How do you go about writing your headlines or captions? Is it something you labour over or is it a super quick exercise for you?

Headlines (or captions on Instagram) are so very important.

Did you know that a reader will read the first 3 and last 3 words of your headline and gauge from them whether they want to click or read on?

I guess if it’s shorter than 3 words, they read the first and last and not the middle.  Our brains are funny things aren’t they, we don’t really read everything!

So today we are looking at how to write engaging headlines which leads to a click and the reader reading our whole post or newsletter or article or caption.

Back in the 80’s, David Ogilvy famously wrote, “On the average, five times as many people read the headlines as read the body copy.”

Clearly that was before social media and the internet because today I would say between 500 and 5000 people would read the headline and not the copy – think about it – how many things have your scroll past just today and haven’t bothered to click or read the rest of the body copy?

Headlines are powerful – when I say headlines, it does include captions also. Because on Instagram we talk in captions.

Instagram is a perfect example of needing to have a great caption or headline.

You get less than 2 lines to grab your readers attention, to get them to click and read more.

So how much time and energy do you put into your headlines or captions? Whether you’re writing a blog, a social post, an article, a subject line in an email, powerful headlines are crucial to your success and the success of the piece you’ve written.

Your headline simply allows the reader to make the “to read or not to read” decision.

Marie Forleo famously said on her podcast one day, that she writes up to 50 headlines for every piece of content she puts out there – she believes that the gold starts to come around the 30 mark! I remember thinking, oh my gosh, I don’t have that much time to write up to 50 headlines! And I’m guessing I’m not alone there!

As a content marketer, you win the battle for engagement by making your headlines irresistible. So, let’s have a look at some tactics bound to help you improve your headline writing chops!

1. Ask

Posing a question, one of the oldest tricks in the book, remains one of the best ways to engage a reader.

2. Talk about benefits not features

Features tend to bore readers. Always go the benefits – how will your product or service benefit the reader? (This is where knowing your audience and who you want to attract comes into play, yet again!).

3. Use specific data or numbers in your headline

Integrating specific numbers and data into your headline is an effective way to make your headlines more enticing to readers. Several research studies have shown that headlines with numbers tend to generate 73% more social shares and engagement.

Numbers not only stand out in a headline, but our brain is more respective to them. Just a pro-tip – when using numbers, make them unusual – so they really stand out. So, instance, 1917 stands out more than 1900 – it’s just how we see it. Unusual numbers are easier to capture readers attention. Sometimes, odd numbers make it more believable too. If my subject line was “How to increase your Instagram following by 2000 people in 7 days”, it’s less believable than 1678 in 7 days.

4. Use Rationales

Use rationales to engage with readers – rationales such as tips, reasons, lessons, tricks, ideas, ways, principles, facts, secrets, strategies etc.

Here’s some examples:

  • 5 Tips to Write Blog Introductions Like a Pro
  • 15 Lessons I Learned the Hard Way as a marketer
  • 3 Secrets to Make Your List Love your More

If you want people to read your content, do you have a good reason that they should?

5. Follow the rule of the 4 U’s of writing attention-driven headlines:

The four U’s are:

  • Make the headline UNIQUE

Unique means one of a kind – different to others. Not sure if your headline is unique – google it! Type it into the search bar but make sure you use quotation marks around the headline when you add it (“ ”)


For example: According to The New York Times, lack of focus, vision and planning is one of the reasons why 33% of small businesses fail.

  • It should convey a sense of URGENCY

Think FOMO – fear of missing out, such as:

    • Only 2 left
    • Ends in 3 hours
    • 5 Steps I took to do x, but you can do it in 4
  • Your headline has to be USEFUL

This encompasses all 3 above. If your headline and content isn’t useful, no matter how much urgency you employ, it’ll fail. In fact, there is no way to write a specific and unique piece of content, without it being useful at the same time.

Make it practical, helpful, valuable, informative, worthwhile, beneficial, advantageous and so on. The bottom line is to help the readers experience hope, knowing that their problem can still be solved.

6. KISS – keep it simple super star!

Finally, in the words of Albert Einstein “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough!”

Write for your audience – don’t make the reader feel undervalued or dump because the words you’ve used are beyond them.

Don’t use: 12 Meticulous Savings Tips For The Financial Amateur

Instead use: 12 Effective Saving Tips For Those Who Want Extra Cash

Never ever use: Top 10 Omnipresent Places to Find Ravishing Blog Post Theses

Feel free to use: Top 10 Places to Find Useful Blog Post Ideas

You get the idea!

At the end of the day, it’s not enough that they click your headline. They need to read the information you’ve provided them in the body of your content, as well.

Getting the headline right is just the first stage!

Hopefully these tips will lead you to better headlines and thus better engagement and heavenly click through rates!

How can I help you?

I have discovery calls available to help you if you need a boost in your social media content strategy and ideas!

If you’d like to book a call – get in touch – send me a message on any of the social platforms or book a call at

My Like Minded Business Owners Facebook group is also an awesome source of info, the community of fellow business owners people who are so willing to share their experiences and expertise is amazing.

Or you can DM me on Instagram or shoot me an email

I wish to acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land, the Yorta Yorta People, on which I conduct my business today and pay my respects to their Elders past and present. I extend that respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples reading this blog post today.


Jenn Donovan is a marketing strategist and social media extraordinaire, coach and mentor to savvy business owners. Owner and Founder of Social Media & Marketing Australia.

With a passion for making business simple, because it’s isn’t easy but it should be simple or at least simpler, she’s built a reputation for helping other small business owners simplify their marketing and businesses so they can reach their goals, be more profitable and live the dream (finding the freedom they set out to achieve when they started … the illusive small business owner freedom dream …!)

Jenn believes in giving before asking and that’s why she’s the host of the popular Small Business Made Simple Podcast.


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Brilliant – it’s on its way – thanks!


Brilliant – it’s on its way – thanks!


Brilliant – it’s on its way – thanks!


Brilliant – it’s on its way – thanks!

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