The only copy everyone reads
One of the hardest things copywriters do is write headlines. Even for veterans of the ad industry, it remains the greatest challenge, especially in print. In a print ad, the headline has to grab someone’s attention and interest them enough to want to find out more. It if can get across the purpose of the product, all the better.
Headlines should be the most visually prominent piece of copy on your site or your ad, ensuring that they get read first. Good headlines are memorable, saying something in a way that is interesting, unique and attention grabbing. Generally, they do this by making a connection between your product and a phrase or idea that already exists.
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The best headlines make a connection between the target audience and the benefit of the product or service you’re offering.
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Let's use a fictitious t-shirt company, a startup that let’s users vote on the t-shirt designs they’d buy, as an example. Here are just a few of the different ways to approach headlines for this mashup of Kickstarter and Threadless:
A play on what people already say
Sometimes it is through tweaking a cliché or idiom that people already know. This headline does that, with the added element of being cheeky, which is always good:
Get your shirts together.
Opposites attract attention
Another proven technique is to create tension with opposing ideas within the headline.
Classic style, freshest designs.
Lately, a type of headline that has become popular is double meaning, where the headline refers to one thing on a surface level while also having a deeper meaning. For you Mad Men fans out there, I believe this trend got really popular when posters for the first season of the show featured the tagline “Where the truth lies.” For our fictitious T-shirt startup, that could translate to:
Get into our shirts.
Don't be afraid to boast
Instead of trying to be clever, making a strong statement about your product is an effective, straightforward way to grab people’s attention.
The latest and greatest shirts on the internet.
Speak to their heart
One last, powerful way to write a headline is to simply write about the emotional benefit of the product. Everyone makes purchases at an emotional level, so this approach taps into this drive.
Look great. Support artists.
There could be many emotional benefits for your product or service, so I’d recommend that you try a few different takes on this approach.
One thing that you really should never do, however, is include your business or product name in your headline. If you have a logo in the top nav part of the site and your URL includes your name, as well, having your business or product name in the headline is redundant.
When I’m writing headlines, I may come up with 50 or 60 different lines, and cut them down to five to share with my team. There may be small differences between some headlines in the large group, and I do this because these small changes matter. Using a different word or changing the tense can add a level of interest or memorability, and I want to try these changes out and pick which one works best.