3 Tips For Writing Better Headlines
Copyright © 2005 by Bruce Carlson
The single most important element of your website's copy
is the headline. Take away practically everything else
and you can still manage a sale (if the headline's good enough
and you have a strong enough call to action). But take away the
headline and your chances for any success are about zero.
Why is this?
Simply put, your headline is the magnet for your copy. It's
the “door” through which people enter your world of persuasion.
Make it appealing enough and theyll step through the door. Fail
to make it appealing and they'll walk on by.
If you want to pull in customers, you need to be able to write
good headlines. And in order to write good headlines, you need to
understand a few fundamental principles of the craft. Here are
3 quick tips for writing better headlines for your website. Take
these to heart and you'll find writing headlines a lot less painful.
1. Understand the true purpose of a headline
First off, you need to have a clear understanding of what your
headline is doing there. From all the confusion I see on websites,
it's safe to say that many people don't understand the purpose
of having a headline up there in the first place.
So what is the purpose of a headline?
Your headline's basic purpose is to get the reader interested enough
to continue reading.
Not to make the sale. Not to be clever or artistic. Not to offer
a riddle for them to solve.
It's just to get them into your copy so they'll read the next thing after
Think of your headline as the first step in a journey. Taking a journey is
a pretty major thing. People don't do it lightly. They have to genuinely
believe they'll get something worthwhile out of reading your copy before
they'll take the plunge.
Readers come in all shapes and sizes, since they're people plain and simple,
after all. But in general, readers of your copy have certain basic characteristics.
A big one for your website copy's purposes is the “skimmer” mentality.
Most people are “skimmers”. I'm sure you skim a lot yourself. I know I do
regularly. Very few of us are willing to sit down and read every word in
every ad or newspaper story or magazine article just for the fun of it. So
we glance at the headline quickly and decide in a split second whether or
not we're going to continue reading. If it's compelling enough and clear
enough, we'll read more.
Assume that every person who comes to your website will only skim your headline.
Even if your reader is the most perfect prospect you could possibly find for your
product or service, they'll most likely still skim read your headline.
So you need to work out specific strategies and tactics for getting these skimmers'
2. Get their attention and target a strong emotion
There are three standard ways to get attention with your headline. These have been
proven by copywriters for many decades now.
In their order of effectiveness they are:
1. Go after your prospect's self-interest
2. Offer your prospect news
3. Try to arouse your prospect's curiosity
Appealing to your prospect's self-interest is the most effective single method
you can use to get their attention. Offer the reader something they want and can
get from you -- a direct benefit. Here are two simple, generic examples of
self-interest direct benefit headlines:
Add Another $1,000 A Month To Your Income
Want To Impress And Delight Your Friends And Family?
When appealing to your reader's self-interest, you must target a strong emotion. The
first example above targets people's desire for more money. Most regular folks would
certainly like to have another thousand dollars a month coming in. The second
example targets people's sense of pride. Practically everybody wants to feel more
important and look good in the eyes of their friends and family.
Your product or service has a strong emotional appeal built into it (if you haven't
found it yet you'll need to do so right away). And there may even be more than one emotion
involved. If so, then use the one which is the strongest and most positive for your
Fear is an example of a negative emotion. Sure, you can sell using fear in a headline,
but it's a dicey way to do business and can backfire on you. You could alienate your
reader. Better to bring the fear angle in later in your copy in a “quieter” way, if you
have to use it.
I once fell for a product because of a fear-mongering headline and fear-laden copy. And
to this day I hold a grudge against that marketer. He'll never get any of my business
Remember to keep your target market's wants and desires in the front of your mind at
all times. Find specific problems they have and need solutions for and use that
knowledge to make your headline more targeted.
3. Combine methods and/or bring in your product or service to be even more specific
If you can combine two or even all three of these attention-getting methods in your
headline, then so much the better. Using our headline examples from above, we could
combine them like this:
Amazing New Report Reveals Simple Method For Adding $1,000 A Month To
Famous Conjurer's New Book Shows How You Can Easily Learn Memory Tricks
That Will Impress And Delight Your Friends
These two headlines bring in news and even a bit of curiosity. And they're much more
specific and targeted because they refer to the actual product being offered. That's a
But you don't need to combine attention-getting methods to make your headline more
specific. By just adding your product or service you'll do a lot. Going back to our
original headline examples, we can use only the self-interest angle (which, remember,
is the most effective attention-getting method) and still make things much more specific.
Add Another $1,000 A Month To Your Income With My Proven Trading Service
Impress And Delight Your Friends With These Simple Memory Tricks Anybody Can
With your own product or service it should be fairly easy to follow this same
route and craft a workable headline. But spend some time on it. The great copywriter
Ted Nicholas says he spends 90% of his copywriting time on the headline. And you
should do the same!
Remember, a decent headline not only grabs your reader, it also makes your job
easier when writing the rest of your copy. The copy will flow smoothly out of that
good headline, because the “table has been set”, so to speak.
So go to it and write that good headline. You'll be amazed at the difference
it makes for you.
About the Author
Veteran educator and freelance writer Bruce Carlson would like to help you improve your online copywriting. Sign up for his highly informative Dynamic Copywriter newsletter at: