A headline is one of the most important pieces of writing – ever. And it’s also one of the most difficult to write!
A headline is designed to attract attention and create desire in a person to read the rest of the piece. Don’t fool yourself that headlines are only found on articles or sales pages. They’re not! For the purposes of this article, a ‘headline’ is anything that needs to attract a reader’s attention and get them to take a second action; usually to read the piece of writing.
Headlines can include:
- Article or blog post titles
- Book titles
- Email subject lines
- Headlines for sales copy
There are three main types of headlines:
These headlines focus on the pleasure words. They’re often benefit laden and overtly promise that the following copy will solve your pain.
These headlines don’t just unearth a reader’s pain, they POUNCE on it, sink in their claws and drag it kicking and screaming from under the bed. Negative Attraction headlines make you feel uncomfortable.
Which is a fancy way of saying “everything else”. I’d estimate that 80% of all headlines written fall into this category.
Don’t feel bad! Writing headlines is hard. And sometimes, despite your best efforts, your headline still falls flat. There’s a fine line between catchy and cutesy as well as a fine line between obviously stating the benefit and being boring.
The other major challenge with headlines is being succinct! Your headline needs to capture reader attention, hint at what’s to come in the main body of the writing, inspire them to read more, AND do all this without bogging down in too many words. Not to mention, that a good headline ALSO needs to be friendly to search engine spiders.
It’s a lot to ask of one little line!
So, just how DO you write fantastic headlines?
First off, decided if you’re going for Positive Attraction or Negative Attraction. This will depend on your target market. I know I oversimplify it when I write my headlines but my general rule of thumb is:
Women = Positive Attraction headlines
Men = Negative Attraction headlines
Here’s an example:
Stop Wasting Your Time Brainstorming – Write What Your Readers Want
Attract Your Ideal Client With A Book That Speaks Her Language
BOTH of these titles could be used for the same product – and I tested both for The Book Idea Workbook. But you’ll notice one uses in-your-face language and the other uses inviting language.
Here’s another way to think of it:
Negative Attraction headlines focus on the pain; Positive Attraction headlines focus on the result. Both can be made sexy, catchy and have great results. And I encourage you to test both styles so you know which is the best to use with your readers. For me, I use mostly Positive Attraction headlines and I get a response rate I can always count on. I know, going in, approximately what my open rate and click-through rate will be on an email. I know how many comments I’ll get on a blog.
However, occasionally, I use a Negative Attraction headline to switch things up a bit. My newsletter list is primarily women and they primarily like Positive Attraction headlines. So when there’s something that’s 180 degrees different than what they’re used to seeing, I know I’ll have a whole different segment of my list open the email and/or click. However, I ALSO know that I’ll get a bump in unsubscribes as well!
There are lots of headline “formulas” out there that you can choose from. One of the most common is:
How to [get this result] so you can [have this benefit]
Which is often shortened to just:
How to [get this result]
This is a perfectly fine, albeit a bit boring, headline. If you look at many of the headlines of by blog, you’ll find this formula. Why?
Because while it’s boring, it’s clear and gets the job done. For a blog that also appears in my newsletter, that’s exactly what I want! I know that my readers are busy and want their information quickly; or at least the opportunity to quickly make the decision about if they want to continue reading.
Here’s the truth about writing headlines: it’s not easy, it takes lots of practice, sometimes even the experts get it wrong, and it takes time to craft a fantastic one!
You’ll notice the title of this article is how to write a GOOD headline – not a brilliant headline, not a headline that increases your sales by 2500%, not a headline that makes your kids stop fighting, your spouse do the dishes, and the dog stop eating your socks.
A headline shouldn’t be slap-dash; you need to put thought into it. But until you start writing and testing headlines, specifically for YOUR audience, you’ll never really know what works for your people. I just was in a class with a lovely lady who’d been using Negative Attraction headlines with no success. I took one look at her business and had to laugh; with her audience, there was no way a Negative Attraction headline was EVER going to work!
The only way to know what will work is to test them! So, here’s your homework for the next three weeks:
Write one article per week. Then you’re going to test out three different styles of headlines. Make it the best copy you can possibly write AND spend a lot of time crafting and tweaking the headline. Really pull out all the stops!
Week 1: Negative Attraction Headline
Week 2: Positive Attraction Headline
Week 3: Good Headline
And keep track of the results. How many people opened your email? Clicked on your article? Left you comments? Unsubscribed? Shared on social media?
This will show you what YOUR community likes. Then you can start honing your headline writing skills in that format – and stop worrying about everything else!