The Top 3 Things You Must Know About Headlines

You put a lot of effort into driving traffic to your site.
So what happens when the traffic gets there?

With ales than a few seconds to grab the attention of your site visitor and pull them into your site – your headline is the most important element of your website (this applies to email subject lines, headlines on ad copy, and headlines on articles as well)

The biggest mistake I see on websites is using the important real estate on top of the site to “Welcome” visitors.  While it’s nice to welcome people and that is what you would do if someone walked into a physical store, it is not the same for a website. Let me explain.

When someone lands on your site, they are not actually in your store yet. Most people don’t realize that.

When someone lands on your homepage, they are really standing outside your store – they are looking at the sign and the window display and trying to decide if they want to come in.

Your headline is your sign and your window display – it has to compel them to take action – to  come in and browse!

Once they start reading your copy and checking out what you have to offer (clicking product links, looking at pictures etc) then they are actually in your store!

Now your site has to sell them – your content acts as your sales person and describes the benefits of the items you are offering.

People are scared of marketing.  They don’t want to create hype, they don’t want to be “over the top” and they are sure because their product and/or their content is so good, it will l “sell itself”.  To be very blunt, that is a mistake and one I see site owners make far too often.

What are you afraid of?

A lot of time, effort and research have gone into writing the perfect headline over the years.

Do you know how much testing magazines do to come up with the headlines you see on the covers each month? It’s shocking.

Tip: take a look at headlines on Vogue and Elle and other magazines and try using their formula for your own headlines – they’ve spent a ton of money getting those headlines right so use them as a guide!

Creating The Best Headline:

There are different headline approaches – which headline is best really depends on your product or service and your audience.
Is it an ad headline, a Blog post, an article headline, headline text on a corporate web page, or a headline on a sales page?
If you want to go with a strong headline but don’t want too much hype, then you should go with a benefit-oriented headline that promises something but isn’t too over-the-top.  You can also create some curiosity.

Here are a few samples:

The Real Truth About SEO
What You MUST Know Before You Hire An SEO Firm
Insider SEO Secrets To Increase Rankings and Traffic
You’ve created curiosity, you’ve told them what they can expect to learn and you’ve kept the hype to a minimum.

These headlines are effective but sometimes you need a little more than that.  If your competitors are all promising the same info, then yours isn’t really going to stand out so you need to step your game up.

Let’s take a minute to discuss the most comment feedback I hear when I present strong headlines to my clients.

“ I know my audience/customers/readers/industry and they just don’t like this over-the-top hype”

While you do know your industry/clients/readers and you do know what they like, unless you are a trained copywriter that has tested tons of different headlines, you don’t really know what will work.

And what will work is really all that matters if your goal is to sell.

I said it once and I’ll say it again, most people are afraid to get bolder in their marketing.  No one wants to offend their readers or harm their credibility.  But the truth is, this stuff works!

There is definitely something to be said for knowing your audience and targeting your copy but there is also a time to push the envelope and see if you can improve your response.

Some other headline examples:

Another way to craft an effective headline is to talk to people’s pain –tap into whatever emotion people have based on their need.

Tip: Fear of loss is a greater motivator than desire to gain! That means people are more often motivated by missing out on something than they are by the thought of gaining that same thing.  The end result is the same – they acquire an item – but it’s how you present it – Get This versus Don’t Miss Out On This.  When you word it like they may be missing out on something it motivates them more.

Here are some headlines that tap into the “pain” (the emotion behind the need).

Stop Banging Your Head Against The Wall To Get Top Rankings – Don’t Miss Out On Insider Secrets To Make Your Quest For Rankings Easier.

Here’s the Facts

I’ve addressed their pain and I’ve also promised a benefit and played up the fear of loss angle.

Another sample headline:

Stop The Insanity: Easy Link Building For Beginners (Including My Top Secret Link Building Strategy You Won’t Want To Miss)
Tired Of Wasting Time On Twitter?  Learn How I Used Twitter To Generate $39, 872

Notice the specificity of the number. Claims are always more believable when they are very specific.

Always test different headlines and see what works for you.

You may be familiar with AIDA.  It stands for Attention, Interest, Desire and Action.  To break it down further, it means you have to remember to: capture your reader’s attention, arouse their interest, increase their desire and lead them to take some kind of action.

So, what does it mean to increase their desire?  It means you elicit an emotional response from them.  People buy based on emotion.  So, the key to remember is that you want to illicit an emotional response from the reader.

Look at this headline “Discover The Top 3 Crucial Tips You Must Know To Create Powerful Headlines ….” – the first part can cause people to feel uncomfortable (fear) – they don’t want to be the only one that doesn’t know!  Also not that it starts with the word Discover.  I could have said Learn, but Discover is a stronger action word.  Look at every word and see if there is a stronger one you can use.  Sometimes one word makes all the difference.

Improving Step By Step

Writing headlines is often a process, you get the basic gist down and then you go word by word and see how you can improve it.  Let me walk you through a sample.

Starting point…

Information You Need About Headlines

– Short, to the point and tells people what they can expect.  However there is nothing exciting, it does mention information “you need” but it just doesn’t have enough of an impact to really cause people to feel they are missing something

Draft 2….

The Most Important Information You Must Have About Headlines

– This is getting better.  You are implying there is a lot of information out there and telling them that you have the most important information.  It is still too vague though.

Draft 3…

The Top 3 Things You Must Know About Headlines

– This is more direct and makes people feel like there are some very important and specific pieces of information they need to have.  This has now created an element of fear – fear that they are going to miss out on knowing the Top 3 most important things.  Of all the things there are to know, these 3 are the things that must know, no matter what.  I used this on this Blog post on purpose – now that you’ve read the post, I think you’ll agree that if I used the final version below, it would have been much more powerful.

And finally, the last version…

Discover The Top 3 Crucial Tips You Must Know To Create Powerful Headlines and Stop Losing Sales

– I have added another element to be afraid of.  Now people are not only afraid of what they don’t know but they are also afraid of losing sales because of it.  I also added a verb at the start and jazzed up the wording to create more of an impact.

So that covers step 1 (using AIDA)  Now on to step 2….superhero-action-wordsUse action words – verbs!  Verbs encourage readership and guides them.  You can use words like:

  • Discover
  • Find
  • Get
  • Learn
  • Join
  • See
  • Read
  • Etc

An example would be:  “Discover Top Weight Loss Secrets” instead of just saying “Top Weight Loss Secrets”.

Give and Get

Another approach is to let people know what they have to give up to get the info you are promising:
For Only $7 Get Insider Secrets From Top Bloggers
For Only 6 Minutes Of Your Time You Can Learn The Number One Mistake Most People Make With Their Facebook Fan Page

You’ll notice the specificity again – I used 6 minutes.  If I had said 5 or 10 there would be less impact.

Get Going

Check out your headlines, ad copy, Blog posts etc and see how you can rev up your marketing.
As always, I welcome questions and comments.

333 Responses

  1. Thanks Jennifer, There is some great information here that will be helpful. I couldn’t agree more on the importance of Headlines and creating an emotional response. Personally I feel a majority of people will bypass a potentially great article if it has a boring and dry title.

  2. Thanks for the article and good tips. Understood, my headlines have to “wake up” interest of visitors. But in case I promised some “secrets of SEO”, but actually there is nothing extra new inside my topic, I afraid visitors will be disappoined and never come again.

    1. Certainly, your headline shouldn’t over-promise if the post will under-deliver. Your headline should “wake up” your visitors’ interest, but it should also be relevant to the post itself. If your post doesn’t share secrets, for example, focus on what it is sharing instead. Work your headline around the “big takeaway” from the post, and you should be able to craft a great headline using the guidelines mentioned here in this post.

    2. You always want to make sure you deliver on the promise of the headline. What I usually do is write the content first and then go back and write the headline, picking out what I think is the biggest tip or bit of info and using that for the headline. That way you know the content is in there already and visitors won’t be disappointed.

  3. Headlines or one can say Title is the main focus of every work one want s to make successful and go viral.Creating a sense of anxiety among the readers can only be done by a good headline.

    1. I’m not sure I’d necessarily want to create anxiety, but I understand what you’re saying. 🙂 A good headline can really increase the curiosity level of a reader, making it very difficult for them to ignore the pull of the unknown. Peak the curiosity with the headline, and the reader will be compelled to click your link to read more, instead of moving on to another site.

    2. Creating an emotional response is always the goal. Emotion is what causes people to actually take action. So the key is to motivate them to feel and then act.

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