The “Secret” of Compelling Headlines

September 24, 2009

Writing Effective Headlines

In the volumes of information and how-to guidance on writing strong headlines, one fundamental principle is too often overlooked ….

The objective of your headline is not to sell, but to connect with your reader.

It’s easy to lose sight of this objective with headlines – especially when marketers and copywriters are under intense pressure to increase revenue. The temptation to produce headlines that “sizzle” can be overwhelming.

But that approach is increasingly ignored (or deleted) by post-modern consumers, who are inundated with somewhere north of 250 marketing messages per day (or 1,750 per week! Source: Consuler Reports), have less time to read than ever before, and are extremely wary of sales and marketing pitches already.

Begin with the End in Mind

When we’re focused on the end result, we tend to ask headlines to do a lot – and run the risk of overshooting the mark. While we must keep the goal in mind, we must be careful not to twist our headline copy to satisfy search engines and spam filters – this can lead to a keyword-rich but infinitely BORING Headline! Then END we are seeking is have our prospects read the copy!

Think of your headline as the first step in a process:

  1. The headline draws your reader into the next line (subhead).
  2. The subhead connects them to the first paragraph (copy).
  3. The first paragraph engages them with your offer.

We want to guide the reader from the headline, to the sub-headline, to the opening paragraph and ultimately to the rest of the copy. Whether you simply want readers for your newsletter or you are offering the most high end, fantasy vacations possible (or anywhere in between) the rules are the same.

People will choose to leave or read on primarily as a result of your headline (or title of your blog post* – Look at my title. Did it compel you to read on?).

Remember, headlines are initial bonds to your new prospects (or readers). They must do one of two things:

  1. Make an offer that leads to a sale, or
  2. Intrigue the reader into wanting to learn more.

Boring and indirect headlines sabatoge great copy. Don’t let this happen to you.

Want to see an example? Check out Film School by Phone.

*If applying these rules to your blog posts, the sub-headline is not necessarily needed – but your opening paragraph ought to compel readers to keep reading!

Have an amazing day!


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