As a freelance copywriter, I spend a lot of time obsessing over headlines. Don’t get me wrong, I care about writing great body copy, too, but I’ve always been of the opinion that if you don’t have a powerful headline that sucks readers in, it doesn’t matter how great the rest of your copy is, because no one will read it.
That goes for everything from sales copy on your website to your blog posts. If the headline isn’t clear and enticing, everything else is pointless. To put it as simply as possible, the goal of your headline is to induce people to start reading the body of your copy.
Of course, this raises the question, “How can you write strong headlines that suck readers in and force them to read more?” Here are 5 simple tips you can start putting to use immediately.
- Clarity above all else—Too many copywriters try to write clever, witty headlines. They get so caught up in flexing their look-at-me writing skills that they fail to realize how useless most clever headlines really are. Your headline needs to clearly encapsulate the main idea of your copy. Sure, there’s something to be said for arousing the reader’s curiosity, but when you try to be clever or funny, there’s a good chance you’ll sacrifice clarity. And for web readers who are in a hurry, an unclear headline just doesn’t catch their attention.
- Let the reader know what’s in it for him—We’re all selfish. None of us want to read something unless we first know what’s in it for us. For sales copy, this means you need a strong headline that focuses on a key benefit of your product (e.g. Lose 10 Pounds in 10 Days…Guaranteed). For blog posts, it means letting the reader know what he (or she) is going to learn about by reading your post (e.g. How to Sell More Widgets).
- Don’t worry about taking a negative approach—There’s been a longstanding myth in copywriting that negative headlines don’t work. In the words of GOP Rep. Wilson “You lie!” Negative headlines can work just fine. Fear is a strong emotion, so if people are afraid they might be making a mistake or missing out on something, they’ll respond accordingly.
- When in doubt, use a proven template—Originality can be overrated when it comes to headline writing. Yes, you want to stand out from the crowd and get the reader’s attention, but you can accomplish this even by using proven headline templates. Examples of headlines that work include list headlines, how to headlines, question headlines, and guarantee headlines.
- Never stop testing—The truth is that every situation is different. People who visit your website may respond differently to the types of headlines used on another website. The only way to determine which headlines are most effective for your web copy is to keep testing out different variations.
What are some of your tips for writing better headlines? Share them by leaving a comment.