Bob Stone, one of the best known copywriters once said, “Your first 15 words count more than the 15,000 words that follow!”
A great headline is similar to the trailer before the movie. It whets the appetite and gives the reader a taste of what is to come. The purpose of a headline is to compel the reader to continue on to the next step (read your copy).
Ever glance over at the magazines strategically placed in front of you while you are waiting to check out at the supermarket? The first thing you will notice is the headline. Cosmopolitan, Star and many other worldwide magazines use headlines on their covers to lure consumers to buy their issues.
As internet marketers, your blog post and article headlines can either bore, turn away or compel your readers to read more. A great headline can draw more attention to your business and cause more people to share your content as well.
Avoid following a headline with poor copy that does not substantiate your claim. If you promise to share the benefits of weight loss with the readers as stated in your headline, you must list your amazing weight loss benefits in the copy. A great headline is nothing without stellar content to follow.
Also, if you do not understand why a certain headline works, you may be at risk of writing a poor headline. Marketers use formulas and headline templates to craft their headlines and they can be useful, but only if they are written effectively. If you understand why headlines work, you will become better at writing them.
Let’s take a look at six examples of effective headlines and why they capture your attention. Though some of them are dated, they will still give you an idea of the power that can accompany a great headline.
The headline below was written by Maxwell Sackheim over 80 years ago, yet it is still being touted as one of the best headline examples to this day:
Why is this headline so effective?
- It asks a thought-provoking question and engages the reader. By asking a question, you involve the reader in the process. You prompt the reader to answer the question and if the answer is “yes” or even “maybe, but I want to read more”, you will have done your job.
- The question should clearly relate to the benefit of what you are offering. In the above example, the headline leads to an article promoting the booklet “How you Can Master Good English in 15 Minutes a Day”. The article discusses the benefits of the product and also why people make mistakes with English so there was a logical progression from headline to copy.
- Who likes to make mistakes? Nobody! The psychology of human nature is to excel, not to fail. This question compels the reader to wonder if he/she is making those mistakes. It peaks their interest and causes them to continue reading.
Here are some other thought-provoking question headlines:
- Will Your Scalp Stand The “Fingernail Test?”
- Can You Talk About Books With The Rest Of Them?
Everyone wants to improve their lives in some way which is why this type of headline works so well:
The “How to” statement should be written based on the needs or wants of your audience. Additionally, it must also focus on the fulfillment of that need. The book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” was and is still incredibly successful. The book title lures people in because it solves a basic need for many.
When crafting a “how to” headline, be careful not to list the task or process…make sure the benefit is highlighted.
For example, take a look at these 2 headlines:
- How to Clean Your House in Less Than 30 Minutes
- How to Enjoy a Sparkling Clean House in Less Than 30 Minutes
Both headlines are basically referring to some type of supersonic cleaning method that will get the job done in less than 30 minutes. However the first example focuses on the cleaning ,which is the task. Headlines should not remind readers of the things they hate, but outline the benefits of purchasing the product. The second headline puts the reader in a happy state and speaks more to how they can improve their lives and make their lives easier.
Think about motivation when writing your “how to” headlines.
Some other great how to headlines?
- How to Get a Mortgage That Saves You Money (Using the word “that” can be very effective)
- How To Get Your Cooking Bragged About
- How To Make Money Writing Short Paragraphs
- How To Do Your Christmas Shopping in 5 Minutes
3. The Direct Statement Headline
Take a look at this headline:
The Best Chocolate Cake You Ever Ate
This headline is an example of a direct statement. It isn’t clever or humorous. It gets straight to the point without hesitation. This headline works well for companies that are interested in stating a strong benefit or showcasing a discount.
The direct statement headline is powerful because it compels the writer to refrain from injecting any wordplay that could make the headline go south. It is clear and concise and there isn’t room for conjecture.
Here are some more direct statement headline examples:
- Money-saving Bargain from Americas Oldest Diamond Discount House
- One Place-setting Free For Every Three You Buy
- Quick Relief for Tired Eyes.
- The Most Amazing Shakespeare Bargain Ever Offered
This headline emphasizes a BIG benefit and eases fears with the money back guarantee:
Ed Sale scored big with this headline. It accompanied his advertisement for his 66 page secret guitar playing system. His headline showcased his top-selling point and the copy followed suit.
Stating benefits in headlines is not a new concept; however, how you do it will determine its effectiveness. For these headlines, take your top benefit, the one that will get people to notice. Discover your main selling point and use that as a headline.
- Lose Ugly Fat – an Average of 7 Pounds a Month.
- Create your own cards, posters and banners in minutes!
5. The Command Headline
The command headline is a more aggressive type of statement. Take a look at this headline:
This Is Your Window Of Opportunity. Open It.
This headline is a command that gives the reader exact instructions. It is direct and dictates a specific action without any fluff or lingo. It tells your customers what to do and encourages an action by offering a benefit.
You can also start a command headline with a verb like in these examples:
- Call anyone, anywhere, without a phone line for FREE!
- “Stop Baldness Today Before Your Head Looks Like A Bowling Ball”
The main point of the command headline is that people need to be told what to do. This is why you add “call to action” buttons and statements on your websites and sales letters. Make sure your headline fits the environment so it can be as effective as possible.
Here are some other command headline examples:
- “Stop Wasting Time On Advertising Guesswork”
- Become a famous blogger in 60 days.
This headline could be categorized as a thought-provoking question as well, but because it is used so prevalently, it deserves its own category.
This “who else” headline is often overused in the internet marketing arena, but it can still be effective for many other businesses. By stating “Who else”, the headline implies that others are already desirous of the result which begs the reader to want to know more.
The psychology of human nature looks to others to direct our actions and to give us motivation. If we believe others desire something, we will feel safer to open our minds to it. “If he did it, then I can do it too!”
Examples of “who else” headlines:
- Who else wants a lighter cake – in half the mixing time?
- Who else wants a Hollywood figure?
- Who Else Wants a Higher Paying Job?
When writing headlines, try some of these examples and see how they land. They can give you some ideas and help you while you are learning the art of great headline writing.
Note: Not all headlines work for every type of copy. Some of these headlines may be too “spammy” for an email message yet they may work well for a sales letter. It’s important to match your headline not only to your audience but also to the medium in which you are writing.