Writing High-Conversion Headlines: The Entrepreneur’s Cheatsheet

Are you a business owner? An entrepreneur? A marketer? Perhaps you just want to improve how you write headlines? Then this guide is for you. Because I’ve seen far too many dull, descriptive headlines on business’s sites, in emails, and, even, in printed content to not write this article! Anyway, in the following, you’ll learn how to create effective, compelling, high-conversion headlines.

This is useful if you’re writing…

  • Website content
  • Landing pages
  • Brochures, fliers or newsletters
  • Sales copy
  • Emails
  • Heck, it’ll even help with blogs and articles

Headlines. They’re Kinda Important.

On the average, five times as many people read the headlines as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar." – David Ogilvy

You’ve likely read that quote before. Needless to say, headlines are important. When it comes to headlines, they serve one function:

…To keep your reader reading!

Duh, right? The headline of your content is your hook. Whether that’s the subject line of an email or the header of your web page, the concept is the same. Continue reading to find out how you can keep your reader on that hook.

Headline Writing Guidelines

Be Different

Apple’s tagline, right? How are the doing, success-wise? If Apple had positioned themselves like any old tech company, Steve Job’s dream would’ve lived and died in Wozniak’s basement. It sounds clichéd, but you have to stand out from the competition – in how you position your business and how you write headlines.

Try to…

Be Specific

When it comes to headlines, there’s nothing like a bit of vagueness to completely disinterest your prospects. The clearer and more to-the-point you are, the more likely your audience will decide it’s relevant to them and keep reading.

  • Use facts, numbers and statistics – You’ll improve their conversion rates? Great. But by how much? Getting specific with what you can offer will help hold your reader’s interest
  • What is it you’re offering, exactly? Try creating content that’s extremely direct in what you’ll provide the reader

Be Value-Oriented

Your reader isn’t reading aimlessly. They’re reading to find out what’s in it for them. The more effectively you can communicate the value of what you’re offering, the better the headline.

  • Create a glimpse of what your reader’s life will be like once they use your product/service – called a John Lennon headline (imagine if…)
  • Empathise with your reader’s pain points and go a step further – mention how you’ll solve them
  • Convert facts into benefits (e.g. instead of ’18-Volt Cordless Drill’ it’d be ‘Spend Less Time Drilling & More Time Relaxing With The 18-Volt DrillMaster” – just as an example!)

Quick Tips

  • Be Concise (use 12 words or less in your headline)
  • Make it noticeable (think…H1 size, centred at the top of your page)
  • Write specifically for your target audience
  • Use KISS (Keep It Simple, Silly!) for every headline (avoid jargon, technical language and complex sentences)
  • Tell a captivating, intriguing story (at least, the first line of it!)

The BAN List

Don’t use the following:

  • Ridiculous superlatives (amazing, brilliant, mind-blowing, awe-inspiring, ultimate, stunning)
  • Meaningless phrases (disruptive, dynamic, market-leading, best-in-class, world-class, state-of-the-art, first-rate, industry-standard, revolutionary, innovative, pioneering, breakthrough, effective )
  • Complex language (utilise, capability, co-ordination, [anything]-centric, advantageous, viable)
  • Punctuation (, . “) and (? !) – they break flow

Headline Checklist

Does your headline…

...Pique your readers’ curiosity?

...Describe a specific benefit?

...Use interesting or surprising facts, statements or information?

...Draw the reader into reading further?

If you answered yes to two or more of the above – good job! You’re on the right road to writing a mildly effective headline (hurrah!). Now, write 9 more. Then pick your favourite. And remember – your visitors read your headline 5 times more often than the body of your content. Make it count!

Struggling for inspiration? Steal from the masters. Copywriter lists 10 great formulas to creating a high-conversion headline. Kissmetrics also has a great list from various companies around the websphere.

Need help writing headlines...or copy in general?

I'm a freelance copywriter with a focus on writing creative, high-conversion web content. Get in touch!