“How to Write Great Headlines” is a title that would never work for this article. Times have changed, prospects have become smarter, and what worked 25 years ago obviously won’t work today.
Studies show your audience is bombarded with advertisements every 6 seconds, and it’s next to impossible to grab their attention … and KEEP it.
UNLESS, of course, you have a headline that stops them scrolling in their tracks.
FIRST THINGS FIRST – SOME BASICS
When you’re writing copy, headlines are the most important part since that’s what the reader will see first. Based upon their first impression of their headline, they’ll decide if they want to read further.
Therefore, like a magnet to steel, the PRIMARY goal of the headline is to — PURSUADE, ENTICE, COMPEL, and PULL — the reader in to the rest of your story.
(A secondary but much smaller goal of your headline is to help with your SEO, so be sure to use at least one of your keywords in your headline if you’re writing for your blog, to help the search engines find your article faster.)
Here’s some of the basics you’ll need to know to get the absolute best punch for your headline:
✔️ KNOW YOUR MARKET:
First, decide your target market. Like I discussed in my last article, doing basic and in-depth research on your audience will tell you what they most desire. You’ll learn what words you can use that will most resonate with them.
(Note: For additional help on finding your exact target market and what they most desire, see our courses entitled Knowing Your Customers and Marketing Research.)
✔️ THEN, FIND YOUR USP:
Next, find your USP (Unique Selling Point). This is the thing or things that make YOUR business stand out from your competition. Make a list of all your greatest USPs, then figure out which ones are most important to your reader. Which single one has the MOST valuable benefit to your reader? Which single selling point best stands out above the others in solving your readers’ problems?
✔️ MAKE A LIST OF ALL YOUR PRODUCT FEATURES:
Write down a list of all the FEATURES that make your product or service great. (Some of these may already be included in your USP.)
✔️FROM THOSE FEATURES, CHOOSE THE BENEFITS
For each feature, come up with a BENEFIT or two, by asking WHY that feature would matter to your reader. The benefit is what is going to matter to your audience, not the feature.
You can answer this question by adding, “This means you can ….” after the benefit statement.
Feature: Comes in multiple colors.
Benefit: THIS MEANS YOU CAN HAVE YOUR CHOICE OF COLORS.
Next, take a look at each benefit statement you wrote. Put them in order according to importance to your reader.
How do you know WHICH is the MOST important to your reader? That’s where testing comes in….
Your product may have multiple audiences. Choose the audience that you’re speaking to and turn that primary benefit for that audience into a heading. Do this until you have a few different variations of headings.
Then set up A/B testing in your email autoresponder or in your ads and see which headline outperforms the other. After 48 hours, replace the loser with a different header and try again. Keep testing until you know you have the highest conversions available.
HERE ARE SOME PRACTICAL TIPS FOR WRITING BETTER HEADLINES:
✔️ WRITE YOUR HEADLINE FIRST: Some professionals say to write your headline first. Others claim the best way is to write it last. We say do whichever way feels best to you. Our preferred practice over the years is to write a headline first so we keep our subject first and foremost in our minds while we write our article. Then, when the article is complete, take another look at the headline to see if it needs retweaking. (Usually it does.)
✔️ MAKE SURE YOUR HEADLINE MATCHES YOUR CONTENT: Make sure the body of your article (or whatever you’re writing) MATCHES the headline. It must be congruent and easily flow from headline to body copy in order to have the intended effect on your reader.
✔️ GETTING THE HEADLINE RIGHT TAKES SOME TIME: Since your headline is the most important part of your marketing piece, it pays to spend the extra time on it that’s needed in order to make sure it’s perfect.
Some people do this by setting a timer (for 10 minutes or so) and just writing a list of headlines for their article as fast as they can, all at once, without regard for spelling, context, punctuation or whether it’s good or bad. Just write as fast as possible until the timer goes off. You should have at least 50 headlines written.
Once the timer goes off, stand back and take a look at what you’ve written. Eliminate the obvious bad ones. Delete all the ones that talk about “I” or “We” instead of your prospect. Get rid of the ones that are dull or dry, too long or too short, or too dry and boring. Look at the remainder and see if you can substitute different words by using a thesaurus.
✔️ USE A THESAURUS FOR SUGGESTIONS: For example, instead of “Saves you money,” which is obviously too cliche, we used a thesaurus to come up with the following examples by substituting words:
Original: “…saves you money.” In this case, “saves” is used as a verb.
Replace “saves” with “free,” “salvalge,” “unchain,” “unshackle,” “bank” or “keep”
Replace “money” with “capital,” “wealth,” “hard cash,” “dough,” or “dollars.”
So, by replacing the terms “saves” and “money,” you can come up with some unique combinations, some of which are quite hilarious (SEE IMAGE BELOW).
✔️ ADD ACTION TERMS: Next, can you substitute any of your words with ACTION WORDS that evoke feelings of action or VISUAL WORDS that enable a picture in the reader’s minds?
✔️ CONSIDER SUBSTITUTION WORDS: Are there any words that can be substituted with more COLORFUL terms? Think TEXTURE, FEELING, COLOR, EXTREME and use your imagination!
✔️ USE A VOCABULARY WHEEL: A vocabulary wheel is a tool that will enable you to substitute more descriptive terms in place of general terms. You can find these on the internet with a simple search. Use a vocabulary wheel to find the exact term you’re looking for.
Obviously, more descriptive words can convey a more EXACT picture to your reader of what you’re attempting to convey, so your goal is to be as descriptive as possible.
✔️ USE A FORMULA: Most gurus use a formula for crafting their headlines, but they always have a few hard and fast rules, such as, “The length for the perfect headline is 6 words” and, “Remember, the perfect headline will always speak TO the reader, and it will INCLUDE or REFERENCE the reader.”
There are many formulas you can use to craft your perfect headline. Here is a common one we see almost every day in our Facebook newsfeed:
EXAMPLE: How to (WHAT THEY GET) with (BENEFIT) without (THEIR TYPICAL FEAR OR PAIN POINT).
FILL IN THE BLANKS: How to (GET MORE LEADS) with (BETTER CONVERSIONS) without (SPENDING A FORTUNE).
THE LIST OF POSSIBILITIES IS ENDLESS:
Obviously, creating the perfect headline is a skill that requires skill and lots of practice. There are about as many formulas and techniques as there are copywriting gurus. To learn the skill of copywriting requires dedication and lots of reading and research. We advise our students one of the best ways to get started is to start paying attention to ads and headlines that you see all around you. Once you learn what to look for, you’ll start to analyze very quickly the many ads and headlines you see every day.
Margery Hinman is Founder and CEO of Million Dollar Marketer, a membership program combining a collection of online tutorials, resources, and strategies for the rising online entrepreneur. Our Copywriting Mastery course is part of our 20 different digital marketing strategy courses that can help you achieve your online goals.