Should you add an emotional punch to every headline?

(What follows is the outline I wrote in advance of recording the video. They’re my talking points. Not a regular post or article. Just an outline.)

This question came in from Sheila, who has taken my course on How to Write better Headlines.

Her full question was a little longer. She has taken other copywriting courses that emphasize the power of using emotions to drive sales.

So… should every headline tap into our emotions?

I’ll give that a qualified yes. But mostly without the “punch” part.

Some headlines are going to be primarily just informational and useful.


7 Keyboard shortcuts most people have never heard of.


5 Coolest bike accessories you must have.


12 Amazing vinegar uses in your garden.

These “list” headlines are great for editorial content and social media. Good for sharing and not very emotional, beyond stimulating a mild sense of curiosity.

But… if I’m writing a headline for a sales page, or for a content page that links directly to a sales page, I might feel more inclined to add a touch of emotion.

Because yes, emotions are strong motivators.

Most of our decisions in life are made through our hearts and not our heads.

Here’s a before and after example for you…

“How to fix a broken mountain bike chain when you’re out on the trail.”

Now with a little emotion…

“How to fix a broken mountain bike chain when you’re far from home and alone.”

When you DO use emotion in your headlines, I would use a light touch make it implicit rather than explicit.

And very often, it’s the imagery that does the heavy lifting, not the words.

Recently I was speaking at an event in Austin Texas… put on by my friends at AWAI, American Writers & Artists.

One of my fellow speakers was Ryan Deiss, the founder of Digital Marketer.

And he shared a wonderful example of emotion at play.

It was an ad for 1-800-Got-Junk.

The headline wasn’t much. It just aid, “Goodbye Junk. Hello Relief”.

What made it really work was the image of a young couple in front of the Got Junk truck, parked in front of their home.

They were happy and relieved. A weight off their shoulders. You could even imagine them having arguments about all the junk in their home.

And now the problem was gone.

Most of that emotion is expressed with the image, not the words.

So keep that in mind. Yes, you can use words to express emotions in your headlines.

And that’s often a smart way to go.

Don’t forget the images, and use both the words and images to allow your audience to fill in the spaces with their own feelings and emotions.

NOTE: I have a whole course on mastering the craft of writing great headlines, called How to Write Better Headlines – For Content, Email and Social Media


Course on headline writing


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2 thoughts on “Should you add an emotional punch to every headline?

  1. Very nice post, Nick. I’ve been reading you for years (even bought something once!), and this is the first time I’ve seen you live. You clean up well and eat the camera.

    I am a big Buzz Sumo fan and glad to hear you shout them out.

    Also agree with your statement that images add SO MUCH and can carry the emotion, often more appropriately and effectively than our words.

    All the best, mate.

  2. Terrance – Good to connect. And yes, I’m an old-school agency copywriter, which means I was joined at the hip with my art director. Always words and images working together.

    BTW – anyone else reading this… click on Terrance’s link above and read a few pages of his site. Beautiful writing. And his grammar is way better than mine.

    More important still – like me – he knows how to bring a herd of milking cows in from the pasture and back again after milking. Farm boys the both of us. : )

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