April 21, 2024

The Secret of Powerful Headlines

How a Few Well-Chosen Words
Can Do Magic For Your Business

By David Garfinkel

It’s early morning in a San Francisco café. I’m sitting here away from my office, so I can focus completely on writing this article.

I’m staring intently at a page of handwritten notes – complete with arrows and boxes… famous headlines from throughout history… and all sorts of other intricate details.

Then it happens.

The little red light starts flashing. You know the one I mean – the one on my BlackBerry. I can’t ignore it. I simply have to see what it is.

It’s an email (duh). Of course.

From Perry Marshall, the Google guru.

Subject line:

So you want to get more customers….

I click the round button on the Blackberry to open it up and read it. I’m excited! 12 tips, 6 with asterisks. I wonder: What’s he up to?

Then I take a deep breath and sit back, before I break out laughing. Way too loud. A worker in the café looks my way to make sure I haven’t lost it completely. She decides I’m just laughing too loud but otherwise okay, and goes back to busing tables.

I’m laughing because the very thing I’m trying to figure out how to write about, just happened to me. And it was done so well that I never saw it coming. It blew right by me before I realized:

– what had happened, and

– how my BlackBerry had just provided an exquisite “teachable moment.” :)

You see, the seven words Perry put in his subject line: “So you want to get more customers…. “also functioned flawlessly as an awesomely effective headline.

Perry’s subject line/headline also bears many of the qualities that make it a perfect example for this article:

1. It sounds like conversation. (Even though this was a mass email to his list, the seven words sound like something someone might really say.)

2. All the words are short, except for 1. (6 out of 7 are only 1 syllable and have 4 letters or less. The seventh one, “customers,” is 3 syllables and has 9 letters. It is a long word, but it is rich with meaning and often on every businessperson’s mind.)

3.  It attracts attention and causes curiosity. Because it’s about something I’m interested in myself and something I also help other people with, it gets all of my focus the moment I see it.

4. It implies a desirable reward for reading further. It doesn’t come right out and say so, but it implies that when you keep reading, you will learn something worthwhile about getting new customers for your business.

5. It prompts you to read the next sentence. That’s what it did to me. It got me (and would get nearly any other business-oriented reader) to take action by keeping reading.  With my Blackberry, that can’t happen until I take the action of pressing on the round button that opens the email.

In other formats, like on a Web page, a good headline would simply keep me reading. On Twitter, a good tweet might get me to click on a link. On a Web video, a good opening line would convince me to keep watching.

It’s the same idea in all cases – a good headline captures your attention and holds onto it.

What do other good headlines look like?

Here are some of the “famous, well-known headlines” you may have heard of before. As you read them, see how many of the 5 characteristics they have, or would have if you saw them above some text on the Web or in a print ad:

– How to Win Friends and Influence People

– If You’re Out of the Market Now, You’ll Hate Yourself Later

– The Lazy Man’s Way to Riches

– See How Easily You Can Learn to Dance This Way

– I’ve Got to Get This Off My Chest Before I Explode!

Famous advertising guru of yore, David Ogilvy, once said: “When you have written your headline, you have spent 80 cents out of your dollar.” That is because scientific tests have shown that 80% of the effectiveness of an ad is in the headline.

It has been said that we are in an “attention economy” these days, and your wealth is directly proportional to your ability to get and keep the attention of your prospects and customers.

If that is true, then it stands to reason that the better your headlines are, the wealthier you will be.

David Garfinkel
David Garfinkel
Author of Advertising Headlines That Make You Rich

David Garfinkel, author of Advertising Headlines That Make You Rich, is a business mentor, educator, speaker and copywriter.

Former San Francisco Bureau Chief of McGraw-Hill World News, David began studying advertising copywriting to sell his first self-published information product almost 20 years ago.

Since then, he has written ads, sales letters and Web sites that have brought in millions of dollars of sales. Guerrilla Marketing author Jay Conrad Levinson says, “David Garfinkel is the best copywriter I know.”

Many people also consider David the world’s leading teacher of copywriting, because of his unique methods and unusual perspective.

About David Garfinkel

David Garfinkel is founder of the World Copywriting Institute and the author of The Ultimate Copywriting Crash Course.


  1. Phyllis Emrich says:

    Great tips! Actually more than tips. I will be printing this and inserting into my copyrighting section in my Renegade Pro notebook. You are an inspiration and I will be purchasing your book today!

  2. Wow, I got up at 4:30 this morning and was thinking of headlines to use for my project. I clicked on an email from Mike Klingler and up poped your information. My thought process attracted your information. Curious situation, but this is how the mind works. Positive attraction energy.

    Many Thanks…………….

  3. Thanks David!

    It’s seems so simple and like such common sense but it’s worth paying close attention to as we write. I’ve taken notes!

    EXPECT Success!

    Jackie Ulmer

  4. Thank you. Great reminder on how to create great headlines.

  5. I have thought of how can I communicate to the world of non profits and underfunded organizations like sports leagues, school districts, and foundation that I have a turnkey solution to help them generate money but I have been stuck on a good headline. This was very helpful. Since our company has no cost and has a partner program for For Profits and Non Profits it seems like people take it for granite and think they can participate at any time meanwhile there needs continue to increase. Heres hoping this gets me going in the right direction.

  6. Thank you once again for teaching me something i can learn more about. I will read his book and learn even more. Thanks Sherie

  7. Wow great post David,you know we always hear that content is king when doing business on the net,but after reading this post it sounds to me that headlines are king and content is kong!

    I was completely blown away by David Ogily quote “When you have written your headline, you have spent 80 cents out of your dollar.”

    In today’s information overload society we live the one thing that’s crucial to your success with a business on the internet is being able to grab people’s attention and create a buzz.

    It only makes since that the power of any article should be in the headline,it’s the first thing people see and the determining factor in keeping them reading.

    This is one post that I’ll use as a reference for years to come.Thanks again for a great post David.

  8. Judy Dickson says:

    Makes sense and very good lesson. Thank you for your article.

  9. Short and sweet. Good article, David. Thanks for this good tactical insight.

    It would further be useful (maybe in a follow-up post) to talk about improving deliverability.

    After all:
    no matter how great the subject line and email copy, if the email never hits your prospect’s email inbox, all is for naught.

    It’s getting harder to not get caught in spam filters these days.

    Having said that, I enjoyed:
    1 The conversational tone,

    2 -The scan-ability of your article (thanks to the numbered list), and

    3 – The tip about using short words.


    Bolaji Oyejide.

    The Legend of Annie & the 3 Peaks of Internet Marketing

    Escape the Rat Race. & Find Your Buried Cheese. :)

  10. Great article! No wonder this guy is a copy writing Guru.

    *Great Headline
    *Great Sub Headline
    *Full of personality
    *Powerful tips
    *Great Examples

    Thanks so much to Ann and Mike for providing this incredible FREE content.


  11. Thank you David and Ann! for taking the time to teach about this very important piece of the e-mail puzzle. You can never know too much about how to get your subscribers to read your very informative messages. I am amazed at how many people will take the time to sign up for a e-mail follow up, and never open the e-mails they wanted in the first place. Perhaps knowing how to entice their curiosity is the answer.

  12. Nice article! Thanks for the great stuff Ann and Mike. Keep it coming.

    Copywriting is an area I need the most help in, and I found this article by David really helpful in breaking down a great headline and the WHY behind it.

    Thanks all!

    Laura Aridgides

  13. Tom Renfro says:

    The Article is the Teacher!The process as well as the content.It did it’s job I want MORE! Thank You.

  14. David,

    Great post. I too will print this information and place in my copy writing file. And I will purchase our book today. So much to learn and too little time…

    Jim Parks

  15. Accept the fact that the titles of the articles themselves are sold, but I think not in all areas. Successfully sell travel services or information from me until you get good projects, but work poorly. Help, please!

  16. David,
    I thought it was an important observation that you made as you read through Perry’s email that this happens to us all the time and being aware of it can bring to the fore how we should use the same types of skills and techniques as we each do our own marketing.

    It is similar to the kids game “made you look”, that is what our headline should do and really taking it apart and analyzing it helps a great deal. I would have never thought of single syllables being important. Now I see that.

    Great Tips!! Thank you.

  17. Very interesting! I always believed in “less is best” formula. Powerful, attention-getting words that leave the reader with a “what if” thought.

  18. Short and Sweet- the best thing you can say about any article is that it immediately motivates you to put the principals outlined in the article to work. This has motivated me to already take action in this regard.

  19. Thanks, David. You make it seem so simple! I appreciate the tips and will definitely keep them top of mind as I create my emails. I love the story-telling example – it creates a great “visual” which works for me.

    Janice Porter

  20. Ann & Mike:

    You continue to share such VALUE with us.

    And David G. => thank you — thank you!

    This opens up a whole NEW pathway to good copywriting that I need to better concentrate on.

    Sincerely / Peter A.

  21. Hi David,

    Despite being a very positive and optimistic person, I’m a sucker for “Bad News”. Every time I see that subject line on an email I cannot resist clicking to open the email. It must be the “can’t look away from an accident syndrome”?

    I received an email this morning after reading your post (coincidence?) and all it said in the subject line was, “I have bad news…”. Four little one-syllable words and I was POWERLESS to resist clicking on it!:)

    Thanks David for your words of wisdom. All of us can benefit from learning your powerful headline secrets. So thanks for sharing!

    Lisa Hanfileti

  22. Bev Ferraro says:

    Hi Ann and Mike Great class last night Did I hear Mike say something about Nov. when we will be meeting live?? I cant wait I a a people person and just getting used to the internet way of communicating. I have been working with my daughter on our course and she has hers up and launched I am coming I think I am ready for Davids expertise now Great article BEV

  23. David,
    I know this works because it is the headline that draws my attention. With so much information overload these days, we have turned into professional skimmers. Only what gets past our intial skim will get read. Thanks so much for reinforcing this and taking the time to write about it.

    Ann and Mike,
    You could keep this type of information for yourselves but you continue to educate and continue to keep the funnel flowing.

    So glad to be on your team,

    Best regards,
    Fred Villareal

  24. Hollis Holloway says:

    I had just gotten back from the chiropractor visit, sit at my computer to drop down my email and BAM!!! there it was, email from Mike and Ann on some writing tidbits from David Garfinkel.

    Thanks you all so much, I am greatly in need of this help. I am looking forward to purchasing his book.

  25. These are really great tips for getting people to open an email.

    These tips can also be considered when writing an article since the first thing people see is the article title. If the title catches their eye they will take the time to open it and start reading it.

  26. I have read tips about headlines being the most important thing to spend your time on when writing an article, and I always believed it. What you have done, however, is actually given the tips that should be used when creating a headline. Now, that’s amori!

  27. Hey David,

    Thanks for the great article! I am very happy that you are writing great valuable content for our community…I have known you for a while now but never actually did get to read much of your materials. Now and especially after we met in person I am excited of what’s more to come. I think you are a powerful teacher and I and everyone else have so much to learn from you.

    Not only the headline but the awesome engaging beginning of the article draw me in to keep reading. I am sure your laughter in the cafe was so contagious that even if the people around did not know what you are laughing about might have joined you. :) I heard your laughter this weekend in Portland and I have to say that it is not only your headlines that are attention grabbing… :)

    I’ve heard somewhere that so many great books get a lot less sales because their covers were poorly thought out and not attention grabbing…
    I think that same is with any article…the Headline is like the cover of the book…and someone might be a great writer but it could be that ONE line (the Headline) that first meets the eyes of the readers that loses the audience.

    Partners in Progress,
    Diyana Alcheva

  28. Thanks David for great tips and advise.

    Can’t believe 80% of the effectiveness is in the headline.

  29. Thank you so much for your tips. I’m in the writing with pull class thinking about killer titles to grasp attention. It took me 2 weeks to receive an approval on my 1st ezine article and my title is so long I got lost. Now I’m working on my blog keeping your tips in mind.

    Yes, I agree we are in an attention economy and making money is directed on keeping someone’s attention. But it doesn’t take much effort to continue reading if you mention, scandal, scam, controversy, how to loose weight without trying,botox remedies. You’ll find these headlines at the check out stands at the grocery store and of course I’m a sucker… i’m only human!!

  30. Thank you so much for the tips. I’m in the writing with pull class and it is perfect timing.

  31. Ian Brinton says:

    Great stuff,

    And I have to admit, that had I received that e-mail I would have opened it without even thinking first also. Thanks for the wakeup call!


    Ian Brinton

  32. Great info. Thanks for sharing your “teachable moment.” It was simply exquisite!

    Nancy Christenson

  33. Hey David, good to hear from you…surprised to learn your friend said things I do. I’m not that far long, to have a list or be doing email in that way. Just think in headlines and use them for subject lines for articles, blog, mini-blog.

    Thanks for that 😉

  34. Hi David: Thanks! Truly excited you are imparting your wisdom to the Renegade Phenomena.

    Coach Curt

  35. Dee Briggs says:

    Hi David,
    Thank you so much for the refreshing information on writing a powerful headline! I like the sub-heading just as well–“How a few well-chosen words can do magic for your business.”

    I ordered your book two days ago and can’t wait to get it. I”m putting the finishing touches on my new blog.


    P.S. – I left you a tip on your blog!:-)

  36. Hi, David. I loved the post. I am in the process of writing some articles now, and I will definitely follow your advice. I especially like tip number 1 that states, “It sounds like conversation.” So many emails and articles sound like hype. It’s good to learn from a master. Thanks, David.

    Angela Arnold

  37. Thank you David, what a perfect way to teach – by demonstrating how it worked on yourself. Notice how Ann made us open her email about this blog post also. Just 2 words.

    thanks again, Julieanne

  38. Hi David,

    What a brilliant article — I’m going to take those 5 points and put Does it… in front of each one and ask those questions of every headline I write from now on. What a perfect 5 point formula for creating compelling headlines!

    I’ve often heard the expression that it’s important to enter the conversation that’s going on in the minds of our prospect…

    So you want to get more customers… is probably totally in sync with internal dialog of the majority of business people (especially these days).

    What has been the favorite headline that you have ever written for someone?

    Steve Anderson

    PS It’s so great to have you contributing to the Renegade Community!

  39. I’ve been focusing on headlines and body copy lately. I’m writing marketing materials for other businesses and this came just at the right time. Thanks for the reminder and reinforcement!

  40. Mrs Laughingpants says:

    Hi David,
    You’ve great content here. Anyone who needs advice on writing great headline should check this site out. Great job!

  41. Thank you David,

    Hey there…I took your advice and picked up a copy of Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene Schwartz. I’ll have it under my arm as a bonus for all that you teach me about copywriting.

    Excellent post. I enjoyed the 5 finger grabber of tips we can immediately use. I always read Perry Marshall’s emails and will go back and check to see if he follows these 5 guidelines in all of his emails.

    It was nice meeting you in Portland last week. Can’t wait to see you again. I enjoyed picking your brain and listening to you speak – a genuine pleasure.

    Eric Walker

  42. Hello David thank you.Iam working on lot of thinking and there you just put the word s for us to learn and more.Iam new to all these internet business and writting I will get there.
    Iam a doer just to it do manual work. at my age I want to learn more and be active so thats why Iam excited and definetly will follow your advice.English is my second language and working
    on more to be good at it. by the way can we buy your book here in Australia?would you able to send me email and give me more information where I can get a copy here in the downunder Australia.

  43. Words that sell…

    David Garfinkel shares his best copywriting tips —

    and we get to learn from you because of our association with Mike and Ann.

    David, thank you for sharing your expertise with us not just by throwing out facts, but by showing us how you do what you do so well.

    Can’t wait to meet up with you again, and I will be there for every one of your trainings!

  44. Hi David

    Thanks for your blog post. This is all extremely helpful material for anyone in business, but particularly if email and online marketing are the attraction marketing strategies you are using to grow your business, as I am. I plan to purchase your book because I can see tremendous value in learning and honing this skill as I continue to grow my online business.

    Thanks once again for your pearls of wisdom.

    Kind Regards

  45. David,
    How delightful to open my email today and find a link to your blog post here. I hope to meet you one day and experience your infectious laughter. In the meantime, I’ll go immediately to my email series and test my email subject lines using the Garfinkel 5 Point Test.

  46. You definitely got my attention, David! Thank you! I took notes and am rewriting my headlines now! “Want to lower your cholesterol fast?”
    To your good health, Mchealthy

  47. Hi David,
    Great post! In today’s world that is full of tones of information, grabbing people’s eye attention is the utmost important factor in our business success. If you do that, your jobs are half done. The other half is the conversion, how to convert traffic or prospect to customer is another very important factor in today’s business world.
    Again thanks for the post!

    Rick Ng

  48. Thankyou this is what I call value added training. Good stuuf to the point and valuable to boot. Another Famous Headline they kicked some very serious goals was “They All laughed When I sat doewn to Play the Piano”
    This is a great community I am pleased to be a part of it.
    Thanks once again
    Phil Mollard

  49. I’ve always loved reading David’s articles on copywriting…and this one is no different. Short, concise and to the point.

  50. Excellent article- useful points for headline writing.

  51. Great information! Will be sure to pass it on.

  52. Hi David,

    Thank you for sharing tips for writing good headline. I just finished taking the “writing with pull” course in the renegade back office and have set up a new blog. It is challenging to come up with good headlines, but these guidelines will greatly help. Thank you for taking the time to share.


  53. Well put together article with eye opening strategies for more email reads.

    Your story telling intro was excellent as well.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Warren Little

  54. Is there a good book about how to write effective tweets?

  55. Very,very good. My take is, without an attention grabbing headline, the chances of your content being read reagardless of how much value it offers, may not be read.

    Thanks for sharing

  56. I really like this one ! I like the “good tips” along with short and to the point.

  57. Hi everyone at Renegade Pro,

    Thanks for the great information. I’m just getting started with all this (blogs, articles, ezines, etc.). It all makes great sense and is very do-able with with the well-presented training and tutorials that are provided.

  58. John C. Rollow says:

    I agree with all the positive comments above. Really good copywriting advice — and a good example. Thanks.

    But there’s a kicker. A good headline for an email. Maybe not for a website or a blogsite. There the headline needs a “KEYWORD” for your subject — one that the search engines will recognize. The catchiest headline in the world may not get a nod from the search robots (who have no sense of humor).

    One of the all-time great headlines from the Washington Post was: “HEADLESS BODY FOUND IN TOPLESS BAR.” But if you were searching for “murders” or “atrocities” it just wouldn’t appear.

    To be catchy and search-engine suited, now that’s a real challenge.


  59. Anthony S Browne says:


    You show how to do much with a few words.
    Turn a headline into a secret weapon.

  60. Hi David,

    Thanks for showing us how simple it is to get more traffic. I have always known that the headline is the most important part of any Ad or article.

    The problem for me has been how to write headlines more effectively.

    Thank you for the great article and tips. I will certainly put them to use immediately.


  61. You know something, I have copied the five examples already, and going to work on improving my headline writing

    Great stuff, a must for success.

  62. First of all, I want to thank Ann and Mike for continually providing quality content to our onging education as Renegade Professionals.

    Second, I want you say “thanks” to you, David for writing this informative article.

    It is quite amazing how a simple headline can have such a powerful affect on the reader. In fact, some years ago, while reading some information from guru Jay Abraham, I learned how just ‘tweaking’ a headline could dramatically increase customer response.

    Your book is a great read!

  63. Thanks David, I always try to write compelling headlines.
    But your analysis of Perry Marshall e-mail is simply fabolous and full of useful contents.

    You let me comprehend that an headline is the best valuable part to obtain the opening of an e-mail by a “customer” :)

    Thanks and Goodbye
    Alessandro Zamboni

  64. Ann, David, and Mike, thanks for this great teaching on writing. It’s concise, complete, rewarding to read the detailed analysis of the quality of writing an e-mail. Again thanks for all the wonderfulo and helpful and free material.

  65. David, thank you for sharing such valuable information. It has come right on time for me and I know a quite a few people who can use it–so I’ll pass it right along 😉

    Have a magnetic day!
    Rhonda Cort

  66. Thanks David for this wonderful tip on headlines.
    Wonder how this sit with Google ads which are keyword centered. Yet the capturing headline I think gets people’s attention.
    Thanks for sharing.

  67. Are you the same David Garfinkel that graduated from Nanuet Senior High School in 1980?

  68. You described one of the most difficult task for a non-advertising person – creating headlines.

    I wonder how do you choose the words for an attractive headline?

    Thank you for the article.

    Dan Gabriel

  69. Thanks David! What an eye opener. I was unhappy with my conversion rate and have tried to adjust some headlines that has created more website traffic.

    Thanks Again

    Bill Lawrence

  70. David, True. 80% of your dollar is spent when you have written the headline… but I suspect the challenge is that more than 90% of the time is spent on the main ad copy and therefore very little time on the headline which is so important. Great tips in this article. Thanks.

  71. Thanks David! What an eye opener. I was unhappy with my conversion rate and have tried to adjust some headlines that has created more website traffic.

    Thanks Again

    Bill Lawrence…

  72. I have seen dramtic results just by changing a few my headline I alway try new ones to see which ones work better

  73. Wow! This is one of the best article I’ve ever read. These will be considered secrets to lots online marketers. I just discovered few things in minutes that I would search for months to discover. Thanks for these tips Mr. David Garfinkel. Great job.

  74. What a perfect find this article was. I was on an Aweber webinar for optimizing the opt in form and I needed to make a 700px wide lightbox. With that much space I needed some copy. This brought some great ideas to my mind.

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