Take a second to think about blog posts, emails, sales pages or websites without headlines. They would all be mumbo-jumbo, without focus. You wouldn’t know where to start…you’d be puzzled and bored.
Headlines steer the readers and compel them to become involved with your product or service. That’s why headlines must be powerful, persuasive and interesting, or they will fail.
Don’t believe me? Listen to the words of the industry’s forefathers. Advertising great David Ogilvy said that the headline is the most important part of an ad. Marketing guru and copywriter John Caples wrote, “If the headline is poor, the copy will not be read. And copy that is not read does not sell goods.”
Not only do I agree, I think that creating a gripping, compelling headline is the most important part of writing any copy or content. My secret confession: To me it’s the most fun part of writing.
Now lean in, and I will divulge my “Lucky 13” secrets to successful headlines…
- Make them simple and direct.
Get right to the point. Your reader shouldn’t have to search for your offer. For example, you can promise, “36 Months of [name of your product] for the Price of One—Like Getting One Year FREE!”
- Keep them short and sweet.
People don’t to read a lot of words…6 to 8 words should do the trick. Hubspot recommends a max character count of 65, since that is the cutoff in search results.
- State the biggest benefit.
Your number one selling point should be upfront, drawing your audience and putting them in the mood to respond (or at least, continue reading). They want to know exactly what’s in it for them.
- Ask a thought-provoking question.
But remember to only use a question when the answer is obvious to your readers. And be sure to answer the question and solve the specific problem in your content.
- Announce something new and exciting.
People are naturally curious. When your headline suggests news, it can have a powerful appeal…like a feature story on the morning news. Keep in mind that your product or service doesn’t necessarily have to be newly created to be newsworthy. It merely has to be news to your reader. You can use such words as, “At last,” “Introducing,” and “Now” to start your headline.
- Tell them “how to” do something.
When you use a “How to…” headline, you have to be specific and make it sound easy and trouble-free. Focus on the final result, not the actual process.
- Give them a command.
This tells the readers the benefit to them in a very direct, commanding way, which is neither conversational nor dictatorial. For example, “Become a World-Class Headline Writer in 14 Days.”
- Deliver information that’s useful…or even shocking.
One way I love to do this is to share a secret with the readers. An example might be, “Secrets of [fill in the blank] Revealed.” Another might be to deliver a warning about something or surprise them and catch them off guard.
- Convey an enthusiastic and honest testimonial.
A quoted testimonial headline delivers a third-party endorsement of your product or service. Plus, it tells readers what others have to say. Or you can provide a “virtual testimonial” by writing the headline in the first person and putting quotes around it.
- Use specific numbers.
Numbers catch peoples’ attention, especially odd numbers (5 or 11) or obscure numerals (like 27 or 49).
- Make your adjectives work harder.
Instead of using vague, general adjectives (like good, fun or easy) use specific, interesting adjectives (like effortless, incredible or essential).
- Stay away from overly creative, wacky, offbeat or ultra-different headlines.
If you try too hard to be clever instead of focusing on your product or offer, your headline will probably fail. People don’t like to be put to the test to “get” the meaning of your headline.
- Test headlines like crazy.
In spite of Tip #12, sometimes the unexpected works. So, if you feel strongly about it, you might want to test a very creative headline. Another reason for testing is “wear-out”: a great headline will work for while, and then response will taper off. You’ve got to be prepared with back-up headlines to test and retest.
Best headline advice of all: Shout out to Solamar. We’ll create headlines (and content) that work for you time after time after time.