Writing Headlines That Get Results

Copywriting 101

It’s no surprise to discover that one of the most popular posts I’ve written for Copyblogger was How to Write Headlines That Work. Every copywriter and every journalist knows the importance of a powerful headline, and that awareness has spilled into the business blogosphere, where everyone is a bit of a copywriter and a bit of a journalist.

Despite that, many still underestimate just how important headlines are. So here are some anecdotes, facts, and guidelines that can help you write even better headlines (and also let you know how much you should focus on them).

The 50/50 Rule of Headlines

According to some of the best copywriters of all time, you should spend half of the entire time it takes to write a piece of persuasive content on the headline. So if you have a blog post that is really important to you or your business, one that you really want people to read, you should downright obsess over your post title.

Advertising legend David Ogilvy knew the power of headlines, and how the headline literally determined whether the advertisement would get read. He rewrote this famous headline for an automobile advertisement 104 times:

“At 60 miles an hour, the only thing you hear in the new Rolls Royce is the ticking of the dashboard clock …”

Master copywriter Gene Schwartz often spent an entire week on the first 50 words of a sales piece — the headline and the opening paragraph. Those 50 words are the most important part of any persuasive writing, and writing them well takes time.

Even for the masters.

The 80/20 Rule of Headlines

Here are some interesting statistics.

On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest. This is the secret to the power of the headline, and why it so highly determines the effectiveness of the entire piece.

The better the headline, the better your odds of beating the averages and getting what you’ve written read by a larger percentage of people.

Writing a great headline doesn’t guarantee the success of your writing. The benefit conveyed in the headline still needs to be properly satisfied in the body copy, either with your content or your offer.

But great body content with a bad or even marginal headline is doomed to go largely unread.

How to Write a Great Headline

Last time, we looked at the different categories of headlines that work. This time, we’ll look at analytical techniques for producing great headlines.

The copywriting trainers at American Writers & Artists teach The Four U’s approach to writing headlines:

Headlines, subheads and bullets should:

  1. Be USEFUL to the reader,
  2. Provide him with a sense of URGENCY,
  3. Convey the idea that the main benefit is somehow UNIQUE; and
  4. Do all of the above in an ULTRA-SPECIFIC way.

In a recent issue of the Early to Rise ezine, copywriter Clayton Makepeace says to ask yourself six questions before you start to write your headline:

  1. Does your headline offer the reader a reward for reading?
  2. What specifics could you add to make your headline more intriguing and believable?
  3. Does your headline trigger a strong, actionable emotion the reader already has about the subject at hand?
  4. Does your headline present a proposition that will instantly get your prospect nodding his or her head?
  5. Could your headline benefit from the inclusion of a proposed transaction?
  6. Could you add an element of intrigue to drive the prospect into your opening copy?

Makepeace’s six questions combined with the basic structure of The Four U’s provide an excellent framework for writing spectacular headlines. And you’ll note that just about any headline that satisfies the framework will fall into one of the eight categories you learned last time.

It takes work and focus, but the effort will make you a more popular blogger and a more profitable businessperson.

Go back to the Copywriting 101 series.

For more on writing great headlines, check out the Magnetic Headlines series on Copyblogger.

About the Author: Brian Clark is founder of Copyblogger, CEO of Copyblogger Media, and Editor-in-Chief of Entreproducer. Get more from Brian on Google+.

Love Can Tear You Apart

Web 1.0: You have a herd of cows. You slap banner ads on them and go public.

Web 2.0: You have a herd of purple cows that attracts people from all over. You care for and feed the cows, but your visitors take all the milk for free.

If you don’t have time to read today’s lengthy post, my playful little remix of the old joke about world economic systems above may be all you really need to ponder. If you have time, carry on reading for elaboration, a bit of music history, and hopefully, a point.

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RSS Marketing Roundup 03.23.06

Time once again for a roundup of what’s going on in the fast moving world of RSS, the Internet content delivery standard that is becoming the increasingly attractive alternative to email publishing and even web browsing.

But first . . .

The Importance of Email

In my ongoing examination of the adoption of RSS feeds for content delivery and marketing purposes, one thing has become abundantly clear — the continued importance of email. Thirty-five percent of the subscribers to Copyblogger do so via email, and it’s my fastest growing subscriber sector. And this with a blog aimed at bloggers!

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Press Release Podcast

I had the opportunity to participate in a podcast yesterday with David McInnis, CEO of PRWeb, and David Meerman Scott, who you will recall is the author of The New Rules of PR from the How to Use the Modern Press Release update to Viral Copy.

The chat was all about how press releases are now direct-to-prospect communications for businesses. You write a release as if you’re telling a story to your target audience, because that’s the whole point. Much of the discussion demonstrated how this is a good thing for journalists too, because the quality of the press release must be “article ready,” and it can’t be filled with egocentric hype.

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Building Traffic with Article Marketing

Although it’s been a tried and true strategy for years, it seems that bloggers are now catching on to the benefits of article marketing as the competition for traffic intensifies. For those who may not be familiar with the technique, article marketing involves submitting short articles to directories such as Ezine Articles, with permission for others to republish your work on their blog, website or in their email newsletter. In return, you get one or more links back to the site of your choice.

Article marketing was mentioned in strategy ten of the Viral Copy Report. Since it’s an important part of any traffic-building strategy, article marketing is the focus of my next viral marketing update. An article that hits a nerve can end up republished all over the ‘net, each with a nice back link to your blog or free resource.

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Committed Hearts and Minds

Blog Triggers

If you have kids (or have been a kid), and celebrate Christmas, you’ve likely witnessed an interesting phenomenon. Every year, there’s that one “it” toy. Starting way back in the mid-80s with the Cabbage Patch Kids, and followed by Beanie Babies, Furby and Tickle Me Elmo, there’s at least one crucial toy that every kid simply must unwrap on Christmas morning.

And every December, there’s never enough of “it” to go around. Why can’t the toy manufacturers properly anticipate demand after spending millions on advertising to create that mega-buzz?

Because they don’t want to.

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