Discover the Secret to Writing Better Headlines – Instantly

Copywriters Secret to Writing HeadlinessHeadlines are arguably the most important words in any piece of copy you write. If you don’t grab a reader with a headline, they won’t click on your link, read your blog post, open your email, or sign up for your list (just to name a few).

Those few words can make or break the success of a particular piece of copy, whether it’s a blog post or a sales letter. And with digital copy, you’re constrained even further, with only perhaps 60 characters to grab attention in a Google search result. (That’s the length at which Google cuts off a title in search results.)

How to Get Better at Writing Headlines—Instantly!

In copywriting, as with so many other skills, one of the best ways to improve your own abilities is to study the greats. Marketers and copywriters of all levels keep what are known as “swipe files”—files of great headlines and other copy that worked for someone else—to study and rely on for inspiration.

Contrary to the name, these aren’t meant to be copied directly, but rather used as jumping off points for your own creative brilliance.

But using these swipe files can improve your own headlines almost immediately. Mentally run your topic through a few of the examples in any given list, and you’re practically guaranteed to come up with a winning headline backed by some serious testing historical clout.

Of course, you’ll get better and better at writing headlines the more you practice. Try out several headlines for every piece you write instead of just going with the first one that comes to mind.

Here are some tips for better headlines from my mentor and veteran direct response copywriter, Gene Schwartz. And, check out this post on 5 reasons why numbers in headlines work.

6 Swipe Files to Dramatically Improve Your Headlines

There are surely hundreds—if not thousands—of headline swipe files available online; a quick Google search will show you that. Here are a few that I believe give you the best information for the time you’ll spend reading them.

  1. The ultimate swipe file is Who’s Mailing What? – here are simply the best direct mail samples archived anywhere.
  2. One of the best resources I’ve found is Jon Morrow’s “52 Headline Hacks: A Cheat Sheet for Writing Blog Posts that Go Viral.” You need to opt-in to his list to get it, but he gives out solid advice, so it’s a win-win. In it, he goes into detail about why his 52 favorite headlines work. A solid crash-course in effective headline writing.
  3. Chris Garrett, founder of Authority Blogger, released a free list of 102 Headline-Writing Formulas in a useful fill-in-the-blank format. I find this one particularly helpful in generating new blog post ideas—with ready-made clickable headlines.
  4. ProCopyTips published a list of 117 Tested Advertising Headlines that Made Money—as discussed in the classic copywriting book, Tested Advertising Methods by John Caples. It’s useful to look at when you need a little inspiration, but you may find, as I do, that some of these are less useful for “swiping” directly, and more useful for understanding the triggers that make people read more.
  5. I highly recommend Copyblogger’s free ebook, “How to Write Magnetic Headlines.” It’s definitely worth the opt-in for the education you will receive—plus, they breakdown 39 headlines that really work and why.
  6. And finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t offer you my own suggestions. You may download “12 Pointers for Writing Attention-Getting Headlines and A Baker’s Dozen of Fill-in-the-Blank Templates You Can Use Right Away” by clicking on the link (no opt-in required).

3 Tips for Creating Your Own Swipe File

In addition to these resources, I suggest starting your own swipe file. It could be a:

  • Document on your computer where you can copy and paste exciting headlines you find online.
  • Folder in your e-mail program where you tuck away e-mails with headlines that compelled you to open.
  • File for those direct mail pieces you received in your mail box (yes, good ‘ol “snail mail”) that grabbed your attention.

Finding the styles that speak to you, in these swipe files and elsewhere, helps you develop your skill with writing headlines that get read — and better yet — acted upon.

Do you have a favorite headline-writing resource or a great headline that grabbed your attention recently? Please share it with us in the comments below because I’d love to hear from you.


Debra Jason

Marketing & writing with heart, not hype at at The Write Direction
A recipient of the “Creative Person of the Year” award, Debra educates and empowers creative solopreneurs and enthusiastic business owners to create a lifestyle business that provides them with the flexibility, fun and freedom to do what they love. She also inspires you to communicate your marketing message in a way that captivates and converts your prospects into loyal, raving fans - even if you have been struggling with how to transform your ideas into words in the past.


  1. I love copy writing even though I still struggle with it. I did get a copy of copyblogger. Love their emails.
    I started some time ago collecting emails that made me want to open them.
    You give some excellent resources and advice.

    Looking forward to coming back and reading some more!
    Katrina recently posted…Blog Help: Choosing Quality Blog ThemesMy Profile

    • Copywriting, like any skill, takes practice Katrina. By creating a swipe file of those messages that grab your attention, you’re heading in the right direction.
      Copyblogger offers lots of great tips. Thanks for stopping by here and sharing your thoughts.
      Look forward to your return.

  2. Copywriting is a talent, and can be learned by looking at some of these amazing sites that you have provided. I even bought a headline generator to help me with the formula (unfortunately, that computer is out of order). I thank you so much for sharing these sites, so that I can get back in the swing of writing “readable” headlines.
    Jewel Williams recently posted…Day 12: The Aplomb Of The EntrepreneurMy Profile

    • Jewel, glad you found these swipe sites helpful. Keep in mind, you want more than a “readable” headline, you want one that grabs attention and gets prospects to read the first sentence. Then, the next and the next and finally, take action.
      Here’s to your sweet success,

  3. Great! I´m already using the “file the cool ones” suggestion. Study what works is an awesome first step until you develop your own successful style.
    Paula – Buenos Aires recently posted…AEDM 13 Day 18 Week #46 2013 Starting overMy Profile

  4. This is a treasure trove of resources. Thank you so much for posting it. For those of who don’t write headlines for a living, this will be a lifesaver.

  5. Perfect timing! I’ve been going through my files this past week and found the one from Authority Blogger. I downloaded yours:) Thanks for that! Now I’m off to check out the other links!
    Toni Nelson recently posted…As A Female Business Owner I Would Like to…..My Profile

  6. I LOVE this post Debra. Thanks for the great resources. Headlines are so critical. I’ve gotten better over the years, but I have lots of room for improvement.
    Stephanie LH Calahan recently posted…I’m Sure You Have a To-Do List, But Do You Have a To-Be List?My Profile

    • There’s always something new & exciting to learn. And, even the best copywriters continue to grow and improve upon their talents and skills.
      You’ll enjoy the resources, I’m sure.
      Thanks Stephanie.

  7. Excellent resource round up Debra. I’ve read the Copyblogger book and now off to read yours. The tip about creating one’s own swipe file is something I am definitely going to implement. Happy Saturday!

  8. Debra, thank you for linking to some really great advice on writing effective headlines. I admit I often struggle with titles. Sometimes they feel inspired and I’m sure of them,but other times not so much. I am coming back to this post later to carefully go over the advice you’ve laid out here in hopes I can improve this necessary skill! 🙂
    Belinda Rose recently posted…The Gift of The Unexpected GuestMy Profile

    • Belinda,
      I think we all go through those moments of being sure vs. unsure of ourselves and/or our headlines/titles. Not every hit is a home run, but we are constantly learning. You’ll find the resources listed helpful to you in the future. Enjoy.

  9. I was just thinking today about a great post I have on my blog, that nobody reads, and I know it’s because of the title! Will go through the great resources you list here and hope that will inspire me to come up with the title that the post deserves! Thank you for the reminder!
    Christine recently posted…China – A winter Wonder Land?My Profile

  10. The journalist in me loves everything to do with writing great headlines. My favorite swipe files are magazine covers.
    Christie recently posted…The Brand Workshop GiveawayMy Profile

  11. Thanks for the resources Debra!

    I have Copyblogger’s eBook and find it to be an invaluable tool. I also split test different headlines in social media. Definitely worth the extra time to know what makes your audience click an article.
    Denise Marie Filmore recently posted…How to Stop Paying for Stock Photos [Feature Blogger: Lois Olson]My Profile

  12. Fabulous resource here. Thank you.

    I struggle with copy because I write teaching manual, which means a lot of deets and first year college writing style. So, learning to write copy is one heck of a learning curve. I’m slowly learning, but am in awe of people this comes naturally to.

    So, basically…I’m in awe of your skills. Love that you are willing to share. And I’ll keep you on my list for next hiring…yes, that’s one way I’ve found to make copy writing work for me … hire a professional 😉
    Jacqueline Fairbrass recently posted…Upset Tummy? Top Pain Relievers in Your Kitchen CupboardMy Profile

    • Jacqueline, it’s always good to know when to outsource. Though I have actually written manuals in the past, I prefer to write marketing copy and have learned to go with my strengths.
      Thanks for keeping me in mind.
      Have a great day. Here’s to your sweet success,

  13. Thanks for sharing your resource list. Copywriting is an ever changing skill and there is always something new to learn. Cx

  14. Great Post! Copywriting isn’t my specialty. I never know what to write to grab people’s attention. I’m definitely going to have to start my own swipe file!! Thank you for this awesome tip!
    Minling recently posted…How to let go of attachmentMy Profile

  15. Will you never stop offering great, practical advice? I hope not! I’ve realized recently how much time I spend writing and assessing writing; it’s become a huge part of my business, both in developing and promoting products. Your suggestions are always on the money and you did it again; thanks Debra!

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