Advertising maven David Ogilvy claimed that 5 times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. A great advertising headline can mean the difference between a person staying on your website or bouncing. If your headline is good enough to keep people around, it will also set the tone for the brand of your company, the credibility of your website and the rest of their experience on your site.
A great advertising headline will determine whether people read the next line. It will impact whether people click on your call to action or not. It affects bounce, engagement, clicks, overall conversion – and even likelihood to return. In fact, on average, 8 out of 10 people will read your headline… but only 2 of those people will actually continue on to read the copy below.
The burden of keeping people on your page – rather than bouncing – is almost entirely on your headline. Each headline has to do a ton of work in as few words as possible. It must:
- Match visitor expectations, which means closely matching the language used in the call to action – be it a button or PPC ad – that the visitor clicked to land on the page. People want to find the useful info they’re looking for. That means lower bounce.
- Intrigue the visitor enough to keep them moving down the page, be it by highlighting value or incentives or promising something that is both enticing and believable. The outcome of this is increased time on page.
- Communicate clearly what the visitor can/should do on this page (i.e., page goal). The outcome of this is qualifying visitors.
- Get to the visitor’s point. That is, write what the visitor needs to see, succinctly – ideally in 12 or fewer words. The outcome of this is improved conversion.
- Highlight a benefit. What 1 key outcome will the visitor enjoy after or while using your solution?
Oh, and it needs to make people want to read the next line, too…
Amazing headlines don’t happen by accident. They take work. But what kind of work? How do you get to the point of having an amazing, attention-grabbing headline? – the kind that will stop visitors in their tracks? Well, you’ll be happy to know there are a few tricks the best copywriters know and employ repeatedly.
Make an almost unbelievable claim
The goal here is to make one – just one – intriguing promise that’s so appealing to your target audience, they can’t help but read on. Even if they’re slightly suspicious.
If you want to get this trick right, you’re going to need to be a bit of a tight-rope walker. You’re walking a fine line here between being believable and credible. Keep visitors slightly – but not greatly – suspicious, and you’ll be doing this one right. The truth is that in our our field the world is filled with facts that seem incredible, but are true. It is the truth that is often hidden or forgotten or that others do not want the public to know. In that sense charities have it much easier than corporations.
Let someone else say you’re great
Ever notice how hard it is to believe someone’s funny once they’ve told you they’re funny? Or how hard it is to see someone as good-looking when they’ve said they’re good-looking? Some claims are more credible when a third-party says them. In life. In comedy. And in business. That’s one reason why headlines in quotation marks can work so well.
When quoting someone else, keep in mind that you’re writing a headline – and, as you already learned, a great advertising headline has the burden of matching expectations, among other things. So do your best to use quotes that incorporate keywords your prospects need to see.
Make your headline urgent
Creating a sense of urgency can be a really powerful way to motivate people. Try to impart of visitors the urgency to respond. Show them why it is so important to respond quickly before it is too late. Urgency in advertising headlines will get people to act.
Be a little unexpected
Imagine what blogs, newspapers and magazines would be like if the headlines all sounded just as readers expected them to sound. If there were no surprises. No one would read them. When information is just as you expect it to be, it’s not interesting. It’s just research.
A great advertising headlines should exciting and miraculous. They should entice us by being interesting, contradictory or just plain weird. Being unexpected with your headline copy usually means going against your natural inclination to be explicit and direct. We’re told to get to the point, and we’re told not to waste time – so we think we must simply relay information. But that’s not entirely true.
Great advertising headlines relay information… but then they go the extra mile. They:
- Use unexpected analogies
- Ask unusual questions
- Make statements that are contradictory or baffling
- Are shocking and unexpectedly
- That make you look or think about the world differently