In traditional marketing, advertising and internet marketing — web page content, blogging, content for social media, etc., — the art of crafting good headlines is still very much relevant. In fact, it’s even more important today if you want to capture people’s attention. And to get your message across, you first have to grab the attention of your intended audience. One effective way to do that is with a good headline. Three types of time-tested headlines are described later on in this article.
But first, think about this… People have more choices today than ever before, and there are now hundreds of thousands of advertisers and literally millions of ads out there in all kinds of formats and settings:
- all over radio, TV, and the internet
- in newspapers, magazines and fliers
- on billboards and posters
- on neon signs and store fronts
- in direct mail and emails
- in sports arenas and stadiums
- in movie theaters and concert halls
- inside and outside of buses and taxis
- and many more, including some grocery carts!
Your single voice is competing to be heard over this million-man choir, and the public at large has learned to tune out much of this advertising “noise.”
Creating Good Headlines for the Internet
Whether you are crafting a headline for a web page, blog or social media, a good headline (or in certain cases, opening sentence) is normally the most important part of your message. That’s because it’s the initial attention-grabber used to pull people into your message. And – important – it should contain a keyword or keyword phrase.
On a web page, your headline should be an h1 headline. The h1 to h6 “tags” are used to define HTML headings. H1 defines the most important heading. H6 defines the least important heading. Best practice is to use only one h1 headline on a web page.
Note: For social media, you need to know the culture of the particular network in which you want to place your content. For instance, you wouldn’t want to use a blatant sales-oriented headline in most of these networks.
See Social Media Marketing.
3 Types of Effective, Time-Tested Headlines
Direct marketers have long known that these 3 types of headlines work. They know, because they earn their living by being able to generate responses, leads, inquiries, with their marketing materials, and they measure the results. They have learned from experience that changing one word in a headline can sometimes increase their response rate by 40, 50, 70 percent and more. Sometimes a lot more!
1. Benefit or Self-Interest Headlines: These are headlines that contain a client- or customer-oriented benefit. Something that offers the marketer’s audience a certain advantage or benefit of some sort if they acquire or accept what is being promoted or advertised. The headline answers the unspoken questions, “What’s in it for me or mine? What do I/we get out of it?” These headlines often begin with, “How To…….”
Examples: “7 Things You Can Do To Help Your Website Land on Page One of the Search Engines”
“How to Write Good Content for Social Media” sub-head: “—Find out how you can generate favorable word of mouth and attract more traffic to your website.”
2. News Headlines: These are headlines commonly used to announce new products or services or changes to products or services. They are “right now” type of headlines. They can be good attention grabbers. They often start with: “New…..,” “Now….,” “Announcing….” etc.
Examples: “Breaking News! UFO Lands on White House Grounds” (Well, it could happen! 😉
“We Now Offer……”
“New Honda Model Gets Rave Reviews.” You get the idea.
3. Curiosity Headlines: These are usually not as effective as the first two. Sometimes they are, but they work best when combined with self-interest.
Example: “How a $500 Investment Paid for My Son’s College Tuition.” Someone with 3 kids to put through college may be curious enough to see what that’s all about. However, keep in mind that “believability” also plays a key part in creating a good headline. (Remember the UFO?)
So that’s a very brief overview on how to put together some effective headlines. If you’d like to learn more about creating good attention-grabbing headlines, you may want to get a copy of John Caples’ classic book, “Tested Advertising Methods.” Don’t be put off by the fact some of the headlines seem quaint in today’s society. Human nature doesn’t change much. Look at the underlying principles and adapt them to today’s marketing environment. They work.
Written by Bob Nelson
Bob is a very experienced Marketing Specialist for both the internet and traditional methods. He is a valuable member of the Results Professional Marketing Company team.
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