A professional-grade headline gets noticed, clicked, and (if the content behind it is valuable) shared.

A professional-grade headline sticks in your head if you don't click it.

It doesn't give you time to think. It's as though it's speaking to you and you alone, controlling your attention and paralyzing you with curiosity.

People are slaves to great headlines. That's why they're by far the most important part of any piece of online content.

Sound dramatic? C'mon...

Look at Buzzfeed, Gawker, and Upworthy. What do you think makes these mega-sites so popular? It's their investment in great headline writing, not SEO.

The trick is knowing and understanding your audience.

Your headlines should assuage the fears or support the goals of your readers. But that's not all. Headlines must also deliver on the promises they make.

Don't trick your readers. (The ole' bait n' switch headline is a real credibility killer.)

With that said, at the end of the day:

Headlines are not written, they're crafted...


And the best way to craft a captivating headline is by following the "4 Us," making it:

1. Useful,

2. unique,

3. ultra-specific, and

4. urgent.

In fact, that's how I came up with this article's title (which I've deconstructed below to demonstrate the process).

As a starting point, I wrote down the bare bones of what this article is about: Crafting headlines.

With the fundamental topic of my article ("Craft Headlines") in mind, I could I start running through the steps.

So, here goes:

Step 1: Make it Useful

"How to Craft Headlines"

Starting a headline with "Learn," "Discover," or, in this case, "How to," instantly relays value, or usefulness.

It's really just that simple.

Step 2: Make it Unique

"How to Craft Professional-Grade Headlines"

A "unique" headline is, for all intents and purposes, original. It hooks readers in, sparks their interest, and stands out.

There are LOTS of articles about headline writing on the Internet. But "How to Craft Professional-Grade Headlines" -- now that promises a level of uniqueness.

Remember, at the end of the day, you want the reader to be intrigued. (Again, just make sure you can back up your claim.)

Step 3: Make it Ultra-specific

"4 Steps to Crafting Professional-Grade Headlines"

You can add specificity to a headline by describing its structure.

For example, I replaced "How" with "4 Steps," which is far more descriptive (i.e., specific).

By the way, I know you're sick of seeing list posts. (I am, too.) But every successful web writer uses them for the simple fact that they work.

Step 4: Make it Urgent

"4 Steps to Crafting Professional-Grade Headlines That Won't Be Ignored"

There are two ways to make your headlines "urgent:"

1. Make them deadline-driven: "Only 14 tickets left..."

2. Make them consequence-driven: "If you don't fix that, then this will happen..."

By adding "That Won't Be Ignored" to the end of this headline, I highlighted the consequences of the readers' inaction, which gave it the urgency I was looking for.

In Sum:

A "4 Us" headline is longer, but it's also more effective. It's like the bazooka of headlines: big, heavy, dense, and relatively slow (to read) -- but it packs a solid punch.

Ultimately, though, the 4 Us approach is just a good way to set your content apart from everyone elses.

With that, I send you on your way, dear Reader, to craft your own Buzzfeed-worthy headlines. Headlines so useful, so unique, so urgent and ultra-specific that they turn people into content zombies with but one aim: To consume your every last word.

Til next time, friends. (And please don't forget to share!)