Expert Copywriting

Tutorial: Writing Headlines With Strong Selling Power.

Hey there,

Hope you had a wonderful holiday season (if you celebrate that sort of thing ;-)). Today we’re going to talk about headlines – why they’re so important, and how to write a good one.

Just so you know – I’m pretty passionate about headlines. After all, they’re SO crucial to the success of any ad, website, flier, post card, etc.

Headlines are your opportunity to “hook” someone into your copy. To build so much curiosity in them that it’s easier for them to keep reading than to stop.

Let’s talk about how to do that.

First, 3 uber-important qualifications of a good headline:

1. It connects deeply with either a key desire, or problem, or multiple desires / problems, that your target market has

2. It creates interest and suspense through some sort of “hook” that creates a story or unusual approach to the subject matter

3. It’s unique. Even if someone were to read 10 headlines in a row about whatever it is that you do, yours would stand out, making it very inviting and approachable.

There are more subtle qualifications, but these are the main ones in a nutshell – and this is a good start. No need to get super complex right now.

These requirements accomplish 3 key things:

- They let your target market know your ad / website is about them…

- They arouse their interest so they give you the time a day…

- They make you stand out so you don’t bore them / make their eyes glaze over.

Common sense, right?

The true power of headlines…

Not everyone uses headlines effectively in their websites, and ads. Personally, I think it’s because they’re a bit… misguided… about the true purpose of headlines.

So, let’s talk about the “why” behind headlines – and then get into the “how”. (If you’re already a champ – this might be review for you.)

- Headlines are the FIRST thing your readers see. If you have a bunch of text on your site / ad… even if it’s extremely effective and targeted… you haven’t given people a reason to dive into it without a good headline. 

- Headlines are the quickest way of answering your readers’ question, “Why should I spend another second reading your copy?”

Other people use very bland, generic headlines. Like: “New York Marketing Company.” Or… “Philadephia Bed & Breakfast.” While these tell your reader what your’e about – they miss the opportunity to pull away from your competition. They miss the chance to take your company a step further in your prospects’ eyes before they’ve really sunk deep into your website.

Let’s see some examples…

  • The Amazing Secret of a Marketing Genius Who is Afraid to Fly
  • The Forgotten 4 Letter Word That Doubles Business, and Fuels Success Driven Marketing
  • Iowa Firefighter Battles a Burning Duplex All Night, Finally Comes Home at 7am, and Still has the Energy to get his Two Little Boys Ready and Off to School… By Following this Firefighter Fitness Training and Nutrition Program…

See the patterns? They connect to the target market, first and foremost. Then, they hook you in with some interesting story or hook. And finally, they get you very interested to read the rest of the ad / letter / article to see what the heck this headline is talking about.

Example 1 targets business owners looking for a cool edge in their marketing – while creating curiousity around the mysterious figure of the marketing genius who’s afraid to fly. Example 2 targets the same audience – with the unique hook of a “forgotten 4 letter word”. And example 3 targets firefighters looking for more energy, fitness, and health by telling the amazing story of an Iowa firefighter.

Also, these headlines are anything but dry. They make reading the ad interesting and enticing.

It’s almost like reading an article about something you’re just burning to know about. If you’re hooked on marketing – the first 2 headlines are going to get you all riled up to learn what the secret is… to learn what the 4 letter word is… And if you’re a firefighter looking to get in better shape, headline 3 is going to make you wonder how the heck that guy could possibly have so much endurance.

How to quickly write headlines like this of your own…

Headlines like this take practice. Trust me ;-) After writing hundreds upon hundreds… and hundreds… it’s finally become second nature to me.

And I’m still learning!

The good news is you can start by following in my footsteps – and the footsteps of other great copywriters out there. How? Through cut-and-dry templates. Here are some that have worked for me time and time again…

You simply fill in the blanks, and you’re set. However, the hooks are going to take some thinking and imagination. Something I’m sure you can handle. Okay, here they are:

Template 1:

  • This [ebook, program, whatever you do] not only [insert a key benefit here like helps you lose over 2 pounds a week... boosts your business like crazy... makes playing guitar like Clapton a cinch...], but…
  • Example: This women’s soccer fitness program will not only give you a sexy stomach, arms, and legs, but…

Why it works: 

The “not only” phrase in this headline is tricky. The headline introduces the key benefit your target market is looking for, and implies that it’s only ONE of many benefits waiting for the reader. The reader can’t help but read on to find out what these other amazing benefits are – which is emphasized too by the word “but” on the end.

Note: This headline requires a sub-headline to follow it. Otherwise, it doesn’t make too much sense. For instance, after the example above, you could write…

“It’ll also give you a clear-cut edge over your opponents. Next time you step on to the field, you’ll be a new player with your enhanced stamina, strength, and speed. Read on to see exactly how and why it works… and to read the stories of a few of the many women who have improved their game – while losing weight – with this incredible program…”

Template 2

  • How [what you do and location] helped [customer name], a [insert here a unique characteristic of your market, such as: house mom from Tennessee... copywriting noobie... total guitar noobie... etc.] [then insert a key benefit, such as: learned a full song, lost 15 pounds, etc.] in [insert here a period of time, preferably short but truthful: 2 weeks... 8 weeks... 30 days... 7 days... etc.], and how it can help you too!
  • Optional, and helps with SEO: Insert your location and what you do in the headline…
  • Example: How this Atlanta guitar school helped Bill Farson, a 40 year old guitar noobie, to play his first full song in just 6 weeks, and how you can do the same…

Why it works:

This one works by telling the true story of someone who your reader can relate to. If your market is mostly house moms, their eyes will be drawn to the story by the phrase house mom. If your market is guitar noobies, same deal. It also shows that other real people are getting results, and because it tells a story, it’s very approachable to jump right in.

You’re not hitting your reader over the head or “squeezing on to their eye balls” – an aggressive approach many copywriters take (which I highly don’t recommend. Invitation and connection-based copy works much better because it gives your reader space, acknowledgement, and insight. It doesn’t hit them over the head with a pushy sales message. Many marketers would disagree though – what’s your take?)

Want some help and critique? Or have some thoughts / ideas to share? Leave a comment below!

I’d love to help you come up with a great headline for your website / ad. Leave your headline below and I’ll give you some quick suggestions and thoughts on how to improve it.

Or, if you have any thoughts / suggestions on writing headlines that some of my other readers could benefit from – leave them below! You never know whose income you could skyrocket through your advice ;-)

To better headlines,

David

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3 thoughts on “Tutorial: Writing Headlines With Strong Selling Power.

  1. David,

    I’m sure many people could find this post very useful. I think the way you broke down the different headlines is great, and very approachable for copywriters looking to improve their headline-writing skills…and even for business owners who want to see more results from their website.

    I also think it’s very powerful that the headlines you write and suggest to write are not cliche and hollow, like many headlines I’ve come across, but have substance and really connect to the reader, making them feel acknowledged and appreciated.

    Thanks!
    Lou

  2. Thanks for the tips. I really appreciate the templates you provide in order to teach how to write a great copy.

    I’m still trying to learn how to make a sales copy on my WordPress website to promote ebooks, bootcamps and also link to my facebook ads. Do you have any suggestions on how to do this instead of me creating extra pages that pose as sales pages?

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