the headline styles from Cosmo (or try other magazines, too) to create templates of your own. Start by using Google to find Cosmopolitan magazine cover images. Zoom in so you can read the cover easily, and write down in a doc or notepad some of the headlines that appeal to you.

Once you’ve listed a bunch of different styles, save it somewhere that’s easy to retrieve on your computer.  You can easily open up your template doc the next time you’re stumped. Experiment with how to adapt and revise one or more of those headlines for your audience.


For instance, here are some titles I’ve discovered on a Cosmo cover:

Go Naked: 19 Ways To Feel Instant Pleasure
Fasting: The Ultimate (and Best) Diet–You Can Do It If You Try
27 Amazing Reasons It’s Great To Be a Woman

You can rewrite these styles in this way:

Go Naked: 19 Ways To Feel Instant Pleasure becomes:
Go Naked: 7 New Whole Food Trends To Try (for a whole foods health coach)

Fasting: The Ultimate (and Best) Diet–You Can Do It If You Try becomes:
Zoom Networking: The Ultimate (and Best) Global Relationship Builder–Try It, You’ll Like It  (for a business coach)

27 Amazing Reasons It’s Great To Be a Woman becomes
27 Little-Known Ways You Can Grow Your Email List (for a marketing strategist)

Bonus Tool Suggestion

You can even consider popping your ideas into special software tools to further refine and tweak headlines. I’ve used Co-schedule’s headline analyzer tool which is free and easy to use.

Optinmonster has a similar tool that’s free to use, also. You’ll need to add your name and email address to use these tools, but you can always unsubscribe if you feel like you’re receiving too much or not enough value from the resulting series of emails.

Your Turn

How do you come up with ideas for headlines–email subject lines and blog titles? Share your tips with me in the comments below!

About the author

Dr. Melissa Brown's career journey has always had an element of teaching. After retirement from clinical pediatric practice, Dr. Brown has taught and mentored as a healthy lifestyle coach, author, and speaker. She currently teaches solopreneurs and coaches how to stop being the world's best-kept secret. Her mission is to help you: Create great content. Impact people. Change the world.

  • HI Melissa, thanks for the great suggestions. I seem to have issues sometimes coming up with great headings. Sometimes they come fine, and other times it’s more difficult. I bookmarked this post and will come back the next time I have a block. Thanks so much.

    • Samantha, I’m a lot like you–sometimes it’s easy and other times, I need some help. Magazine headlines on covers have been helpful as jumpstart. Hope you can use this info next time your ideas aren’t flowing. Thanks for your comment.

  • Hey Melissa, I learned this magazine-viewing strategy for creating compelling headlines, some time ago, but only started using it recently. I usually use coschedule, but never knew about Optinmonster. Thanks for the tip. I will check them out.

    • Thanks for your comment, Florence. I usually use coschedule, too, but occasionally hop around to try out others like optinmonster. There are others out there as well but when I find something that works, I usually stick with it unless someone recommends something totally amazing that would replace it.

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