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How to Write Headlines Like Prevention Magazine

Heidi Thorne is an author and business speaker with over 25 years of experience in sales, marketing, advertising, and public relations.

Grab almost any recent issue of Prevention and you're likely to see cover headlines on the following topics:

  • Belly fat.
  • Losing weight... easily and quickly.
  • Tempting recipes that sound sinfully good, but are healthy.
  • Living longer, living better.
  • Natural remedies.
  • Exercise strategies and tips.
  • Happiness.
  • Celebrity role models.

This is not by accident. Prevention is a health magazine by Rodale, Inc., ranked as the 14th largest consumer title, that has been published for over 60 years with a circulation of about 3 million monthly, 83 percent of which are adult females. Ninety-two percent of readers are in the 35+ age demographic and the median age is 58. Sixty-three percent are married, but only 25 percent have children under the age of 17 in the home. In addition, 49 percent of them are employed, 67 percent have attended some college and 38 percent are college graduates. The median household income is over $62,000. (Source: Prevention 2013 media kit statistics.)

So who is their audience? Empty nesters or mothers of older children who are ready for some "me" time. Even if not employed (about half are not), they have at least a middle class household income that could likely afford some personal pampering. With a median age of 58, readers are pre-retirement or may already be retired, thus a huge emphasis on quality of life issues.

More than just listing the hot topics for this crowd on their covers, Prevention adds some emotional twists to their headlines. How do they do it?

Hooked by a Headline?

How Prevention Goes "Belly Up" to Get Readers and You Can, Too

Looking at several random issues of Prevention, the following headlines received top billing:

  • "Blast Belly Fat. Results in 2 Weeks. The Best Plan for Your Age."
  • "1-Minute Fat Blaster. Firm Your Belly, Butt, and Thighs."
  • "Flatten Your Belly & Boost Your Bliss. Drop 13 Lbs. in 6 Weeks."
  • "Love Your Belly at Any Age! Trim and tone at 40, 50, 60+."

With over 35 percent of the United States' adult population being classified as obese (Center for Disease Control statistics, 2012) this is certainly a concern in the general population. Additionally, another CDC 2012 report notes that 36.0 percent of women age 40 to 59 and 42.3 percent of those 60 and over are obese, Prevention's prime age demographic. So it's no wonder why this topic takes the top spot.

Whether they determined these topics through surveys, focus groups or other research is not known. But however they did it, these are winning headlines.

Headline Writing Tips:

  • Find terms that tap into readers' wants and needs using the Google Keyword Planner. (Note that Google Keyword Planner used to be known as Google Keyword Tool. See documentation for the Planner for additional instructions.) Simply type in a phrase or topic for a headline into the designated box and Google will show how many people search for that exact term plus listings of related terms. Choose one that has a reasonable volume of search, at least around a couple thousand per month (local for home country or global, depending on whether the audience is domestic or international). Those with lower search could also be "long tail" possibilities. If people are typing in a term on the Internet, it's on their minds! For example, as of this writing, the term "lose belly fat" had 301,000 Internet searches per month in the United States alone.
  • A keyword or phrase can become part of the headline. This helps improve SEO (search engine optimization) for an online article and taps into the real wants and needs of an audience.
  • Add a dose of emotion, with short, simple words that convey a message quickly. Here are some shown from examples above: Your (used in every single example headline); belly fat; blast; flatten; boost; results.

You Can Have It All! Here's How...

Chocolate, cheese, cookies, burgers... whatever the comfort food or indulgence, Prevention has probably featured a recipe for a more healthy version of it. Examples:

  • "Hot Cocoa at Half the Calories."
  • "Gluten-free Comfort Foods."
  • "8 Foods to Save or Splurge On."

Headline Writing Tips:

  • Attract readers with a headline advertising how the article will help them accomplish conflicting goals. Sure, Prevention readers might need to lose weight. But they want to enjoy life and what they eat. The example headlines entice readers with a promise to show them how to do both.

Grab Readers in 5 Seconds or Less

Getting and keeping healthy is hard work! So who wouldn't like to find ways to make it fast and easy? Prevention obviously knows this. Check these example headlines which certainly make readers curious enough to look at the article:

  • "The 15-Minute Flat Belly"
  • "2 Minutes to Happiness: Instant Mood Makeovers"
  • "Beat Diabetes: The 15-Second Test That Can Save Your Life"

Headline Writing Tips:

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  • Define the time that would be expended, emphasizing speed. Like using numbers and list posts, defining a timeframe in which a goal can be achieved helps readers wrap their mind around the concept to be presented in the article. The faster the time noted, the greater the curiosity.

3 Ways to Use List Posts to Attract Readers

Bloggers have long known that list posts—articles that offer lists of ideas—are popular. Plus, they're relatively easy to write.

Prevention taps into the list post popularity regularly. Examples:

  • "3 New & Natural Cold Cures."
  • "15 Power Foods Smart Doctors Eat (and Love)"
  • "Happiness: 4 Ways to Get More Instantly"

Who wouldn't be curious enough to read these? Everyone is looking for ideas to solve problems. The promise of getting multiple ideas, or even one big idea, attracts attention.

Headline Writing Tips:

  • Entice reader curiosity with the promise of a list of ideas and solutions. This technique goes beyond just the headline. In fact, it can be the inspiration for the entire article! Evaluate if the topic being discussed can be turned into a list post.
  • Use numbers. To attract readers, using numeric characters, instead of spelling out the numbers more easily attracts readers, even though that might not be correct in typical writing (usually numbers are only used for 10 or above).
  • Pay attention to <title> tags when using numbered list posts. Numbers are not that SEO-friendly. So make sure your HTML title tags focus on the keyword. Title tags should not be confused with headlines. Using the first example, "natural cold cures" would likely be the keyword phrase focus. So the title tag might be <title>Natural Cold Cures | New and Natural Cold Cures</title>. An SEO-friendly headline and title tag help readers find an article.

How to Be a Star Headline Writer

Would a slightly overweight 50+ Baby Boomer find a 20+ gal in fitness gear motivating? Maybe. But more likely it would be demotivating, setting up an impossible goal. Prevention definitely understands that and features celebrities on the covers from the target demographic. Not only did readers grow up admiring and emulating these people, this encourages a "just like me" reaction. Examples:

  • "Get Happy! [famous actress] on How to Glow at 67!"
  • "[Famous actress] Shares Her New Cookbook and Slimming Secrets"

Other celebrities featured are popular health, food and lifestyle experts from television and entertainment which have huge followings, especially among older audiences. A number of them are from daytime television programming. With about half of Prevention's readership not being employed, the chances that they may be home to watch shows featuring these experts increases, making them a good fit for cover features. Example:

  • "[Famous health expert]'s 8 Secrets to a Healthier You"

Headline Writing Tips:

  • Use Star Power in Headlines. Certainly, if not officially interviewing a celebrity with their written consent, this tactic CANNOT be used in the same way that Prevention uses it. However, discussion about celebrities and their work are usually acceptable since it is typically classified as critique and opinion. Examples:
    • Does the [Celebrity Name] Diet Really Work?
    • 3 Ways [Celebrity Name] Inspired Me to Get Healthy
    • What I Learned About Life from Watching [Celebrity Name or Show]

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2013 Heidi Thorne


Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on May 05, 2016:

Hello ReviewsfromSandy! Got that right! Sometimes people are "sold" after just reading the headline. Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

Sandy Mertens from Wisconsin on May 05, 2016:

This is very helpful. It is the titles and headlines that capture the audience.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on October 25, 2015:

Aw, thanks, FlourishAnyway! So appreciate your support and friendship. Happy Weekend!

FlourishAnyway from USA on October 24, 2015:

I'm back to share this gem.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on February 01, 2015:

Hi poetryman6969! Glad you found the tips helpful. Have a great day!

poetryman6969 on February 01, 2015:

Some good tips on how to use keywords to attract eyeballs.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on January 02, 2015:

Donna, headlines and leadlines are so critical and you're not alone in agonizing over them! Some spend hours getting them right. Glad to provide some pain relief. :) Have a lovely, relaxing weekend!

Donna Cosmato from USA on January 02, 2015:

Great hub! Headlines and lead-ins give me headaches and I agonize over them. Thanks for some wonderful and humorous tips for making that chore less painful.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on December 19, 2014:

Hello rajan jolly! Glad you found it helpful. Prevention does an amazing job in the copywriting arena. Thanks for stopping by and have a great weekend ahead!

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on December 19, 2014:

Excellent and useful ideas and tips. Thanks for sharing Heidi.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on February 06, 2014:

Thanks, thebiologyofleah, for the kind comments! Glad you found it helpful. Have a great day!

Leah Kennedy-Jangraw from Massachusetts on February 06, 2014:

I enjoyed how your worked in your headline suggestions using a great example of success in Prevention magazine. It's always easier to get the gist of something when specific examples are incorporated. Great tips here on how to attract readers with our article titles- thanks for sharing!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on October 25, 2013:

Hi KoraleeP! Thanks for reading, sharing and glad you found it helpful. Good luck with the new blog adventure. Happy Weekend!

Koralee Phillips from Vancouver British Columbia Canada on October 25, 2013:

This is a great Hub. I have a client who is the president of a huge retirement housing project in BC. and we just set up the Blog, so I'm going to use your suggestions for future blog posts. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge. Definitely worth voting up, useful, and interesting :)

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on July 17, 2013:

Thanks, FlourishAnyway, for stopping by! Glad you found the example helpful. Cheers!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on July 17, 2013:

Hi epbooks! Glad you found it helpful. Since I started doing the Google keyword search for almost every article I write here or on my blogs, I've noticed traffic improvement. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, as always!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on July 17, 2013:

Hi btrbell! I've done the same thing. It's sometimes a struggle to decide between catchy and cute or search-friendly. I like the creative titles, but I kind of like the traffic a little more. Thanks so much for reading & commenting!

FlourishAnyway from USA on July 17, 2013:

A great how to, using a tangible example we can all relate to. Thanks!

Elizabeth Parker from Las Vegas, NV on July 17, 2013:

This was very informative for me and quite an eye-opener. I love the tip about searching in Google for the keywords. Voted up!

Randi Benlulu from Mesa, AZ on July 17, 2013:

Thank you for breaking down the ways to choose titles. When I started my own site, I chose titles that were fun, catchy and had meaning to me. After joining hubpages and learning about keywords, I have a much better understanding. This article is great at not only solidifying it, but adding more tips! Thank you! Up++

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on July 16, 2013:

But I'll bet, billybuc, that when you go to the grocery store the next time, you'll notice it. ;) Their strategies certainly follow all John Caples' tried and true Tested Advertising Methods of hitting readers where they live (or want to live). Thanks for checking it out!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on July 16, 2013:

I'm laughing because I am so out of touch with normal society. I have never heard of this magazine....sheez, I must live in a cave or something. LOL

Anyway, nice job of dissecting the headlines and explaining how to write one. Valuable information for writers and those in marketing.

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