How to Use Headline Swipe Files to Grow Your Blog

How do you think the best writers write their headlines?

Do you imagine they put on their writing hat and tuck themselves away in a quiet room and bleed away their souls?


Experience has shown me that great copy is actually just that – copy.

Good writers have no time to waste since they are often paid per word.

They also know that attempting to reinvent the wheel is risky.

So what do they do?

They make use of headline swipe files.

What are headline swipe files?

These are files with sample headlines that have proved to be effective in the past.

How do they get a hold on these files?

Magazine Covers, Newspaper Headlines, and high traffic blogs are all good sources of killer headlines to swipe.

Copying their headline strategy is one of the best things you can do for your blog, since it will reduce the normally time consuming headline crafting into “fill in the blank spaces” simple.

Why will this work?

The main goal of a headline is to get someone to read the first sentence of your blog post.

So a headline has few words but a weighty responsibility of converting browsers into readers.

Your headline should stimulate the curiosity of your readers and make them want to hear more.

This post contains headlines that have proven themselves before, and therefore have a high, if not absolute chance of converting again.

Don’t believe me?

Men’s Health has been recycling headlines for decades.Headline Swipe Files

The images by the side are cover shots of real Men’s Health magazines, not mockups.

You can read Gawker’s update on this here.

I am sure you never noticed that before. :)

That is to show you that when you start using headline swipe files on your blog, your readers will not notice.

At least, they will not notice it in a negative way.

All they will know is that your headlines are now so catchy, making them go click-click inside.

Let me get out of the way so you can see the headline hacks for yourself:

10 [Blank] Hacks: A Cheat Sheet for [Blank]
We are all on the lookout for easier ways of getting things done, or ways to beat life’s censors.

This headline hack appeals to that part of us that likes to cheat by doing less for more.

10 SEO Hacks: A Cheat Sheet for Getting High PR Backlinks
37 Dating Hacks: A Cheat Sheet for Making Her Fall in Love Again
17 Blogging Hacks: A Cheat Sheet for Becoming an Authority in Three Months

What [Model Example] Can Teach Us about [Blank]

This headline template associates a well-known figure or institution with the content a blog post.

Another name for this is piggy-backing. You are riding on the popularity or interest people have in this individual to generate interest for your post.

Of course, the post can just briefly associate the [model example] with the topic, and spend most of its length focused on the very lessons you want your audience to take home.


What Walt Disney Can Teach Us about Pinterest
What Oprah Can Teach Us about Social Media
What Colonel Sanders Can Teach Us about Content Marketing

As you see in the third example, sometimes the model example may have nothing to do with the post topic.

In that situation, it may just be used a hook to get the audience reading.

The [Popular Person] Guide to [Blank]

Like the example above, this headline hack piggy backs on the goodwill (or notoriety) of popular persons.

In using this technique, please be careful to use it with people your audience is definitely familiar with.

If you use this headline hack with the name of your favourite uncle, the effect may be completely lost.

Since the character is known, interest is stimulated at the headline level as most persons would want to know what the popular person can possibly have to teach them in a subject that would not normally be associated with them

The Eminem Guide to Becoming a Writing and Marketing Machine 

The 7 [negative trait] of [Blank]

From our reading of Greek literature we are all familiar with how people who are otherwise good are marred by just one fatal flaw.

For the most part, we are on the lookout for ways to improve our personality and become better and more likeable persons.

That is why this headline hack is so effective.

It promises to show you fatal flaws of a subset of a group of persons so you can look inwards and root them out if you have them.

The 7 Bad Habits of Insanely Productive People
The 7 Insane Blunders of Affiliate Marketing “Gurus”
The 7 Deadly Sins of Social Media Marketing

This post is just an introduction into using headline swipe files.

The next post in the series will focus on how to use “How To…” headlines to increase your blog’s readership.


This is the third post in the series: How to Write Headlines that Converts.

1. How to Write Headlines that Converts

2. How to Cheat Your Way to Killer Headlines

3. How to Use Headline Swipe Files to Grow Your Blog

What is your take on this? If you use headline swipes, tell us about your results.

About Yeremi Akpan

Yeremi Akpan is the founder of Pro Blogger Tips. Connect with him on Twitter, Google Plus and Facebook. You can also hire him to provide content marketing services for your business.


  1. This is very surprising. I mean, how does Men’s Health get away with repeating 1 headline 4 times in a year?

    • Yeremi Akpan says:

      Hey Mirabel,
      I also found it quite surprising. I would have thought that repeating one headline four times out of twelve should have been obvious.

      It is quite instructive that it took almost 10 years for someone to notice…

  2. Ranash says:

    Great job! This is the best post I have read this week…

  3. Wow Yeremi! I like how you think.

    Great post. I’ve used this technique before and at the end of the day if it works than go for it! Us human beings love the ‘how-to’s’ and ‘secrets’ and ‘breaking news’. Makes you feel your being included into something that not everyone knows… brilliant!

    Often times sensationalism at it’s best. ;-)

    • Yeremi Akpan says:

      Hey Michele!

      Thanks so much for stopping by, really honored to have you!

      I completely agree with you on the sensationalism thing. As long as we do not abuse it, we can be sure of making an impact with it.

      Years of exposure to those headline formats and knowledge of what they stand for have hard-wired us to view them with a sense of urgency.

      Not our fault… :)

  4. Shamelle says:

    Yes, headlines play a big role in driving in people to your site. At the same time, you have to deliver on the promise too.. Readers are getting smarter each and if they arrive at a site because of the heading and is disappointing with the content, that won’t leave a lasting impression, nor will they arrive at your site the next time they see a headline..
    Shamelle recently posted..How To Turn Blog Readers Into Raving Fans Who Happily Spread The Word About Your Blog ContentMy Profile

    • Yeremi Akpan says:

      Hey Shammelle,
      Once again, you leave a very insightful comment.

      Of course, headline hacks should be considered as a teaser. If the content of your post does not deliver on the promises of your headline, you look cheap and dishonest.

      I have never been one for sensational writing hinged on untruth.

      As I said in the first post in the series, “A promise made in your headline maybe the only thing that will save you from churning out a mediocre post.”

  5. George Lungu says:

    Yeremi, I am dead serious, this is the most original SEO post I’ve read lately. And the most useful. I’m bookmarking this page. I want to see your blog getting below 100K rank on Alexa by the end of the year. Cheers, George
    George Lungu recently posted..About the Speed of Spreadsheets #2My Profile

  6. This is a good post Yeremi, thanks. I guess if we’re recycling everything else, why not headlines. Let’s “go green” on anything that works and is legal :)
    Shellyann Roper recently posted..Marketing and PR Online (Pt 2) – In Web 2.0 Style!My Profile

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