6 Surefire Ways to Un-Suck Your Listicle Headline Now

August 26, 2020

Would you watch a movie with a lousy trailer? Probably not.

Your readers feel the same about articles. If you can’t draw them in with the headline, you lose them to the competition.

It doesn’t matter if your listicle has the most useful insights, or that you are an expert on the subject. All your hard work will go to waste if your headline doesn’t hold water.

In this article, we focus on how to write catchy listicle headlines. But first, let’s find out why headlines can make or break your content marketing efforts.

Why Your Headlines Matter

In a world where readers are spoilt for choice, first impressions count.  Your headline is the first contact potential clients have with your listicle.

writing headlines

Image Credit: coschedule

“When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”

David Ogilvy, Founder at Ogilvy & Mather

David Ogilvy’s popular observation on this topic is timeless. Content marketing costs time and money. Great headlines help increase your ROI by increasing traffic to your site.

As a content marketer, your goal is to inspire the reader with a call-to-action. A good headline encourages a reader to share your article, provide feedback, or make a sales inquiry.

6 Tips for Writing Irresistible Listicle Headlines

1: Be Specific

Readers only have 2.6 seconds to decide whether your article is worth a read. That is why the headline MUST be clear about what they stand to gain from reading it. Some of the ways to achieve this include:

Offer Solutions

A headline that promises to solve the reader’s problems catches their attention. The solution needs to be specific and easy to apply.


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Keep it Short

content title length vs social shares

Image Credit: neilpatel.com

A study by Kissmetric found that readers focus on the first three and the last three words of a headline. Shorter headlines are easier to process.

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You can shorten this headline for impact by using an adverb.
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Search Engines also favor shorter titles. Keep your headline between 60 and 100 characters for best results in the search engines.

Use Simple Language

We all know that headlines need to stand out. That’s why it’s tempting to include clever puns or impressive industry lingo. 

This tends to create ambiguity. Your reader might not be 100% sure that your article will match their expectations. It’s always safer to use common, but powerful, words and phrases.

2: Evoke Emotions

Headlines that elicit an emotional response will spur your audience to read more. You can write emotional headlines by using some of these tactics.

Make a Bold Statement

Authoritative statements impress readers. They want to feel like they can trust you. They want you to tell them what to do to solve their problems.

You can use headlines to make a bold claim that inspires curiosity, shock, or even controversy.


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Use Negative Headlines

Negative headlines create powerful emotions. They make a reader feel like they are losing out on a good thing or doing something wrong. Reading the article gives them a sense of relief. It helps them become a better person.


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positive negative superlatives titles

Image Source: cxl.com

Create a Sense of Urgency

Everyone hates to miss out on good opportunities. Headlines that create a sense of urgency grab readers’ attention. You can make a time-sensitive call-to-action in your listicle headline. You can also give an impression of limited stock.


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Tell a Success Story

Success stories are some of the most viral posts on the internet. They inspire hope and offer motivation to your readers who have the same goals.

You can use a listicle to tell a success story. It makes it easier to read, understand, and share.


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3: Use Numbers

According to this research, articles with numbers in the headline get more traffic.

One reason that explains this phenomenon is the Ellsberg Paradox. This is a decision theory that demonstrates the human mind’s aversion to uncertainty.

Numbers help reduce this sense of uncertainty. This is why readers click through on headlines with numbers.

Conductor overall headline preferences

Image source: wordstream.com

You can use numbers to inform the reader how many items to expect in your listicle.


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You can also use them to share facts or statistics.


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4: Ask Questions

In content marketing, we use questions to:

Spark Curiosity

You can draw readers in by using a question in your listicle headline. The reader’s curiosity compels them to read more. Your content answers the question that is also their problem. It may also serve to compare their own experience.


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Increase Interaction

An open-ended question attracts the reader by seeking their opinion. You invite them to share their experiences and even share your content with peers.

Using a question, in this case, will create consensus or even controversy.


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5: Use Target Keywords

Successful content marketers write for their audience AND for search engines. Finding this balance involves using target keywords.

Know Your Audience

The first rule of writing irresistible headlines is knowing your readers’ search intent. You must write about topics that readers in your target audience are researching.

Before writing your listicle, figure out if it solves your readers’ problems. 

It can be tempting to write about any trending topic. Sticking to your niche establishes your authority in the field. It also avoids wasting resources on clickbait content.

Research Keywords

keyword filter

Image source: ahrefs.com

Keywords that rank highly on search engines are very competitive. They are also rewarding in generating traffic.

Some keyword research tools you can use include Google Keyword Planner, Wordstream, Moz’s Keyword Explorer, and Ubersuggest.

It is worth noting that headlines that begin with keywords rank higher on search engines.

6: Research Your Competition

Benchmarking with your competition is essential in content marketing. It keeps you in the loop of what’s trending in your target audience. This advice applies to headlines too.

Use BuzzSumo to compare relevant articles from other content creators in your field.

buzzsumo research

Image Credit: blog.alexa.com

Your listicles will receive more traffic than your competitors if you add value.

  • Can you answer questions they are not addressing?
  • Do you have a unique angle on common topics?
  • Can you enhance your reader’s experience with different content formats?
  • Can you write in a unique tone or style that attracts readers?

Answering these questions helps your headlines stand out and attract more traffic

Boost Your Traffic With Winning Listicles

We’ve established that listicles with a great headline get your reader’s foot in the door. Getting them to read through the entire article is another art you need to master.

To win your reader’s trust, your content must match the expectations created by the headline. 

Katrina McKinnon


I'm Katrina McKinnon, founder of CopySmiths and Small Revolution. In my 20 years of experience, I have helped online businesses create high-performing content specifically on an eCommerce store's blog. Find me on LinkedIn and Twitter.