When it comes to copywriting, whether it’s emails, articles, or even writing an ad, headlines are the single most important factor when creating great content.
Because headlines determine firstly whether or not your target will invest time in what you’ve got to say.
And second, how much time and attention they will invest.
Fail to get this right, and the rest of your content might as well be written by a cat playing with your keyboard.
So today, I’m going to share with you 7 simple secrets to writing like an elite copywriter TODAY, by focusing on how to write a killer headline.
Tip 1: KISS
You’ve probably heard of this before, and it’s super important when it comes to writing headlines – Keep It Simple, Stupid.
In other words, simplify the message you’re trying to convey, and try to avoid any confusing or superfluous language.
It’s all about getting the reader interested, versus showing them something ‘creative’. They might think creative is cool, but it usually won’t get the click.
The main key when implementing the KISS strategy is this: Focus on ONE big idea.
Don’t try to cram 5 different benefits/features into your headline, or it’ll just overwhelm the reader.
Simply pick what you think is the most powerful aspect of what you’re going to be showing them, and center everything around that.
Tip 2: Benefits
When you buy some new shoes, do you buy them purely because of the materials made to use them?
Do you buy them because you’ll be able to get 5000 more steps out of them versus a different brand?
Or do you buy them because they will provide you benefits such as comfort, fashion, and perhaps even social status?
We don’t buy things because of their features – we buy because of the benefits, which can be either be either pleasure-related, and/or solves a problem (or helps you run away from a problem…)
Most of the time, running away from pain or solving problems is the most powerful motivator, so try to keep that in mind when writing your headline, and see if you can work it in.
Tip 3: Hooks
I always teach people to use hooks in their headlines wherever possible, as this is the thing that makes people super curious about reading more (or even more curious in the product itself).
It is the ‘thing’ designed to catch people’s attention.
- How to Used ‘Screwed Up Paper’ To Stop Dogs Digging
- 3 Herbs That Balance Blood-Sugar
- 3 ‘Healthy’ Foods That Make People Fat
In each of those examples, you can see there’s a ‘thing’ that people can use to solve their problem.
You don’t have to give away exactly what that thing is in the headline, but if you do, at least draw curiosity to it (eg. Why would ‘screwed up paper’ stop dogs digging? Now I need to read more and find out..)
Tip 4: Subheadline
The subheadline should be clear and direct, and strongly reinforce the value of the main headline.
Headline – How to Used ‘Screwed Up Paper’ To Stop Dogs Digging
Subheadline – Discover How This Simple Piece Of Paper Can Quickly And Permanently Stop Your Dog Digging In Just Minutes
You don’t ALWAYS need a subheadline, but they can be perfect for squeezing in a little bit of extra information that you couldn’t fit into the main headline…
… and they’re also perfect in bridging the gap from Headline to Content.
Tip 5: Use A ‘Style’ Of Headline
There are a few different styles of headline which I’ll explain below.
If you’re stuck for ideas, just pick one of these 4 below to help get the ball rolling:
Ask A Question
What better way to get your readers attention than by asking them a burning question?
It’s a great way to make them sit up and pay attention, while making them feel as though you really understand how they are feeling.
Use Power Words
I’ve included a list of power words further down this article to help you get started, but I also wanted to mention it here because it’s exceptionally effective.
Words such as “Warning, Special, Uncover, Success and Winning” are all positive words that evoke emotion. Sprinkle them throughout your copy and make sure you use at least one power word in your headline and sub-headlines.
Be Controversial (if it suits your audience)
Your job is to elicit a response from your reader. So, if you know your target audience and what makes them tick (and you better), you can get away with using controversy to capture attention.
One example of this I see all the time, which is done in a kind of sneaky way, is when a book/series is advertised on TV, and they say “Available at all good book retailers”.
It’s not exactly specific on where people can find the book, but it gets them thinking… Who are these good retailers? And who are the bad ones?
If they can’t find the book at a particular store, it must be bad… and vice versa.
Cater to the “How-to” Crowd
How To styled headlines work extremely well, especially when they directly target a specific solution to a problem or task.
For example, “How to hit the New York Times bestsellers list with your first book!” targets the new author who is yearning to become a bestseller but doesn’t have a lengthy backlist (or any backlist at all).
Be very direct and targeted with how-to headlines!
Tip 6: The 4 U’s Of Copywriting
If you’ve studied copywriting much in the past, the 4 U’s is a term you might’ve already heard.
For those who haven’t, let me explain what it means, and how it’ll help you write better copy.
For your headlines to be engaging and effective, they should contain all of the following four points:
- Your headline should provide a sense of URGENCY.
- Your headline should be UNIQUE.
- Your headline should be USEFUL.
- Your headline should be ULTRA-SPECIFIC (direct).
Urgency persuades people to take immediate action, because they’re aware that they’ll lose an opportunity of some kind (eg. Cart closes in 24 hours).
Incorporating a sense of urgency into your headlines definitely helps to motivate people, but be careful – You must ensure that your urgency is REAL (at least as far as the reader will ever know), otherwise it could brand you as a dishonest marketer.
Unique is a critical component of a successful headline because it will provide your reader with something fresh and new, instead of the same thing they’ve seen countless times before (and likely become unresponsive to).
Customers are bombarded by sales messages every single day from multiple sources, so you need to work hard to capture their attention with a uniquely crafted headline that your readers haven’t seen before.
Don’t be afraid to be edgy, to take risks and to offer your customers something different. They’ll take notice!
Useful in your headlines gives people a reason to continue reading. This is where you highlight the most important benefit of your product, and persuade them to keep reading to find out more.
This is probably the most important of the 4 U’s, and ties in perfectly with the use of Hooks I mentioned earlier.
Ultra-Specific ensures that you are being direct when targeting your market. It guides you so that your headline is effectively communicating your message to your audience and clarifying its benefit.
As I mentioned earlier, it’s important to focus on one big idea, otherwise you’ll risk losing your readers’ focus and attention.
Tip 7: Power Words
To help you get started, here are some power words commonly used in successful headlines and ad copy.
Most high-converting headlines will incorporate at least one of the following words:
Mystery Words: Secrets, Insider, Proven, Expert, Revealing, Unlock, Uncover, Announcing, Rare, Unusual, Explore, Discover, Exclusive, Private.
Excitement Triggers: Savings, Save, Bonus, Instant, Lifetime, Special, Unleash, Ultimate, Maximum, Exceptional, Powerful.
Urgency Words: Rush, Immediately, Instant, Limited-Time, Temporary, Last Minute, Urgent.
Power Words: Boost, Grow, Succeed, Accelerate, Turbo Charge, Guaranteed, Tested, Profitable, Trusted, Amazing, Stunning, Phenomenal, Incredible, Unbelievable, Jaw-Dropping, Sensational.
Simplify Words: Easy, Simple, Fail Proof, Foolproof, Effortless, Child’s Play, Easier, Stress-Free, Easy Going, Laid Back.
Remember, when it comes to writing great copy, practice makes perfect.
But by simply employing even just a few of the tips I’ve mentioned today, you’ll significantly improve your copy skills in no time.
Good luck, and I can’t wait to start reading some of your amazing headlines out in the wild as I go about my day 🙂