Overused Headline Formulas that Make Your Blog Look Stale

A stale lemon that is still yellow but inside already quite


By now everybody and their aunt knows that headlines are the most important part of any article.

The wrong headline can make the best piece of writing literally disappear within the permanent storm of content promotion. This has lead to a new kind of conservatism among writers.

Publishers prefer tried out headline formulas that have worked in the past or elsewhere on the Web.

Thus basically the same headlines appear daily on many blogs and websites until everybody just yawns and bounces.

The situation is so bad that some overused headlines really make your blog look stale.

10 Reasons Why x

I’m guilty myself of using this headline recently. I wanted to try anew whether it maybe works again after I have refrained for years from using it.

It didn’t work and my otherwise valuable post got no traction, even less than my other posts I spend less time on on the same blog.

I thought maybe a slightly new twist would suffice but it didn’t. So don’t use this one. It’s still completely overused.

Ultimate Guide to x

An ultimate guide or two per year are OK. These days you get at least several ultimate guides a week.

Some of them are choosing a really small discipline so that you start to wonder whether “The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Direction” is really that useful when there are only two options, left or right.

Also no single person can read all those ultimate guides so it’s just bookmark and forget, even in case it’s just the “definitive guide” or whatever.

x is Dead

“SEO is dead” anybody? Declaring something dead has worked for me in the past too. In 2006 or 2007 for example.

Out of frustration I have written a “x is dead” post without irony in 2009 I think. All my other “is dead” posts are rather deconstructing this formula.

For example I have written “SEO is alive!“, “‘SEO is Dead’ is dead” and the likes. I know you want to make people angry to get some attention, but don’t do it.

What x Taught Me About y

It started with articles like What Bruce Lee Taught Me About Fitness and ended with what Bruce Lee taught me about poker or SEO.

Many people have ridiculed this trend already. Just recently I did a post using this formula on purpose because I didn’t use an allegory.

It was what a Google penalty taught me about SEO. Make sure to stay on topic to still use this.

The Top 10 x Blogs

This may be good for a niche where there aren’t that many blogs and there is no such list yet. When you write in English you will rarely find such a niche.

These days there are lots of such lists and each list features the same blogs in many cases.

Even in case the post is good and the blogs are too you will ostracize some readers.

Top 10 x Tips

Tips are for waiters I usually say and advise you to write about ways, techniques, methods etc. Also

by now there are hundreds of “tips” posts for everything.

Tips is also a synonym for low quality “quick and dirty” advice. Do you really want that kind of underlying meaning?

The Top 100 x Tools 

I’ve done a lot tools lists in the past. The sad truth about those is that after a year half of the tools are either defunct or have been acquired by Google and Yahoo so that they are gone too.

Also when you do a “top whatever content marketing tools” list (I’ve seen a lot of those lately) no single person will be able to use all of them.

Every reader has to choose just a few of those, especially as most tools are paid these days either from day one or soon enough. Thus less is more here.

The Ten Commandments of x

I have done a ten commandments of business blogging a few years ago back when it was cool. I’m a Christian and it seemed like a good metaphor.

Try searching for [The Ten Commandments of * -bible -god] now and you get inundated with often just ridiculous 10 commandments lists bordering on the sacrilegious.

See some examples below:

  • “The 10 Commandments of Gorgeous Hair Color”
  • “The Ten Commandments Of Video Game Menus”
  • “The 10 Commandments of smartphone use during concerts”

What about the ten commandments of toilet paper use? I mean how low can you go?

Do you know other headline formulas that have been overused to such an extent that they only annoy you? Add them in comment section!

* Creative Commons image by Giulia Gasparro.