Day 4 – How to Write Killer Headlines – The Basics
Headlines are the gatekeeper of an article or ad. If it’s good, people will read on. If it isn’t, then your email or sales letter hits the recycling bin or gets the delete button treatment.
Just as the purpose of every sale is to get a second sale, the purpose of every sentence is to get your reader to read the second sentence.
The first sentence doesn’t start in the body of the text. It starts with the headline.
Still need convincing?
If you’re still not sure about the importance of headlines, check out these snippets from the experts:
According to David Ogilvy, founder of the Ogilvy & Mather advertising agency and author of Confessions of an Advertising Man:
“On the average, 5 times as many people read the headlines as read the body copy. It follows that unless your headline sells your product, you have wasted 90% of your money.”
Google: “Recent research suggests that users decide to stay or leave your site in 8 seconds or less — in that short amount of time, headlines are the one piece of copy that users will actually read.”
There are a number of basics that you need to get right when writing headlines.
1. Identify who Your Audience Is
Your headline should change depending on whether or not your audience is freezing, cold or warm. By this I mean, will your audience be reading your article/letter/ad/ for the first time? Will they know who you are, will they know your product name?
You can tailor headlines to suit your audience’s knowledge of you and your product. This will lead to more people reading your articles. Decide whether you are writing to sell or writing to engage.
2. Write for People First
You will read many articles extolling the virtues of headlines and keywords for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). SEO helps raise your profile on the search engines. (We’ll talk about this in a later article). Some exponents argue that writing for SEO is different than writing for reading’s sake. My experience has shown that writing for people first will help with both SEO and click-through.
If you write as if you’re talking to the person, chances are you’re going to write a killer heading..and copy.
3. Ask yourself ‘What’s in it for me?’
If you want to lure people into your copy, then you need to ask yourself the question through the reader’s eyes – “what’s in it for me?”. If you can’t answer this, then you need to start again. No matter what way you structure your headline, it has to answer that important question.
4. Keep it Short
The average or ideal length for a headline is five words. Shorter headlines give a better punch or a better sizzle to your message. If you are battling with more words, then simply make a sub-heading out of them or make use of punctuation.
5. Make it Real
Under no circumstance should you write the best headline ever, but not have the copy to back it up. Or worse still, the product or service doesn’t match up with the headline’s benefits. Your headline has to support the copy just as the copy supports the headline.
The best headline in the world won’t stop a bad story from ruining your reputation.
6. Keep it Simple
I’ve seen numerous witty and clever headlines. Some work, a lot don’t. My advice is to keep it simple. Don’t be clever for clever’s sake.
7. Start Over
Once you’ve written your headline, ask yourself if you’re happy with it. If you are, start over again. If you’re not, start over again. You should spend as much time on your headline as you do on your copy. Do not stop until you are proud of your headline.
Day 4 – Homework
Today, I’m relying on 6 questions that Clayton Makepeace, one of the world’s acclaimed copy-writers. Take a recent headline and ask yourself:
1. Does your headline touch a nerve?
2. Does it make a unique claim or statement?
3. Does it provoke curiosity?
4. Is it credible?
5. It is specific?
6. Does it have a news element?
7. Does it offer a compelling benefit for reading?
Source: Clayton Makepeace teleconference, 12/20/06. (Courtesy of The Blog Squad)