How To Write Headlines That Sell

How To Write Headlines That Sell

Most people read the newspapers for news and social information (or They Laughedsometimes called “gossips”), and not for advertisements. Yet, advertisers are spending good money to be seen. To overcome this challenge, creative folks use a mix of traffic stopping words and images to get you to read these advertisements.

Today, let’s talk about words, specifically the headline of any advertisement or sales letter.

There are some who believe that a picture paints a thousand words and so, the photographs and illustrations should take central stage. Not quite true. Copy and images are both equally important, and there are great ads that use nothing but words.

Many people don’t read long copy. However, 80% of people will read the headlines. They will then decide whether to continue reading the rest of the copy. This is the reason for:

Jay Abraham to call the headline “an ad within an ad”.

David Ogilvy, a die-hard advocate for long copy, to say, “You generalists use short copy. We use long copy. Experience has taught us that short copy doesn’t sell. In our headlines, we promise the consumer a benefit. You generalists don’t think it is creative.”

What is a good headline? If your headline can answer these questions, it should be setting your cash registers to ringing non-stop.

  • Is the subject matter succinctly clear to anyone who only reads the headline?
  • Does it pinpoint a problem that the target audience is facing?
  • Does the headline successfully aggravate the problem that compel the target audience to feel that finding a solution is a must?
  • Does the headline then promises a solution to solve the reader’s problem?
  • Does this headline comprise strong words that jerk the target audience from a stage of complacency?
  • If you are in internet marketing, does the headline comprises keywords and phrases that are search engine friendly and attractive?
  • Did you remember to write with your audience in mind, addressing and answering “what’s in it for them?” to read the rest of the ad?

Here are some memorable headlines that fulfill the criteria above, and are now seen as classics:

“Advice to Wives Whose Husbands Don’t Save Money – From a Wife” (Most people want advice, regardless of whether they follow the given advice or not. This particular “problem” is common enough to spark interest and since it is written by a wife, creates the “happened to me too” kinship that increases credibility and readability.)

“They Laughed When I Sat Down At The Piano But When I Started To Play!” (Most of us sympathize with underdog. Amazingly creative to use the negative and positive and before and after techniques to create the impact.)

“Again She Ordered – A Chicken Salad, Please” (You still hear this line being quoted. This line helps sold hundred of thousands of an etiquette book because it encapsulates a common and embarrassing situation.)

“Hollywood Plastic Surgeon ‘s amazing new book shows how woman over thirty can look years younger, pounds lighter in 10 short days” (This classic Eugene Schwartz’s copy displayed the effectiveness of solving a menacing problem with a proven formula within a specific time. Just see the strong keywords in this 21-word headline. Click here to see the full copy which is even longer)

A good headline can reap good results but you might not have tens of thousands to pay marketer-copywriters like Jay Abraham or Brett McFall. They basically guarantee results for whatever they write. If you prefer to write the headline and copy yourself, you may want to take a leaf from Jim McCraigh’s Write Words That Sell. He has also provided some sampler headlines that work, but they must be linked to a benefit in your product/service. Here is a partial list:

Click for More Info How to ___________ So that You Can _____________
Discover the 7 Essential Elements That Guarantee ______________
How to Bounce Back from ______________
How to Get Other People to ______________
How to Turn ______________ into ______________
Part-Time ______________, Full-Time Success
7 Questions You Must Ask When You’re ______________
How to ___________ So that You Can _____________

12 Replies to “How To Write Headlines That Sell”

  1. Great post — You are so right, a headline is the key to getting your copy read, like an invitation to a party!
    Chris Brown
    Branding & Marketing blog

  2. I always debate what headlines to use on blog – whether to write straight forward headlines eg.this is what the article is about (which is usually the way I go because of keywords as you pointed out) or whether a more intriguing headline would entice readers?

  3. Hi Tara
    I would go for both, to include key words and phrases into an intriguing headline. The question-style headlines with key words are very google friendly.

  4. I think a headline should be something that will make you want to stop and read the story. I’ve seen many headlines that just don’t even make me stop for one second to find out what the article or story is about.

  5. Yes, Nick, seen a lot of those too. Sometimes, people thought an ad is all about design. They forgot that marketing idea/strategy is the foundation, and the production of such abstracts is a combination of design, copy, media and production.

  6. Also if you are writing your headline for Digg, it has to have “Kevin Rose” in there somewhere, and be a top 10 list of sorts.

    For some reason, I find myself drawn towards those cheesy top 10 lists, and I hate myself for clicking on them because I know the headline trickery has got me.

    Nice article.

  7. I know three things that attracts visitors, Headline, Picture and Content, and they fall in the same order. I have made posts with great content and lousy headlines that didn’t attract many visitors. Good post Viv, keep up the good work.

    Take care and GOD bless.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.