Whatever you are working on – emails, landing pages or advertising leaflets for your affiliate marketing program – at some point you’ll have to write a headline or two. Actually, the more sub-headlines you insert into the text, the better: they help navigate readers through words and ideas.
Yet guidance is not the only function of headlines and if used with skill, they can be more effective than actual pages of body copy.
Main functions of headlines
Besides the attention coordination function, headlines are used to:
– Grab attention and lure people into reading at least the first paragraph
– Sort out target audiences (see how we did this in this post’s headline ?)
– Add a sense of urgency
– Deliver the message of the body copy
It’s next to impossible to create a headline that would perform all functions at once, but it’s definitely what you should aim for when working on one.
Parts of a complex headline
The headline length is an issue often discussed in copy-writing circles. There are examples when short, crisp lines work perfectly – just as well as long ones. Therefore, it’s up to you which one to choose. We however stick to the opinion that the more you write, the stronger the message you can deliver (with reasonable limits, of course.)
A complex headline includes the following parts:
a) A pre-headline to outline the target audience of the message (again, see the example in the title of this post)
b) The headline itself
c) A short bullet list with key benefits
d) Defining the size of your headline depends on the size of your copy as well as specific marketing needs.
Traditionally used (and nicely working) headline templates
Over the years, copywriters identified a few types of headlines that worked best to grab attention and ultimately, increased conversions. These are:
A question headline that triggers curiosity. To work well, a headline of this type should ask a question relevant for a particular target audience.
E.g., Are you using these indispensable tools to attract more traffic to your website?
A ‘how-to’ headline that promises a detailed step-by-step manual for problem solving
E.g., How to optimize your website and still have money for vacation
A numbered headline. Numbers are known to attract attention; that’s why ‘Top 10’ headlines have become so widely used.
E.g., Top 10 highest paying affiliate programs – find here
A command headline that encourages readers to do something (allegedly) for their own benefit
E.g., Use these marketing tools and forget about lackluster sales
A testimonial headline that provides third-party experience
E.g., ‘Using this advice saved me $10,000 and brought half of my existing clientele. Literally’
Here is what we recommend….
There is no singe algorithm for writing a strong headline. Still, there are some key points you should take into account in the process, such as:
Never use all capitals for your headlines because it complicates reading.
Do not use too much punctuation. An occasional coma or colon is acceptable, but two or more will interrupt the flow of your headline and thus decrease its persuasive force.
Be specific. People don’t like vague promises.
Do not go for creativity. Humor is good, but not for sales; half of your customers might not get your jokes and puns at all.
Be simple and clear. This rule works for the entire marketing content, and even more so for headlines.
Tell more if you need to. Don’t be afraid to use longer headlines.
Appeal to senses and emotions.
Always talk about or at least hint at the benefits of the product. A headline should work rather than be a useless text decoration.
Use numbers if possible: they grab attention effectively. Use quotations for the same reason.
Last but not least, don’t go for design creativity. The font should be easily readable and the background should make the text stand out.
Promise your customers an effective solution to a problem, trigger their curiosity and hint that the time to use it is limited. This strategy works well for most marketing materials and you can benefit from it as well.
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