A Complete How-To on Headline Writing

headline writing

Headline Writing

Headline writing is important. A single word can impact a campaign dramatically. I’ve seen email headlines where a one word change increased click’s by 46%.

Open rates were nearly identical and the email creative was exactly the same for both versions, but click-thru’s went up by 46% in the second. If the ad was sent to 2,000,000 emails, the winning version would lead to 17,000+ more clicks, all from changing a single word. That’s a measurable difference that significantly impacts the bottom line.

See also: 8 Powerful Email Subject Lines for Higher Open Rates

So why is headline writing so important?

Headline writing is important because it’s the first lines of your copy that prospects and customers read. headlines create an initial impression that either draws readers in or pushes them away. Even if the rest of the copy is amazing and would convince 3 out of 10 people to buy, if the headline puts them to sleep, only a fraction of the customers who would have bought something will read your copy and make a purchase.

  • The headline alone can make or break an ad, homepage, or email subject line.
  • It sets the tone for the rest of the copy.
  • If the headline pulls readers in, you’ll make more sales; if not, you’ll be left wondering what happened.

And that’s why I’m creating a complete how-to on headline writing. By following these points, you’ll learn how to write attention-grabbing headlines that convert readers into buyers.

Headline Writing That Converts

If you hang around copywriting circles long enough, you’re sure to read this rule at one point or another. Most copywriter’s view getting potential customers to continue reading as the number rule of headline writing. Convincing your customers to keep reading means the time or money you invest in your copy won’t go to waste. So first, focus on headline writing that pulls your customers in and compels them to read the first sentence.

Your Headline Should Be Unique

The first thing you want to consider is how to make your headline unique. If yours is just like everyone else’s, then your company won’t stand out. Your customers won’t have any reason to think you’re different than your competitors, which means they won’t have any reason to buy from you than from someone else.

Today’s consumers are savvier than customers of the past. They’re used to being bombarded with commercial after commercial that says the same thing. We can all remember watching a commercial with lines like, “Buy now with three low payments of $24.95. That’s right. Only $24.95 per month. If you buy today, you’ll get a free carrot peeler worth $19.95.

Businesses use commercials like this because they work, at least on a subset of customers, but many people are turned off by commercial wording they’ve heard over and over again. As soon as they hear, “Three equal payments of $24.95,” they tune out waiting for something that seems more credible.

If you sound the same as everyone else, you’re automatically going to put customers to sleep, but if you do something different, you’ll stand out, your message will be refreshing, and you may delight your customers enough to get them to buy from you.

Your Headline Should Be Ultra Specific

In addition to being unique, your headline writing should be ultra-specific. Your headline should provide enough information to let customers know whether or not the offer you’re presenting is interesting to them. If your headline isn’t specific enough, customers won’t know whether or not what you’re selling is something they want.

Here’s an example:

 A while ago I visited a blog with this headline: “You’ll Be Missed.” I had no idea what it was about. Did the owner lose a family member? Perhaps her dog pass away? Did something else terrible happen? I felt bad for her, but I had no idea what was going on.

When I clicked through, I found out it was a post about Steve Jobs. He had just passed away in the past couple of days, and the author was writing about how she would miss Mr. Jobs. It ended up being a well-written post, but as a reader, I had no idea what it was about until I clicked through to read.

In cases like this, it’s much better to provide enough specific information to compel readers to continue reading than to write something “clever” that doesn’t give readers adequate information to decide whether or not they want it.

Your Headline Should Conveys A Sense Of Urgency

When possible, your headline writing should convey a sense of urgency. It should include something that compels readers to continue reading so they don’t miss out. This isn’t a rule that can always be put in use, but when it can, it works really well.

Here’s an example:

headline example

This post ended up doing well on the KISSmetrics blog. It’s titled “Are You Losing Sales by Giving Customers Too Many Choices?” So why was it so successful?

One of the reasons is that it conveys a sense of urgency. When business owners read it, automatically they think, “Hmmm… maybe I am losing sales. I need to read this article to find out.” And then they click through to read. The urgency of losing sales compels them to read the post.

Whenever possible, it’s good to write headlines that convey a sense of urgency to convince people to continue reading.

Your Headline Should Be Useful

This may be the most important tip of all. If your headline isn’t useful and doesn’t convey a benefit, then it may not give people a reason to continue on past the headline. People want to know what benefit they’ll receive from reading what you’ve written.

This also happens to be one of the rules that companies break the most.

They end up writing something clever because for some reason most people think that’s the point of writing a headline. In doing so they fail to communicate a benefit and fail to give readers a reason to continue reading. Eventually, they end up with disappointing sales because no one pays attention to their copy.

That’s a mistake you don’t want to make.

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