10 Commandments of Writing Headlines
On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.
A well optimized landing page is perhaps the first funnel point and one of the most important aspects that decides whether a user becomes a prospective client or a lost opportunity. Hence the headline, the line that catches the eyes first becomes the primary part of that landing page.
When a visitor lands on a landing page, the window for him to convert or sway to another website is very small. Hence, when you are planning a landing page, spend a good amount of time deciding the headline, because you also have a small window in which you have to grab the readers attention.
Keep it short, simple and sweetKeep the landing page headline simple and to the point. This will take the readers’ attention off the bat in an instant and will deliver what the content has on offer. This again depends from business to business and campaign to campaign.
Your headlines can also be funny and inventive, but do so only if you have expert copywriters to do the job for you. In order to be funny, make sure you do not loose the essence of your content. There is a thin line that draws between being offensive and funny.
Give a Glimpse of what you are trying to offerBy looking at the headline, the visitor must get a glimpse of what exactly it is that you are trying to offer. An ideal headline should provide just enough information to the user, but not disclose all details. It should give away just a small glimpse of the benefits and should entice and urge the user to further read the contents of the landing page.
As an example, a landing page states…
What’s on offer - ‘Earn your degree online’. Any user who wants to enrol or get more details will have to fill up the form.
Solves a problem - A user will not have to run around colleges to enrol, attend classes and then attain a degree. All he will have to do is, fill the form and register to enrol…problem solved?
Add numbers to your headlineYes, they do help. (Well this is also another reason why you are reading this blog, isn’t it?).
Providing numbers in a headline means that the reader will not be reading just a lump of information, but a specific list of insights into the said details. In some blogs, numbers also connote hierarchy of events and are easy to point out details that are otherwise difficult to mention in paragraphs.
That said, sometimes adding obscure number like 19 or 37 can really catch people’s attention. Numbers leave a mark on the readers mind which makes him think that this message is important. Marketing experts have analysed over the years that figure numbers (1,2,3,4) work a lot better than numbers that are spelled words (one, two. three, four).
Adding Questions is also a go getterI find that adding questions in an easy and a very powerful way to grab people’s attention. When used effectively, questions rope readers into a story no matter how busy they are. A well formatted question headline has several viewpoints which makes the readers curious.
Now, asking a question in a headline can also be a risk. Most questions by default have a ‘yes’ and a ‘no’ answer. If we take an example, there are three instances that can occur:
YES: Someone who wants to study abroad will fill the form immediately.
YES, but NOT at the moment: Someone who is not willing to study at the moment, but wants to give it a thought later may also fill the form.
NO: Someone who does not want to study abroad will move to another page the very instant he/she reads the headline.
Like you can see above, the ratio of people filling the form to not filling is much higher. This way question headlines also ensure that relevant leads (students who really want to study abroad) are much more than junk leads (students who fill the form without any reason).
Though writing a question headline is a gamble, it is a necessary one.
Trigger negative emotionsNegative headlines if used well can work as very powerful motivators.
Remember Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs? He had stated that in order to survive, we thrive on safety, affection, attention and our need to outdo ourselves. So with a headline, when you play upon man’s basic need, that of survival, and offer to help him out of that situation, it leaves a positive impact on their mind.
In an example, the headline and the image play on the negative emotion of ‘Hate’. The headline communicates a problem – something that most people don’t like – bugs. Now, a user who hates bugs will want to read further or sign up to get the solution.
But at the same time, if negative headlines are used in the wrong context, they can kill the message.
Make the headline believableOnly 10 seats left – Study with us for 1 week, get an MBA seat at Harvard
If this was the case, everyone would have been a alumni of the Harvard, rated the best MBA college in the world! This headline will put anyone on guard. Forget about the user reading the content further, he will close your website and move onto another. Your claim may be true…but keep it subtle. However, the headline should not be misleading, because then the reader will hit the back button and never come back.
By going overboard, you may lose trust with your users. Instead write…
Only 10 seats left! Study with us, get a step closer to your dream – Harvard
Add USP to the headlineIn your landing page headline, try words that help sell a product – free, discover, secret, results, quick, guaranteed, off etc. If you know what pain points your potential customer is facing, it should help you write the correct headline and offer him the right deal.
The words ‘Limited’, ‘Off’ and ‘Discount’ are mentioned in the landing page headline and grabs the user’s attention immediately.
Do not use too may keywords in the headlineYes, putting keywords in the headline makes sure that it ranks well in SEO searches, but stuffing the headline with too many keywords overwhelms the reader and makes it look pushy. Use just the right amount of keywords in a landing page headline which will give you an advantage during web search, search through social networking sites etc.
Landing page headline aestheticsThe less complicated your headline, page and its design, the more likely it is to convert. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- The headlines should ideally be 2 sizes larger than the content.
- Do not colour them black, instead colour them a dark shade of grey or ivory white if using the headline against a black/dark background.
- Use Title Case – Capitalize The First Letter Of Each Word.
- Font size is really important considering that we live in a world where the internet is mostly accessed over Smartphone's.
- Don’t use a period at the end of the headline. A period or what is also known as a full stop is a mental note for a user to stop reading there. Remember, a period in a headline is a major mistake!
- Don’t keep the main headline very long. If you have a lot to say, break it down into bits. But again, the sub-headline should not be of the same size as that of the main headline as this will kill the essence of the main headline.
- Quotations at times can work for headlines.
Use A/B TestingMake sure you do A/B tests for your headlines to check which version of your landing page and its headline is working best. You can also use free A/B testing tools like Lander A/B and Google Website Optimizer. Over time, A/B testing will also help you analyse your visitors behaviour and what is it that is helping you connect with them.
Then again, when A/B testing, do not make a lot of changes in your headlines or landing pages. This way, when you analyse which landing page is faring better, it will be easy for you to gauge, adding or removing which part did the trick.
Example: When testing a landing page headline, change either the colour or the text or the words. Do not change everything at once. You will not be able to analyse which headline is faring better.
While there are many ways to create headlines, the above mentioned ones are most compelling.