The headline is the single most important element for any kind of advertising you might do.
This includes but is not limited to newspaper ads or flyers, magazine ads, sales or lead generation letters, postcards, online messages, web content and banner ads.
The headline is the ad for your ad. It forces your prospect to read the rest of what you have to say.
No matter how good your body copy may be, if your headline doesn’t pull people in, it won’t matter. The very best copywriters spend the majority of their time writing and testing a variety of headlines. By simply changing a headline, you may be able to increase your response level by as much as 300%, maybe even more.
Here are the 10 commandments I live by when it comes to creating an effective headline. I found these long ago in an old direct marketing textbook. I can’t recall the name of the textbook, but I did commit these rules to memory and let them direct me whenever I’m writing headlines. Keep these in mind, follow them, and you, too, will be able to write headlines that command attention.
1) Thou shall make the words BIG and BOLD. You want your headline to stand out and be the very first thing readers see. Make sure it is at least 50% larger than the body text. You may even want to use a slightly different font than the body text to make it stand out even more.
2) Thou shall avoid the temptation of using all capital letters in the headline. You may capitalize a few words for emphasis, but don’t resort to all caps because it’s difficult on the eyes and hard to read. Tests have shown that capitalizing the first letter of each word can increase response rates.
3) Thou shall experiment with quotation marks and other forms of punctuation. Quotation marks around the entire headline, or even bracketing specific words, sparks interest in what you have to say. Other punctuation such as question marks, exclamation points, even dashes or parentheses can increase readership.
4) Length of a headline is not important – just make sure the words speak to your prospect’s interest. A headline can be long, as many as several sentences. Or it could be just a few words. What is important is that it speaks to prospects, peaks their curiosity and contains some kind of benefit.
5) Seek guidance by imitating headline styles from National Enquirer. Believe it or not, the National Enquirer features some of the best copywriting and headlines you’ll ever find. Pick up a copy and read it whenever you can. Don’t make the mistake of thinking your target audience is too smart or too sophisticated, or that it doesn’t fit your particular “image”. This style of writing is a proven winner. Model it whenever you can.
6) Thou shall avoid being cute or clever. Your prospect should never have to guess what your copy is about after reading the headline. If they do have to guess or are confused, you need to re-work the headline.
7) Thou shall always speak to your prospect’s interests and desires. Your headline should say nothing about you. It’s all about the reader. Tell them what you can do for them, how you can change their life, make things easier or better.
8) Thou shall avoid “tricking” prospects into reading your ad. A headline like “FREE MONEY” will grab attention, but in the long run your prospect will be disappointed and actually pissed off when they read on and find out you’re trying to sell them a life insurance policy or a bag full of agitated bumble bees.
9) Always have faith and trust in a good headline. Don’t ever create or distribute any kind of printed advertising material without a headline.
10) Thou shall avoid using your name or your company’s name in a headline. Again, the ad is not about you or your company. It should never be used in your headline. Think in terms of your prospect’s interests and desires.
Follow these rules when writing headlines, no matter what kind of products or services you may be offering. First and foremost, try to get self-interest into every headline you write. Make your headline suggest that you have something the prospect wants that will definitely benefit them, improve their quality of life, make things easier and transform their lives.
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