Laurel and Hardy. Batman and Robin. Superman.
Which of these doesn’t quite fit?
Yup, it’s the guy who can’t handle Kryptonite. If Superman is in trouble, there’s almost no one to rescue him. But Hardy or Batman can get into all kinds of crazy trouble, and they’ll always have a nice partner there, ready to back them up.
The same applies to what I call the “Double-Whammy Headline.” It’s just like the usual compelling headline that draws in your reader … but it’s got backup.
Let me explain …
What’s a Double-Whammy headline?
A double whammy headline is a headline with a sidekick. And, like most partnerships, one partner takes on a slightly bigger role.
Let’s jump right in with a few examples:
Why Every Small Business Needs a Sales Analysis — And How to Complete it in 20 Minutes
Why Quarterly Analysis can Increase Business by 50%: The Three Key Steps
The Rumiddha Method: 4 Steps to Achieving a Thriving (and Profitable) Online Forum
The Keyboard Wheel (And How it Helps You Decide the Right Colour for Your Website)
Why Small Businesses Don’t Grow — And How to Use Autoresponders to Increase Your Business by 27% Every Year
The first part of a few of these headlines could almost stand alone …
Why Every Small Business Needs a Sales Analysis
Why Quarterly Analysis can Increase Business by 50%
The Rumiddha Method
The Keyboard Wheel
Why Small Businesses Don’t Grow
Some of them actually work quite well by themselves.
Technically, that’s the goal. To write one part so well that the first part is already a complete headline. Yes, all by itself. It could steal the show without having the add-on.
How does the double-whammy headline work?
In the examples above, the “Rummidha Method” and “Keyboard Wheel” tell you nothing. But they pull you in.
Their job is not to be a complete headline. It’s to pull you in, while the second half of the headline knocks you out!
It uses double the power to get your attention. And once it’s gotten your attention, you can’t help but want to click to read the rest of the article.
And of course, you can use colons, question marks, parentheses, or the em dash — or a host of other punctuation marks — to create the bridge that builds these powerful headlines.
Should you use double-whammy headlines all the time?
Should you take your umbrella out all the time? Of course, not.
You can write a headline like this:
Why the Most Attractive Headlines May Not Bring the Greatest Conversion
And that headline, despite not being a double-whammy, works well. But from time to time you want to mix up your headlines with a bit of power and surprise as well.
That’s the context in which double-whammy headlines can really work.
Don’t overdo it …
You can try so hard to stuff your headline with terms that it may be impossible to work out what you’re saying. So yes, double-whammy headlines can be too whammy, and end up being clammy.
Here’s a good example of what to avoid:
Why Focusing on Advanced Placement Guarantees Career Failure (and How to Avoid that Fate, While Still Getting Great Grades)
You may scrunch your eyebrows in confusion, but it’s common to see writers eagerly overdoing the double-whammy headline, to the point where it becomes hard to understand.
Keeping your double-whammy headline simple is critical to getting your idea across effectively.
In summary: Two headlines can sometimes be much better than one
The principles of headline writing that actually works are known.
I’m suggesting that — every once in awhile — you should mix it up, and see how those principles work for you at double-strength. You’ll really grab the attention of your audience, and like I said at the beginning of this post, it’s always nice to have a backup when you need it.
Just like TweedleDee and Tweedledum!
Do you have any examples of your own double-whammys, or ones you’ve seen out in the wild? Drop them in the comments below …
About the Author: Sean D'Souza runs a zany marketing site at Psychotactics and deconstructs headlines in his spare time. Learn how to assemble (and audit) your headlines in seconds with Sean's powerful headline report, when you subscribe to the Psychotactics Newsletter. And don't miss his binge-worthy, music-filled podcast, The Three Month Vacation.