As a geek I am a compulsive tester. I discovered how copywriting techniques really work from testing. One result that shocked me was that we can make our headlines too good. At times we write headlines that are so powerful they are ineffective.
How can this be? There is one simple concept here that can either work in your favor or devastate the results of your headline.
- Pay zero tax in 2007!
- Turn a Loss-Making Campaign Into a Million Dollar Profit Machine in Ten Minutes
- Lose 10lbs Just By Playing Computer Games
What do you think when you read headlines such as these?
A percentage of people would like to click through, but many more people, especially when particularly busy or distracted, would browse right past.
The issue is belief. Or put another way, credibility.
When we read a headline we pass it through our built-in BS filters. Any alarm bells and we move on by. We are bombarded by advertising, spam, hype and snake-oil every day. Your audience is suffering from sales-fatigue.
It could be your proposition is completely true. In fact two of the above headlines are based in reality. People do lose weight playing Wii and dance mat games. I really did turn a loss-making campaign into a million dollar profit (in fact it was Euros and resulted in a little more than a million dollars, but the whole story was less amazing than the headline implies and is probably a story for another time). With too amazing a headline though nobody is going to read far enough to find the explanation.
One way to fix those headlines could be to use “How”, or make them into quotes; “How I ….” Another route might be to use an expert or celebrity endorsement. The simplest approach though is to test then turn down the hype dial a notch.
It is worth remembering the famous quote from Carl Sagan:
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.
Read more from Chris Garrett at his blog chrisg.com.