This Headline Is Where the Action Is!

See those words up there?

They’re the reason you’re reading this article. The headline.

Online headlines are like offline ones: extremely important. They’re 90 percent of the reason anyone will read your ad copy.

Oops! Third sentence, I just lost a bunch of readers. They know all this direct marketing stuff, have heard it and seen it before, or maybe they just got bored…

After the headline, your first sentence is the next important thing. That third paragraph is a killer, because that’s where most people bail, even when an important concept is before them.

It’s so simple.

If you’re using banners; text links; pop-ups, -unders,
-overs, or -arounds; email; Flash ads; crazy DHTML “I’m running pizza, cars, and small thermonuclear devices around your screen” ads, it’s still about one thing: your headline. It’s the immediate benefit you send your audience. You get one chance to impress them.

Headlines tell visitors the benefits you deliver. It’s up to you to convey why it’s important.

I believe the Internet is a direct response medium, but I’m the direct marketer. Even brand marketers know the importance of a headline, a phrase, something to be remembered. It’s the key to what we do, yet so many of us ignore it regularly.

Inspire response. That’s your job. Give people facts and figures, so there won’t be questions. Entertain them. Create curiosity. Whatever you do, don’t scribble a headline in five minutes and slap it on the Web. You’ll be wasting everyone’s time.

Here are some suggestions for writing a great headline:

  • Read your headline out loud. You’d be amazed what things sound like. This can show you what will work. If it sounds weird out loud, it will sound that way in readers’ minds. Remember, they’re reading this for the first time. Anything that makes them stop, think, or worse, confused, hurts your efforts.
  • Get pumped up before you write. The excitement will come through to your readers. If you don’t have fun, it will show. (Looking around the Net, I can see lots of people aren’t having fun. Cynicism is cool. Fun is… more fun).
  • Don’t hype your language with get-rich-quick or sensational headlines. People have been battered to death by bad writing. Get to the point. Keep it simple. Read John Caples’s “Tested Advertising Methods.” His chapter on headlines and another on writing the first sentence are required reading in my office.
  • Write a bunch of headlines. Just start writing. Don’t expect the first idea to be a good one. In fact, be amazed whenever you do get a good idea. Good ideas are rare.
  • Examine your subject. After writing a headline, ask yourself, “Why is that important?” When the answer is self-evident, you’re finished. For example, one person writes: “Get Professional Guidance for Your Web Site.” There’s no benefit in that headline. It’s not important. What’s important to your potential customer? That they can save time and money on their site; they won’t risk their business due to lack of experience. Let’s change that headline to “Eliminate Six Months of Wasted Time & Expense With This Tested, Proven Net Business System.” Now the customer knows the benefit and will be motivated to take the next step. It’s all about getting them to take the next step.
  • Write in one or two syllable words whenever possible. The simpler, the better. People need to move through your writing and remain engaged. Don’t permit confusion.
  • You are addressing people who hear lots of commercial messages. You’re an intrusion, permission marketing or not.
  • Advertising that works endures. If someone has been doing the same thing for years, it must be working (or she’s very wealthy and supporting a hobby). Heck, even the Virtumundo duck is still working. It’s interactive and makes people act (it pops up about eight ads off a single banner action — amazing).

You have about 30 seconds to establish who the heck you are, why it matters to your visitor, and why he should believe you. Many don’t do this online. They assume people are just going to surf through their site.

Or, maybe they’re too busy reading about the collapse of Internet advertising. Want to stop the collapse of Internet advertising?

Write a good headline!


P.S. Action begins with your headline.

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