What’s the secret to writing a killer headline?
You’ve got to be willing to kiss a couple of frogs.
Copywriting gurus, from the late advertising great David Ogilvy to Copyblogger’s Sonia Simone, will tell you that for every successful headline they’ve come up with, there were 99 that failed. That’s right. Even experts can’t just pull perfect headlines out of thin air. They have to write ten, twenty or more versions of the same message before they zero in on a winner. That’s a lot of sweat equity behind every great headline.
Not to mention a little slime.
As the saying goes, you may have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find the real prince! This is as true for frustrated copywriters striving for great headlines as it is for grossed-out princesses looking for their one true love.
Today’s world of digital marketing might seem worlds away from the magazine ads created by Ogilvy’s Mad Men, but basic tenets of persuasive copy are the same today as they were half a century ago.
Damning with faint praise.
Don’t just tell your reader about the benefits of your product or service. Prove the goods by citing research, data and testimonials (see below) and adding graphs and photos.
“4 Out Of 5 Psychologists Agree that Daily Practice Writing Effective Headlines Significantly Boosts Brain Health.”
“Ask me a question, I’ll tell you no lies!”
What better way to quickly hook your target audience than by asking them about their “target” problem? Who can resist a compassionate, listening ear….and a possible solution to their woes?
“Are You Struggling to Find the Right Key-Words to Insert in Your Blog Copy? Try This One Simple Solution.”
It’s a numbers game.
List post headlines pique readers’ curiosity while offering helpful information in a format that’s easy on the eyes.
“Top 10 Most Effective Headlines”
“5 Signs That Your Target Audience Reads Your Headlines”
“25 Tips to Writing Attention-Getting Home Page Headlines”
Keep It Simple, Sweetheart!
When it comes to word count, less is best. Remember, in the crowded world of SEO, the headline limit is 65 characters. Don’t risk a beheading that spells instant death for the rest of your message. Not to mention your product or service.
Light the way.
Does your product or service offer the target audience a leg up on the competition? Or simply a way to shine a little brighter than the next guy? Anytime your headline reads “how to”, readers will flock to it like moths to a light.
“How to Write Engaging Key-word Optimized Blogs in Less than One Hour!”
Let’s get physical!
Stimulate reader interest with a call-to-action!
“Can You Write a Winning Headline? Take Our Quiz to Find Out!”
“Send Us Your Email to Download Our Free E-book on How to Write Headlines That Click With Your Target Audience!”
Use descriptive adjectives, active verbs and recognizable nouns. Replace vague, dull sentences: “It’s the best thing for your cold.” with imagery:
“Feel Dr. Z’s Honey-Infused Vapor Rub Chase Your Cold Germs Away!”
Manna from Heaven
2000 years ago, testimonials worked miracles for Jesus. A solid first-person quotation citing the benefits of your product or service might provide all the reader motivation you need.
“Five Loaves Restaurant in Mt. Pleasant is the only restaurant that I trust for fresh, healthy menu options that everybody in my family enjoys.”
Let’s take it from the top. (After all, we did give you the best advice on how to write an effective headline, quite literally, at the top of this blog). Write the best headline you can think of. Try using one or more of the tips listed above.
Then re-write that headline 25 different ways.
Ask your co-workers, family members …even your dental hygienist for feedback. They’ll be tickled that you asked and they can help you narrow your list down to the four or five best headlines.
Then it’s up to you.
Don’t give up. Remember, the prince – that golden headline – holds the key to your magic kingdom: a website flooded with motivated readers actively clicking for more information.
Go ahead. Pick the headline you think works best and give it a big wet kiss.
As copywriters, we really do believe in happy endings.