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We writers are meant to convey to communicate, grasp and pull in our target audience and although the headline is fiction (I hope so..), improving our headlines is but one important key!

Headlines are your best opportunity to showcase your story to the audience you want to reach, you absolutely must be able to communicate your most important points clearly, precisely and quickly.
The language you choose should be appealing to that target demographic so that they want to know more.


How do you write better headlines?

Writing smokin’ hot headlines is not complex, it’s an art and like any art in order to master it, you have to study it. Bob Bly’s book; “The Copywriters Handbook” Bob has outlined a time-tested method for doing just that. In a nutshell it looks like this:

Direct Headlines – These are right to the point such as: ‘Rare Gucci Watch available now at 30% off’. It’s a headline that states the selling proposition directly.

How To headlines – These are the most oft used and they are super easy. “How to be a better woodworker in 3 easy steps’, ‘How to shed 5 pounds in 24-hours..’, or shamelessly this article uses that same ‘How to’. Think about the most famous How-to book ever written: “How to win friends and influence people” ~ Dale Carnegie, that book alone sold over 30-Million copies have been sold worldwide!

Question headline – Bob Bly gives this example from Psychology Today: Do You Close the Bathroom Door Even When You’re the Only One Home? You get the gist. What about Do you lock the car door when you park in the garage? These types of headlines capture you instantly as it’s likely something you do that stops you to question the ‘why’.

Command headlines – These are super simple and again, tell the reader what to do right away: ‘Grab your copy below’, ‘Subscribe before it’s gone’, ‘Keep your spot fill by filling in the form below’, etc.

Indirect headline – This one takes a more subtle line to get the reader to take action. It creates a curiosity in the reader to move forward, some consider this type of headline like going fishing or link-bait.

News headlines – This is pretty self explanatory, just think of a news channel that introduces the next story, it could look something like: ‘Breaking News…Copywriting creates more offline successes than ever before..

Testimonial headlines – These are great headlines, they provide social proof answers to the reader right away. It’s outside proof that you offer some tremendous value. You are taking what someone else has said about your product or service, and use words in your headline.

Using quotes, a headline may look like: “Build Your Shed With Complete Confidence Using XYZ System“.

The Headline is one that takes time to master and is not difficult to do so. It DOES require you to read, watch (VSL’s) and you will start to see the same pattern and then be able to identify what type of headline is being used. Get good at this first, the rest will come.

A headline is a promise to your readers. Its sole function is to clearly communicate the feature or benefit you’ll deliver to the reader in exchange for the asset of time. Not something to take lightly if you do the reader will catch on right away and leave.

The 80/20 rule of headlines – An average you should consider is that 8 out of 10 people will read your headline copy, only 2 out of 10 will read the rest.

This shows that the power of the headline, and why it will determine the effectiveness of the entire article.

The better the headline, the better your odds of beating the law of averages and get what you’ve written fully read by a larger percentage of your target market.

In truth writing a compelling, kick butt headline doesn’t guarantee the success of your writing. The benefit conveyed in the headline still needs to be properly crafted in the body copy, either with your content or with your offer.

Great body content with bad or heck even a marginal headline is doomed to go largely unread at worst or quickly skimmed at best.

Clayton Makepeace says to ask yourself six questions before you start to write your headline:

  1. Does your headline offer the reader a reward for reading?
  2. What specifics could you add to make your headline more intriguing and believable?
  3. Does your headline trigger a strong, actionable emotion the reader already has about the subject at hand?
  4. Does your headline present a proposition that will instantly get your prospect nodding his or her head?
  5. Could your headline benefit from the inclusion of a proposed transaction?
  6. Could you add an element of intrigue to drive the prospect into your opening copy?

Clayton’s six questions provide an excellent framework for writing high-converting headlines. And that just about any headline that satisfies the framework will fall into one of the categories above.

Scan filters – People now, in 2022 have been subjected to so much content, online and offline that a large percentage is fodder and for that reason alone, have developed some impressive ‘intuition filters’, or the infamous BS filter. Out of that readers have developed the ability to quickly scan articles to preview the sections that may be of interest and then stop at those sections of interest, well placed markers will halt that ‘intuition scan’ and draw in the reader.

Summary – You’ll gain a clear advantage over your competition by becoming an impeccable scholar of great headline writing, master this and the rest will develop at a much faster rate, it’s inevitable and I promise you this, if that alone is worrisome you can contact me to take care of all of that for you, creating a very compelling headline, sub-headlines and body copy is what why I have become a copy-sensei.

Steve Bell is the founder of 49North Marketing, a new, fresh approach to creating compelling copy that wins your target markets.