Monday, April 06, 2020

Copywriting: How to Write Headlines that Sell

So What is a Headline?

Your copy starts with a headline at the top of the page, this headline can also appear as:

  • A slogan of a poster or magazine advert.
  • Subject of an email.
  • Title of a blog post.
  • Main heading of a web page.
Marketing headlines are no different, they still have the same job of grabbing the reader's attention.  Father of advertising David Oglivy, discovered that five times as many people read the headline, as read the body copy.  It pays to leave extra time for your headline, because this is the only time you might catch your audience's attention.  Billboards and posters depend upon a good headline, because that's all there is.

Even the most experienced copywriter will find headline writing difficult, which is why many copywriters make the body copy their priority, going back to the headline later on. 

Quick note: Have a list of ideas, before you decide on the main headline.

Say What the Product Is

The best place to start is by telling your audience in the simplest way possible what the product is all about. 


Amazon Audible

Find your next great listen from the world's largest selection of audiobooks.

This particular strategy is both direct and plain-speaking to your readers.  Who can make the decision of whether they want to read on or not.  There's nothing underhanded or dishonest about this notable approach. 

No matter what your aim is, a good straight description will complement any SEO strategy, helping your web page reach the top of the pile on Google.

Determine the Theme

Headlines should grab a reader's attention, and should be a conversation starter.  This will enable your audience to know that the copy is specifically for them. 

Headlines aren't for everybody, and shouldn't grab everyones attention.  This will leave you with an empty headline and no attention. Instead, you should only hook the readers who share a particular interest in what you have to say.

The tone should be established straight away, which means any suggestion you give your audience, whether it be dark, businesslike, or jokey should carry on through the body of the text.  This will set the pitch for the whole copy, letting them know what your message is, and set the mood for the whole copy text.

Buffer's login page is an example of a theme-setting headline:

Build your audience and grow your brand on social media.

Plan, collaborate, and publish thumb-stopping content that drives meaningful engagement and growth for your brand.

Instantly you can see this page is aimed at content creators, and website owners wanting to grow their brand and engage with their audience.  Everyone else will just tune out, and disengage.

Suggest an Advantage

Every reader wants to know what's in it for them?  This is the point where your reader is wondering if they should read on.  In the same way that a book cover advertises a book, a headline is the ad for the advert.

A simple way to draw your reader in is by suggesting an advantage or benefit, and tell them 'There's something you might like, can I tell you about it?'.  Self-interest will spark interest and hook your reader straight away.  Which is why they work so well.

One benefit is enough for your feature, anymore and it's overkill.  You can mention a few more at the bottom of the copy, but don't overdo it.

Keep Readers Reading

A key part of copywriting is the ability to create intrigue, the kind that keeps the reader absorbed.  If you can do this up until the end of your copy you're doing just fine.

Offering your audience a benefit is a tried and tested way of drawing them in, but may not always be the best way to go.  Another less direct way of getting your readers attention is the less direct route.  You give them something that will pique their interest enough to want to read more.  This can be done by revealing giving them more details that follow on from the headline.


Low Battery

The words you don't want to see the morning of a major pitch, when the final details are being done via email.  Any hope of closing the deal rested with the battery of my phone.

If I'd only heard about the Anker Powercore battery pack sooner, and had it with me in my briefcase.  I could have visited London ten times, and written as many emails.

With this particular method, speculating short-term relevance, with the hope of winning over long-term interest.  'Low battery' doesn't tell the reader anything about the product, but it does talk directly to the audience's previous experience.  If that risk works, your audience will be more engaged and interested if they had been faced with a simple headline like 'Phone charging in motion'.

Question Your Audience

Questions only work if the audience answers them the way you want them to.

The easiest way to do this is by asking a leading question that will encourage a yes/no response.

Want to save money on your car insurance?

This is just a long winded way of saying 'Save money on your car insurance'.

Don't use too many questions because your reader will soon start to feel harassed and switch off.

If you start with 'what' or 'how', these questions will cause your reader to reflect more deeply on themselves and their situation.

Questions like 'who knows' means there's no need to answer.  When questions like this are used they usually spark fascination and mystery around the product.  If the question isn't answered, you'll probably get a 'who cares?' answer.

Define Why

This is a good place to start if your product needs explaining before you start selling to your audience.  Your body copy delivers the sell, while your headline provides some interesting and useful knowledge.

When you use the word 'Why' it gives your reader insight and information into the product. Giving your audience a deeper knowledge, rather than a myriad of facts.

Use Your Headline to Break the News

Readers are promised information and benefit from the power of a good news headline.  It also counteracts their impulse to say 'not interested'.  When the product you're offering is brand new, your audience needs to know more before they know it's for them.

Novelty appeals to everyone, but newness isn't like sameness, unless your reader is totally happy with what they're already using.

Here are some useful words you can use to break the news to your readers:

discover, now, new, and introducing.

Give an Instruction

Tell your reader what to do, and link your intention to your copy.

Instructions like these are a powerful tool to use in copy, because we don't hear them in normal life.  Commands are usually only given out to military personnel, and used in a more gentle manner by managers and bosses at work.

A call to action can be used to instruct your reader, and in your copy headline.

Nike is famous for its command which could be seen as inspirational, and an invitation to its customers to accomplish more.

Just Do It.

NestlĂ© Kit Kat® isn't as aggressive, as they simply encourage their audience to do something they like doing.

Have a Break, Have a Kit Kat. 

I'd love to hear your thoughts about headlines, and experiences you've had using them.

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1 comment:

Tell me your thoughts.