Copywriting: Magnetic Headlines
Headline writing is an immensely important aspect of marketing, yet it is an extremely difficult art to master.
Your headline is your first impression. Based upon this interaction, your prospects will decide whether or not they want to continue the conversation with your business, brand, etc. Whether you're trying to get them to download your free report or read an article you wrote, the idea is the same. Your headline will determine the level of engagement you receive.
So what makes a great headline? There is no secret formula for success, unfortunately. However, there are some guidelines you can use to point your headlines in the right direction. Here are five categories you can use to make sure your headline is primed to engage prospects, and three general writing tips that will improve the quality of your headlines consistently and ensure you communicate in the most effective manner.
The 5 Types of Magnetic Headlines
When sitting down to draft headlines for your marketing collateral, consider the following five types of headlines that draw readers in:
Type 1: The best and the worst headline. These headlines look like this: "The 3 Best Ways to Treat Damaged Hair" or "The 7 Worst Home Decorating Choices You Can Make." When people are taking the time to research something, they want to get the best tips and information they can, so they make the best choice. Conversely, they want to make sure they're not making one of the "worst choices." These headlines are very attractive to browsing prospects.
Type 2: The how-to/insider tip headline. People want to read expert opinions. They want to read information from an authority on the subject they are searching for, like "How to Plant Your Own Garden," "How to Clean Your Own Jewelry at Home," etc. How-to articles or insider tips from an expert are intriguing and generate a lot of clicks.
Type 3: The fact vs. fiction/truth vs. lies headline. These are great, because people always want to feel like they're "in the know," like they know something other people are in the dark about. Enticing them with content that unveils common myths or distinguishes fact vs. fiction is very engaging to prospects. For example, a mortgage broker could write an article with the headline, "4 Things Your Mortgage Lender Won't Tell You." Prospects feel like they're getting secret information and this endears them to the author, who ultimately wants to help them negotiate their mortgages.
Type 4: The dangling carrot headline. This type of headline offers something the prospect wants. Usually, you choose something that is an ideal everyone aspires toward. A gym can write a blog post with the headline, "3 Fast Ways to Turn a One-Pack into a Six-Pack." A real estate agent can use "5 Best Purchases for HUGE Cash Flow." These are highly attractive headlines, because they offer the ability to accomplish universally desirable goals. They immediately catch the attention of prospects and persuade them to find out more.
Type 5: The danger-avoiding headline. This headline plays on common problems or fears prospects are experiencing. This is a popular one in Florida, and is used often by sinkhole companies. Sinkholes are a real problem here, and they can ruin a home if the worst happens. These companies write headlines like, "Is Disaster Lurking Beneath Your Home?" to direct people to their websites, where they can sign up for a free inspection to find out if they are in danger. It's a natural reaction of humans to not want to realize something when it's "too late." We want to bring as much of the unknown into the known, so we feel in control of the situation. This sentiment is exactly what makes this kind of headline so effective.
3 Tips for Headline Writing
When writing a headline, simply look through the previous list and choose a headline type that fits the goal of your content. Then, write a headline that fits into that type. To help you do that more effectively, there are three things to keep in mind while formulating your headline:
1. Numbers give an idea of time commitment (or lack thereof). Headlines that say something like "5 Ways to ..." or "3 Steps to ..." are very effective, because they give prospects a glimpse of what to expect. That makes them more comfortable with clicking through to read on. Small numbers are attractive because they don't represent a huge time commitment. Really large numbers show thoroughness. So, depending on the purpose of your headline and its target audience, you can adjust the number to fit your situation.
2. Engaging language catches more eyes. If you want your headline to grab prospects' attention, use words that jump off the page. Words like "supercharge," "outrageous" or "exciting" are good to include in your headline, because they catch prospects' eyes as they scan the computer screen and engage their interest.
Note: This is extremely easy to overdo. You don't want to just stick an "engaging" word in your headline because you think you have to—it will come off as hype instead of legitimate excitement. Rather, try to replace a boring word with an interesting word that conveys exactly what the reader can expect in the article, page, etc. For example, say "dynamite" instead of "great," or "exotic" instead of "interesting."
3. Use pop culture references. Pop culture is called pop culture for a reason. It is the things that are popular in our current culture. For that reason, pop culture items bind people together, like holidays. We all get the reference. We are part of the "in-crowd."
So, a landscaping company writing a headline like "5 Things Chuck Norris Hates About Your Curb Appeal" is taking advantage of Chuck Norris' demigod-like status as a pop culture phenomenon. With that headline, you have connected with prospects who think the Chuck Norris jokes are funny (which is just about everybody, let's be honest), and they'll be more likely to click on your headline. Of course, you then need to deliver an article/content that incorporates Chuck Norris references—and is actually funny.
Now you have some tips and models to start writing better headlines that generate more traffic for your marketing efforts. Switch up the type you use according to what best fits the content you are writing the headline for to make it as natural as possible. Your prospects won't be able to resist.