Conquer Headlines and Shine!

By on 27/04/2012

Writing great content is enough of a challenge in itself, without the possibility that it may not even be read – all because your headline sucks. There’s plenty of research that’s been done about what makes a great headline, and most of it shows that if you have a well constructed headline, your content will get read.

Put simply:

A compelling and genuine headline, with appeal and originality, will have a huge impact on whether people read your content.

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Yes, we really are that fickle. Not to mention that fact that a good headline will not only get you read, but re-read! (think Facebook shares, re-tweets, blog shares… you get the picture).

The best thing is, the many who have gone before you have created headline formulas where it’s as simple as plugging in your product and the formula does the rest.

But there is a catch.

With everyone using the same formulas, we’ve ended up with an inundation of fairly average headlines. Even though your content may be amazing, without a great (and relatively unique) headline, no-one’s going to read it.

So how do you stand out?

The SHINE Formula

I had a poke around the interwebs to try and find a way to make your headlines more genuine and memorable and I found a great article by Dominic Bnonn Tennant which outlines something the author came up with called the SHINE formula.

Shine stands for Specificity, Helpfulness, Immediacy, Newsworthiness and Entertainment value.

His article talks about headline formulas and explains how although formulaic headlines can be effective, there’s a couple of problems with just taking a formula like “How to (blah) with only (blah blah)!” and sticking it at the top of your page.

Bnonn states that typically, headlines like “How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days” – for example – are ‘too forced and ultra specific.’ This, he says, makes them unmemorable. Secondly, he believes that these types of headlines ‘lack a key element which is essential for web headline writing.’

The key element that Bnonn is referring to here is the ‘E’ component of his SHINE formula: Entertainment value.

After reading Bnonn’s post, I had a good look at the headline formulas available to see for myself, and many of the pages available have recycled and repetitive information. So I looked through them and have included in this article what I think are the best three sites for you to get headline formulas from.

My advice?

Use the formulas from my top three picks below and then apply Bnonn’s SHINE formula to your headline to produce the winner.

My Top 3 Headline Formula Picks

1. 7 Proven Headline Formulas That Convert (And why they work)

This is an easy to read guide with clear explanations.

2. 5 Blog Headline Formulas Readers Can’t Resist

This is from Successful Blogging and contains a pretty comprehensive overview of five types of headline formulas.

3. 102 Proven Headline Formulas

This one I’ve included just for the sheer size of the list. Katrina Padron has compiled a list of 102 headline formulas!

So, go forth with what you now know, and use your powers for good!

About ldawson

Laura is a freelance copywriter based in Melbourne. She loves getting stuck into some great advertising copy, can happily work for hours on articles about absolutely anything, and she doesn’t mind writing the odd headline, either.
  • DanielDuckworth

    I think what would be a really interesting experiment would be to run a split A/B test on one of the headline formulas (A) and one of the same headline formula but with some SHINE applied to it (B) and see which one comes out on top. 

  • GetIntheHotSpot

    Hi Laura,
    Thanks for sharing my post here. I love writing headlines now and while the formulas are great standbys and ways to get started for new writers it’s so important to mix them up so your readers don’t get jaded:) So I love the SHINE theory, it sounds good, like taking a basic dress and sprucing it up with some hot accessories. Daniel, now you’re talking, that’s a great idea:)

  • LauraDawson

    Hi Annabel,
    Thanks for your comments :) Since discovering how interesting headline writing can be I’ve been doing plenty of reading about it — and you wrote a really great article :)

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