Writing a headline can be more challenging than writing the article itself. After all, you need to convey the essence and pique interest in just 5–6 words. Moreover, 8 out of 10 users will only read the first line.

A headline that grabs a person’s attention and reveals the essence of the text is built using the 4U formula. Bright thoughts like “maybe I should buy this product” occur in 70% of consumers right after reading it.

Background of the Issue

Experts have long sought approaches to headlines that reliably capture attention. According to David Ogilvy — a copywriter from the 1950s, who is considered the “father of advertising” — effective headlines are always simple and clear. They also emphasize benefits and profits for the reader.

The 4U rule itself was later developed and refined by entrepreneur and marketer Michael Masterson.

Over the last 20 years, the volume of information that bombards an individual daily has significantly increased. However, the psychology of how it’s perceived remains unchanged. That’s why the headline formula works and is considered universal. Today, it is also used for writing short SMS and Viber messages.

4U Headline Technique

Therefore, a marketing-effective headline must contain the 4Us, which stand for uniqueness, usefulness, ultra-specificity, urgency.

It’s great if you can weave all these elements together, but it’s not a requirement. Successful headlines are:

  • Informative. That is, clear and understandable. They immediately outline the content and purpose of the article.
  • Concise. The character count should not exceed 90, which is dictated by both Google’s requirements and the psychology of information perception. Indeed, it takes only about 6 seconds for a person to glance at the words and decide whether to pay attention to the entire text. This applies to articles in print, website texts, and messages received in messengers.
  • Pragmatic. That is, they answer the reader’s question, “What’s in it for me?”. That’s why it’s highly advisable to use numbers and percentages written as numerals, not words.
  • Emotion-evoking. Fear, surprise, interest.

4u formula


This is what sets your product apart from similar ones. For example, while all vendors deliver either pizza or sushi, you deliver pizza, sushi, and shawarma. Or, while everyone sells carpets made of viscose or wool, you manufacture carpets from recycled plastic.


“We deliver pizza and shawarma in 15 minutes in the Shevchenko district”. “A carpet made from recycled plastic saves nature and warms your floor”.

What not to do:

Use adjectives like “unique shawarma”, “beautiful carpets”, “wonderful pizza”, “unmatched delivery”, and the like. Firstly, it’s tasteless; secondly, these words carry no meaningful load. Also, the 4U approach advocates conciseness, and these are just extra letters.


The headline should clearly convey how your service solves a specific problem for the consumer.

This clarity is usually provided by:

  • verbs like “save”, “receive”, “increase”, “earn”;
  • specifics such as 20%, a free jump rope, a 3-month certificate, and so on;
  • pleasant emotions: you’re selling more than just attending English language courses — you’re selling a step towards a desired journey.


“Catch a 20% discount on a full-body massage, give yourself relaxation in the midst of a weekday”, or “Earn $3,000 in your very first month of our marketing course”.

What not to do:

Don’t lie. False information comes at a high cost — loss of trust. For example, the phrase “super lucrative offer”, while fitting the 4U headline concept, might make a customer wary: why such generosity? It would only take them a Google search and two minutes to verify the truthfulness of your claim.


Target your specific audience. Clarify exactly what you are offering. Share your expertise.


“How to focus attention on headlines and increase conversions by 20%; we did it, and you can too”, or “Cyclists get a 50% discount on maintenance until the end of the month”.  

What not to do:

Don’t use complex terms or abbreviations, unless you are writing for a niche-specific website. For instance, the headline “How to Reduce Transaminase Levels in 3 Months” will only be understood by medical professionals without explanation. If your target audience is broader, a better headline would be “How to Heal Your Liver in 3 Months”.


Time is the most valuable resource. Thus, the headline must guarantee that this time will be used efficiently. Therefore, it’s necessary to specify the validity period of a discount or offer.


“Get a free nutritionist consultation with a subscription purchase by April 25th”. Or, “Among the first ten visitors to our optician’s, we will raffle a frame”.

What not to do:

Do not indicate an unrealistic time frame and an unrealistic offer, and, again, do not embellish reality.


4U marketing is a part of business that requires constant attention.

Create a special “Notebook for Crazy Headlines” and occasionally jot down new ideas, images, buzzwords, and potential slogans. You’ll be surprised when, at some point, quantity turns into quality.

There are many instances when adjusting a website headline according to the 4U formula enhanced the effectiveness of the text and positively impacted sales.

Also, if you organically incorporate important keywords into the headline, the effectiveness will be more noticeable, and your income will increase.

Frequently Asked Questions

 — What are 4U headlines?

4U is an effective method for creating compelling headlines. This approach is also successfully used for writing SMS and Viber messages.

The acronym stands for uniqueness, usefulness, ultra-specificity, urgency.

 — What is the 4U formula?

This formula is used to create headlines that capture attention and reveal the essence of the text.

The 4U acronym stands for uniqueness, usefulness, ultra-specificity, urgency.

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