One of my webinar attendees asked the question, “What are some of the best headlines you’ve tested?”
Of course, most of the best headlines I’ve found were the ones I’ve written. Well, that’s not completely true. They were the best until I tested them. Often my favorites didn’t win.
Nonetheless, headlines are one of our favorite things to test because
- They move the needle on the conversion rate.
- They tell us something about our visitors.
We learn what words get past the bouncers in our readers’ brains.
Some of the best headlines we’ve tested were emotional, abrupt and unexpected. In one of our more famous tests for an addiction treatment center, we found that a conceptual headline such as “Ready to start healing?” performed poorly compared to “Speak to a Compassionate Rehab Specialiast.” The latter delivered a 32% increase in phone calls.
What could beat that? It was “Ready to Stop Lying? If so, we can help,” which delivered a 43% boost in calls.
Testing is the only way we have found to improve headlines, but a few guidelines can keep you from starting with stinky headlines.
Never ask a question for which the answer is “Yes” or “No.”
Neither entices the reader to keep reading. The proper response a reader should have to a headline question is, “Whaaaat??” or “How will you do that?”
“Ready to Stop Lying?”
Don’t try to carpet bomb with headlines.
Pick one. Your subheadlines should follow from one strong headline.
Echo the promise
Your headline should echo the promise made by the link, ad or email that brought the visitor to the page in the first place.
If you’re goal is to get a visitor to call, put the phone number in the headline.
“Welcome” is not a headline.
Specific headlines generally outperform conceptual headlines.
Don’t be cute.
If you are not a copywriter — a professionally trained copywriter with a proven track record of generating sales — don’t try to write a cute headline.
Don’t reveal the ending.
Your headline should not be complete without the following sentence or sub-headline.
Defend your headlines.
Just because your boss owns a copy of Microsoft Word does not make him a copywriter. Be ready to defend your headlines from executive bloat.
Write a lot of headlines.
Write 20-50 headlines for every page. Keep one.
Test your headlines. Be ready to be disappointed at the winners.
Get an outside opinion.
Have someone outside the company read your headlines.
Don’t bury the lede.
If you’re having trouble coming up with a headline, it’s can probably be found buried in the copy.
“Get yourself organized” sounds like a lot of work.
“Over 317,988 small businesses use inFlow Inventory” means I better read on.
Study the rules of grammar for the language you’re writing for.
These rules will get you started, providing the best headlines you can write without testing.
What rules would you add to this list? Tell us in the comments.
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