How to Write Great Headlines When You’re a Marketer
You’re a marketer, so let’s talk about headlines. It may not be something most people think about on a regular basis, but we are surrounded by headlines. In an age where the amount of information that’s thrown at us 24/7 is quickly becoming overwhelming, it’s headlines that grab our attention and pull us in.
It’s also why as a marketer, you have to get good at writing killer headlines if you want your audience to sit up and pay attention to what you have to say. In other words, getting good at writing headlines will help you in every aspect of your business.
Headlines help you grow your reach
It’s a good headline on a blog post or your favorite social media channel that will entice people to share your content far and wide. That’s what helps you reach your prospects and grow your audience.
Headlines on your opt-in pages entice new readers to sign up for your list.
Getting better at crafting said headlines will help you gain subscribers more quickly. It will also help you get more traffic to your site. If you want people to read your content, they have to click on the blog post first.
The same goes for social media.
With thousands of other posts flowing through the content stream, you have to grab your audience’s attention and entice them to click through to what you’ve written or recorded.
Last but not least there are sales pages.
You need a killer headline there that hooks the reader and pulls them in. Without it, you might just lose them in those all-important first few seconds and any chance of closing the sale is out the window.
In other words, headlines are very important. Getting good and then better and better at crafting killer headlines will help you in all of these areas:
- More Reach
- More Traffic
- More Subscribers
- More Sales
- More Dollars
Ready to dive in and learn more about writing killer headlines that get clicked? Let’s start with those blog post titles I mentioned earlier. We will also take a look at headlines on sales and opt-in pages. After that, we’ll dive into email subject lines, which are yet another type of headline, before wrapping it up with a look at social media.
I’ll give you plenty of copywriting tips and ideas along the way and even include some simple plug and play templates that get you up and running quickly.
While this guide is divided into four distinct areas, many of the ideas I share will apply across all areas. If you like an idea for an email subject line but are working on a blog post title, feel free to use it there. In the end, they are all just headlines and fulfill more or less the same function – to hook the reader and get their attention.
Writing Killer Blog Post Titles
Let’s start with something we all work on regularly – blog posts. You have to get the content out here to share your expertise, get the traffic, and start to build your funnel. Yet when we craft our blog posts, the title is often a bit of an afterthought. If you’re into SEO (search engine optimization), you may make an effort to include your keyword in the title, and then hit publish.
It always surprises me how many marketers publish blog post titles that I would consider a working title. It’s something that gives you a pretty good idea of what the blog post is about while you write it, but it doesn’t have the polished look and attention-grabbing quality of a killer blog post title. Your job with the title is to “sell” the blog post and convince people to click through and read the content of the post. Let’s take a closer look at why it is important to put some time and effort into your titles.
Why Good Blog Post Titles Are Important
We often put a lot of time and effort into our blog posts. We create amazing content that will wow our blog readers. We craft content that’s designed to show our expertise and earn the trust of the people that read them. It is designed to convince them to sign up for our lists or get them closer to becoming a customer. It’s there so it can be shared and help us expand our reach. The problem is that none of that will happen if we don’t spend some time crafting a good blog post title.
People, our potential audience included, are bombarded with information all day long. Consider how many pieces of content you come across on a given day that you could potentially read. It’s thousands of them. There is way more information out there than we can possibly consume. But a few pieces grab our attention enough that we click through and start to ready.
Guess what grabs our attention and makes us click? It’s the blog post title.
If you can’t get their attention and convince them to click through to your blog, it doesn’t matter how stellar your content is. They’ll never see it if you don’t convince them through your blog post title to click on it.
Think about all the different places your blog post title shows up.
It’s not just at the beginning of your post. It’s also what shows up on the main page of your blog and throughout the sidebar and anywhere else you have links back to your most recent or most popular content displaying. Your title will also show up when your content is shared on social media, referenced in other blogs etc. In other words, it shows up quite a bit.
Craft Your Titles For Both Readers And Search Engines
Blog post titles often serve multiple purposes. They grab your readers attention while also giving them a good idea of what the content in the blog post is about. At the same time, they are one of the most important parts of search engine optimization. That means that you need to work in your main keyword or key phrase in addition to making it interesting for your readers.
- It’s a balancing act.
- You want to craft titles that work well for both your readers and the search engines.
- With a little practice, you can get good at accomplishing both.
We’re going to take a look at how you go about crafting killer blog post titles and what you have to keep in mind to do that. To make it easy to get started, I share a few blog post title templates you can use at the end.
Headlines “Sell” The Click
You may not realize it, but you have to “sell” your potential readers on the idea of clicking through to your blog post. If that doesn’t happen, it doesn’t matter how well written your content is, or well the CTA (call to action) in your content converts. If you can’t convince them to click through to the post, the battle is lost. That’s why it’s important to put a lot of thought and effort into your blog post titles. They don’t need Killer Headlines any less than your sales or opt-in pages.
Do Your Research First
Start by doing your homework. You have to have a pretty good idea of what your audience is looking for and what will get their attention. You should also learn as much as you can about copywriting. It’s a craft and a skill that can be learned and it’s something you’ll get better at with practice. Learn as much as you can, start practicing right away and you’ll get there as fast as possible.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. The most important thing is taking action and giving it a try. Try out a new headline idea and see if it works. Even if it doesn’t you’ll learn from the experience.
Remember Your Audience
When you’re creating content it’s easy to fall into a role of working on what you think is best or your audience. Since you’re the expert in this scenario it’s easy to focus on yourself and what you want to share with them. This is particularly true with a blog and the posts you write there.
As you’re writing your blog post and the headlines or blog post titles along with them, focus on your readers and what’s in it for them. If you can’t get their attention and be clear about what they get out of clicking the link and reading the post, you’re not going to earn the click.
If you’ve done your research, you should have a pretty good idea of what your target audience wants and what motivates them. Now your job is to put yourself in their shoes and present the information you need to share with them in a way that peaks their interest and gets their attention.
Once you have that – through your blog post title and the first part of your post – you can start to move them in the direction you want them to head in. You can work on them to join your list, consider buying your products or read more of your content. But remember, it all starts with showing them what’s in it for them.
Analyze Your Highest Traffic Posts
Here’s a good exercise you should do regularly. Look at your website stats and figure out what your highest traffic posts are. Do a little research and a little thinking to figure out why those posts get more traffic than others.
Sometimes it’s a matter of having the right person share your content or a powerful site linking to it. Sometimes it’s good SEO. But sometimes it’s because you’ve created a kill blog post headline. And that title is a big part of why it gets shared on social media so much.
If you can find those instances and identify why it worked, you’ll be one step closer to creating killer headlines that convert in other pieces of content. If nothing else, you can emulate what you’ve done and do more of the same, hopefully getting the same results.
Most importantly, you’re bound to learn something about your readers and their relationship with your blog in the process.
Blog Post Title Templates
Let’s wrap this up with a couple of blog post templates. You simply fill in the blanks with your topics and your keywords. Tweak them, change them, use them, and then see how they convert for you. It’s a great starting place and something for you to work with while you hone your copywriting skills.
- How To In ___________ 4 Easy Steps.
- Extensive Review Of ___________ – Read Before You Buy.
- How To ___________ Even If ___________ (biggest objection)
- A Simple / Beginners / Ultimate/ Comprehensive / Objective Guide to ___________
- 7 Examples / Steps / Tips/ Resources for ___________
- 7 Surprising Reasons Why ___________
- 3 Ways To Do / Experience / Accomplish / Have ___________
- How Will ___________ Help You Accomplish ___________
- What You Need To Know About ___________
- A Step By Step Tutorial To ___________
Writing Headlines For Sales and Opt-In Pages
Your headlines are the single most important piece of content on your sales and opt-in pages aside from the buy or sign up button. In fact, if need be, you could get away with nothing more than those two – headline and button.
Yes, it’s that important and as with the blog post example, the rest of your copy doesn’t matter much if you can’t pull your visitors in with the headline. Let’s take a look at why great headlines are so important and how you can get good at writing them.
Why Compelling Headlines Are Important
Without subscribers and customers, you don’t have an online business. And the best way to get either one is with a great sales page. Of course, your first task of business is to get them to read said sales page. It doesn’t matter if you’re dealing with a simple opt-in page, a video sales page, a traditional long-form sales letter, or a product listing. If you can’t get them to pay attention, you’ve already lost the sale or opt-in.
Your headline is what grabs their attention, gets them to read, but also what sets the tone of your entire page. It’s your chance to take the reader from where they are right now and guide them to where they need to be to make an informed decision about signing up or buying. Along the way, you’ll, of course, present them with plenty of reasons why they should. But first, you need to get them reading.
To do that you need to draw them in with a hook. We’ll talk more about crafting a hook later on in this chapter. Once you have their attention it’s a matter of making sure your content flows and moves them right along, all the way to the button that you want them to press.
Crafting Headlines With Your Target Audience In Mind
Start by thinking about your target audience. Why do they need the product you have to offer or why should they sign up for your list. Then dig deeper. What’s their motivation? What pain are they trying to relieve or what goal are they trying to reach? Why is it important? Once you know that you can start to craft your headline by speaking to those motivations.
Put yourself in their shoes. Think about what they need and what’s in it for them. Make sure your content reflects that and speaks to that, including the wording of your headline. Figure out what makes them click, what keeps them up at night and then offer a solution.
Flashy headlines Work, But…
Once you figure out what will get your readers’ attention, you’ll be tempted to use it in the strongest way possible. You want to create a flashy headline that shouts at them to come here and look at what you have to offer. There’s a way to do that and there’s a time and place for it.
That time and place is when you have an extremely strong offer that’s hard to resist and your main goal is volume of sales. In other words, save those flashy headlines for the occasional sale or special offer. The rest of the time, you want to craft something that gets their attention without shouting at them.
There’s A Time To Keep It Short And Sweet
After all the research you’ve done on your target market, you have a lot of things you want to share with your readers in your headline. The temptation is to make it fairly long by cramming as much information as you can into what’s essentially a short sentence.
Being able to boil it down into one short statement that conveys all that information takes time and practice. Write your long headline. Walk away and then come back with a clear head and start to edit it ruthlessly. Take out any word or phrase that isn’t absolutely necessary.
Make it a habit to keep your headlines short, sweet, and to the point. You want a reader to grasp them at a glance and decide to dive in and start reading. You don’t want to lose them on step one because it’s too much work to figure out what this offer is all about.
“Hook Them” And Get Them Reading
Another great approach for crafting highly converting headlines is to find a hook. This is a short little story or experience that you’re sharing with your readers to get them interested. For example, if you’re in the weight loss niche, your hook could be how cutting out just one type of food (sugar) has helped you lose 25 pounds in six months without doing anything else. No other changes in diet, no exercise etc.
There are a couple of reasons why this particular hook works.
It’s a relatable story. You’re sharing your experience and specific results. It also speaks to one of dieters’ pain points that they have to work out like crazy and starve or follow a complicated program that requires to measure and weight everything. Your hook is that there’s a simpler way to dropping those extra pounds.
Crafting good hooks isn’t something that’s easily learned.
It takes time. One of the best ways to get started is to watch for hooks in other people’s headlines and sales materials. Pay attention to what they are doing and how it works. Pay special attention when a hook works on you. Notice too how the hook goes beyond the headline. It may start there, but carries through the sales or opt-in page. The hook’s job is to pull them in and move them along.
You’ve Gotta Sell The Opt-In Too
When it comes to writing headlines, you may be thinking about sales pages only. It’s easy to brush over the opt-in pages and throw something up. Your opt-in pages are just as important to your business as your sales pages, if not more important. Put just as much work and effort into them, including writing the headlines. Getting those new subscribers on your list is worth all the time and effort it takes.
Don’t Assume – Test
Before we move on, I have one more important piece of advice to share with you when it comes to these types of headlines. Do your research, do your best job writing the copy, but don’t assume you know what will work best and what will convert best. Instead, write a headline and then start testing it against other headlines you come up with until you find a winner.
Never assume that you know your potential customers better than they know themselves. Test and come up with the headlines that bring you the most conversions. After all, that’s what it’s really about, isn’t it?
Sales Page and Opt-In Page Headline Templates
Let’s wrap this chapter up with another set of headline templates. As before use them to get started, use them as inspiration, use them as a springboard to figure out what works for you, your business, your offers, and most importantly your customers and subscribers.
- Here’s a Strategy That’s Helping Other ___________ Do ___________
- Get ___________Without ___________ (pain)
- ___________ That Will Get You ___________
- I Promise You This: ___________
- Get Rid Of ___________ Once And For All
- Now You Can Have ___________ and ___________
- Have / Build A ___________ You Can Be Proud Of
- Do You Have a Secret Fear Of ___________?
- Sick And Tired Of ___________? So Was I …
- An Easier, More Fool-Proof Way To ___________
Writing Killer Email Subject Lines
So far we’ve talked about blog post titles and headlines for your sales and opt-in pages. It’s time to switch gears yet again and take a look at email subject lines. You may not think of them as headlines, but that’s essentially what they are. Your readers see a list of subject lines in their inbox and based on this they decide what they want to open and read and what goes straight to the trash bin. When you start to think of email subject lines as yet another type of headline, it will become easier to craft the kind that will get your readers to open your emails.
Why Interesting Email Subject Lines Are Important
The most obvious reasons why email subject lines are important is because they are what makes our readers open the email – or not. But it doesn’t stop there. The subject line also sets the tone for the whole email and gives the reader an idea of what to expect in the body of the mailing.
Subject lines help our readers keep an open mind for what we have to share with them. They make them curious, they make them think, and they make them anticipate what’s to come. All of those are very good frames of mind that get subscribers ready to read and more importantly take whatever action we want them to take once they are done reading. Subject lines are one of the most integral parts of email marketing. And in case you’re new to this, the money really is in the list.
Crafting Subject Lines That Stand Out From The Crowd
Do me a favor and open your email. Take a quick glance at your inbox. For most of us, there’s a lot of email in there with dozens more being added to the mix each day. That’s a lot of competition. Unless these are all work emails that you get paid to read and deal with, chances are that many of them remain unopened. Quite a few of them land in the trash without ever being clicked on. For others, you may have every intention of getting around to reading them eventually, but as they move further and further down the page, they are quickly forgotten.
Only a small percentage of email gets opened anymore these days. This is true even for the emails you send out to readers who after all have explicitly signed up for them in the first place. It’s a volume problem.
We’re bombarded by more email each day than we can process. So we pick and choose.
The way we pick and choose is by who the email is from and the subject line. You don’t have a lot of control over who your emails are from, but you do have a lot of control over the subject line. If you can convey enough to earn that click, your subject line will have done its job.
Without it, everything else you write in the email or the pages you link to in your emails doesn’t matter. That’s why it’s important.
Create A Swipe File
One of the best ways to write great email subject lines that get your emails opened is to get inspiration from other great email marketers. Pay attention to the marketing emails you get. Sign up for a few lists in your niche and start collecting good email examples. Save them in a folder of your email program or create a label for them in Gmail.
Once you’ve collected quite a few good examples start using them. Look at a great subject line and then change it around and make it work for your purposes. Use it as inspiration and study it to learn more about email copywriting. Keep adding to the swipe file and keep coming back to it as needed. Over time it will make you a better and better email copywriter.
What Gets Your Own Attention?
Pay particular attention to the types of emails that are getting your own attention. What’s making you open a particular promotional email? If you can narrow down what that is, you can learn a lot from it.
The last step of the process is to find a way to translate what’s working for you into something that will work for your target market. If you happen to be part of your target market, that’s easy. If not, you may have to spend a little time getting to know them and practice putting yourself in their shoes.
Review Your Stats and Open Rates
Another great way to get a feel for what works and what doesn’t is to review your email stats and open rates. Log into your autoresponder dashboard and find the reporting. Take a look at what stats you can find. The most important one when it comes to figuring out what subject lines work well is open rates. The emails with the highest open rates overall will likely have the best subject lines.
Look through the stats and see what you can learn. Do you notice a trend? Maybe there’s a certain type of subject line that your readers respond well to. If so, use it more often. Or maybe it’s a particular topic or keyword that gets their interest and has them opening those emails. If so, use that word or topic more often.
Learn what you can from the data you’re collecting. Go back and revisit often to learn more over time. It won’t take you long to hone your email copywriting skills and come up with more subject lines your subscribers will love to open.
Learning From Testing
Set up some tests. Most good auto-responder services allow you to split test your emails. If yours doesn’t, send two similar emails with different subject lines to your list and see which one gets the better open rates.
Test as much as possible. You’ll learn a lot in the process. Yes, there are some great tips for writing killer subject lines including the ones I’m sharing here. Yes, there are some tried and true templates you can use including the ones I’m about to share with you.
That being said, it doesn’t work the same for all niches. And it doesn’t work the same for all target markets and audiences. Most importantly, it may or may not work for your subscribers. The only way to find out and learn more is to test as much as possible.
Save The Pushy Stuff For When It’s Really Worth It
There are some pushy and sensational headlines out there and they will work – if used in moderation. I’m sure you’ve come across them. I’m sure you’ve “fallen” for them. And chances are good that you have some pretty powerful examples of them in your swipe file already. If you don’t… time to get to get to work on them.
Subject lines like “Do Not Open This Email!” for example will work.
And they will work extremely well the first time you use them. But if you overuse them, or worse, if you use them in a way that doesn’t serve your readers or makes them annoyed when they open the email only to find a sales pitch for something they’re not interested in right now, those pushy subject lines will do more harm than good.
Use them sparingly and use them when and where it makes sense. Save something like “Final Notice” for the last push on a profitable and time sensitive sales promotion. Use these pushier and attention grabbing emails for these types of scenarios when getting a couple hundred more opens on your emails will make a real difference to your bottom line.
Then go back to your more traditional emails. Make sure you let plenty of time go by before you try another pushy subject line. It also helps to mix them up and try something new. Your most successful subject lines will continue to do well for you if you use them no more than once or twice a year. Save them for when it really counts.
Email Subject Line Title Templates
Last but not least I have another set of templates for you. This time they are plug and play email subject line templates. Use them as you see fit, and feel free to add to this collection with the help of your swipe file.
- Question About ___________
- Don’t Buy ___________ Until You Read This
- [Case Study ] ___________ (results)
- X ___________ Mistakes You’re Making
- What I Learned After ___________
- It’s All Over ___________ (Date)
- The real reason ___________ want to ___________
- Real life lessons from a ___________
- Possibly The Smartest Way To ___________
- Can’t Believe How Much You / I Love This ___________
Killer Headlines In Social Media
Last but not least, let’s talk about social media and the roles headlines play here. This is going to be a little more subtle. It has more to do with how your other headlines display or how you can incorporate strong content and calls to action into your social media content. Because of this, I don’t have any templates to share with you in this section. That being said, everything I’ve shared with you so far about writing killer headlines, including the previous templates applies to some extend to social media as well.
A good headline is a good headline whether you use it on a sales page, on the front of a magazine, in a billboard ad, or on your Facebook page.
Why Attention Grabbing Social Media Headlines Are Important
It’s busy on the popular social media sites. There’s information overload with everything going on and it’s getting hard to grab your potential reader, customer, and subscriber’s attention. Which is where the killer headlines come into play. Social media is great, but it won’t do much for you unless you can accomplish one of two things. You either want people to read and click through to your own site, or you want them to share your posts. Ideally, you want them to do both. In either case, the first thing you need is for them to notice you, which is where the headlines come in.
Let’s dig in a little deeper and look at the use of headlines in five popular social media platforms. While there are plenty others, this will give you a pretty good idea of where you’d use your killer headline writing skills when it comes to social media.
Headlines On Facebook
There are a few different ways headlines come into play with Facebook. The first is when you share a blog post or other type of external content there. You want the headline that shows up to be a killer headline. Use what we talked about in the section about blog post titles.
When you’re sharing images or videos, you usually want to share some text as well, particularly if you’re including a link back to your site and your main goal is to get the click through. Think of that text as your headline. It may not be in big bold type, but it serves the same purpose.
Last but not least you need strong headlines when you’re running Facebook ads. Look at other successful FB ads and learn what you can from them about what works when it comes to this particular type of headline and copy.
Headlines On Twitter
This one is going to be simple. Your tweet is your headline. Be clear about the purpose of your tweet before you publish it. It could be to get the click back to your site. It could be to be retweeted and gain exposure, or it could be to start a conversation with one or more of your followers.
Choose wisely and compose accordingly.
Headlines on Pinterest
Pinterest is an interesting duck. It’s a very visual platform. While it may not work for every niche, it’s quite popular in cooking and home decorating for example. The headline in most cases will be the text you add to your image through image editing software. Look at what’s working in your niche, find your own style and post away. If you have an active community on Pinterest you can get quite a bit of traffic back to your site when using beautiful images combined with strong headlines.
Headlines On YouTube
YouTube headlines or video titles are very similar to crafting killer blog post titles. You need to balance the needs of your audience with the needs of the search engines. Make the titles fun and interesting while also including your main keyword. Depending on your niche, “how to” or “review” type videos with those words in the titles may work well or you. As with the other social media platforms do your research for your niche and then just give it a try. See what works for you.
Headlines On Reddit
Reddit headlines are very interesting for two reasons. Reddit is, in essence, a way for you to share content or links to content (ideally your site or one of your social media properties i.e. a YouTube video). The headline here is the link text that will be displayed on the site and on the category pages.
First of all, there seems to be a lot of difference in what works and what doesn’t when it comes to headlines depending on what subreddit you’re working in. Secondly, the category over-riding theme for what works seems to be headlines that are clever and interesting.
Don’t be afraid to go way out of the box with your headlines. Get creative. Start by looking at what makes it to the front page and the main page of your particular subcategory. Watch it for a few days and figure out what content and what type of headline will work for you here. Then give it a try.
Don’t get frustrated if you don’t get a lot of traction at first. Try again until you figure it out. This is very different from traditional killer headlines but well worth it. And who knows, you might just get some off the wall, creative ideas you can use to shake up your blog and email readers from time to time.
Last but not least, keep in mind that each social media platform is different and aside from that many niches use these platforms in different ways. Your target audience may gravitate more to one or two of them than others, in which case you want to focus your efforts there.
Take a look at how your prospects interact on these social media platforms. Spy on your competition and take note of what seems to be working well for them. Then get to work and practice what you’ve learned. See what works for you and what doesn’t. Then keep doing more of what works for you and your audience.
There you have it. While writing killer headlines may not be something that comes naturally to you, or it may not even be something you’ve thought about much, I hope you’ve learned a lot. You’ll start making progress simply by thinking about what I shared with you in this guide, and by paying attention to the headlines you’re out there creating on a daily basis.
Start thinking about how you can improve your headlines.
Put the templates and examples I’ve shared with you to good use, and take note of the killer headlines crafted by expert copywriters that are all around you. Do that, keep practicing, and you can’t help but become better at writing killer headlines yourself. As we’ve established that’s just plain good for business across the board.
Before we wrap this up, I thought I’d quickly share my top 10 tips for crafting killer headlines no matter where you end up using them.
Here they are:
- Write With Your Ideal Customer or Reader In Mind.
- Don’t Be Afraid To Try Something New And Controversial.
- Test and Don’t Ever Stop Testing. What You Think Will Work Doesn’t Always Match What Does Work.
- When You’re Stuck Use A Template To Start With.
- Get In The Habit Of Collecting Great Headlines And Use Them For Your Own Purposes.
- Don’t Be Afraid To Repurpose And Reuse Headlines That Have Worked Well For You In The Past.
- Fine Tune And Polish Your Headlines Over Time.
- Craft A Hook And Draw Them In.
- Treat Your Headlines As The Most Important Thing You’ll Write Today.
- Be Creative And Come Up With Something Fresh.
Put them to good use. Revisit them often and apply as many of them as often as possible. Happy writing!