4 Viral Headline Blueprints

Web Design & Development
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Brooke Miceli
Vice President
Published Oct 2013
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In a nutshell, headlines either make a person interested to read your article or skim right past it.

Originality is overrated. A far better approach to creating something new is to steal it from someone else. Ok, maybe this warrants an explanation. When it comes to creating something that works or grabs attention, there is usually a blueprint or a template behind it. We aren’t suggesting that you rip off anyone else’s work and claim it as your own or that you don’t work for your own success. But consider this- when we want to write a book, design a website, paint a picture, start a business, or create anything new, we study 1) people who have don’t it successfully,  2) how they did it, and 3) how we can duplicate their success in our own project.

When we create headlines for our blog posts or articles, we look at the most popular headlines of articles that have gone viral and use a formula that works.  I read in a copywriting article that the majority of successful headlines used today are more than 50 years old, written by copywriting geniuses, such as Eugene Schwartz and Claude Hopkins. Let’s look at 4 types of successful headline blueprints and how you can use them in your next blog or article.

Threat headlines

These are the headlines that tell you if you don’t read this, then you will never find out “5 Truths about your Drinking Water that are Killing You”, which is pretty valuable information. If you can pinpoint something your reader is afraid of losing, a warning of impending doom, or even the “enemy” they need to know about, you have created a powerful headline.


  • 5 Warning signs that {insert something scary here}.
  • 8 Lies your {insert trusted person’s role here} is Telling You.
  • The Shocking Truth About {insert something shocking here}.
  • Real life example: 5 Signs You’ve Had Too Much Caffeine (from Prevention)

Promising Headlines

These headlines precede guides, tricks, tips, promises to make things bigger, faster, thinner, happier, or better. This is best paired with an issue that your reader finds to be tedious, problematic, or overwhelming. If I came across an article with “10 Ways to Make Sure Your Children Never Destroy Anything in your Home Again”, well, I would click on it and immediately start taking notes.


  • 7 Ways to Simplify your {insert complication here}.
  • How to {insert complicated task to be conquered here} in 10 minutes.
  • 11 Ways to Take Charge of Your {insert something uncontrolable here}.
  • Real life example: 8 Wonderous Ways to Restore Your Wild Spirit (from Rebelle Society)

How-to Headlines

The Headline of All Headlines, “How to {insert anything here}” is extremely popular, and has proven to be one of the most successful headline templates of all-time. I can just see cave men writing “How to Properly Start and Maintain a Fire” on their walls, and watching their cave peers gather around to find out the secret. We love articles that help us do things, and we offer attention to experts when they offer insight on how to apply  ideas or take steps to achieve a goal.


  • How to {insert action here} even if {insert obstacle here}.
  • The Ultimate Guide to {insert way to conquer the world here}.
  • How to {blank} and {blank}.
  • Real life example: How to Watch a Partial Solar Exclipse Safely (from Sky and Telescope)

List Headlines

List headlines are popular as well because they offer lots of “something” to back up one thought, idea, or theme. If I am looking for a reason to do something extreme, then finding an article with “100 Reasons to Skydive Tomorrow” would be very compelling. We like lists- to-do lists, bucket lists, grocery lists, supply lists, goals lists, and reading lists. A quick look at the front page of popular article round-ups will prove that these headlines work!


  • 25 Reasons to {insert something spectacular here}.
  • 15 Quotes About {insert topic here}.
  • 157 Things You Should Say to Your {let’s just insert “woman” here} Every Day. (That would be a fun read!)
  • Real life example: 7 Terrifying Facts About Halloween Candy (from BuzzFeed)

Have you written an article or blog with a powerful headline? Is there a template you follow? Have you written an article that was a flop and you blame your headline for it? We would love to hear from you in the comments.

What topics would you like to see us write about next?

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