The famous copywriter David Ogilvy once said that 8 out of 10 people will read a headline, yet only 2 out of 10 will read the rest of the copy.
What does this mean?
That your headlines need to be amazing if you want to attract eyes and credit cards.
Generic headlines get glossed over, and businesses miss out on sales all of the time because of it.
If you take the time to write epic headlines, you could be seeing a huge increase in traffic and conversion rates.
Follow along today as we teach you how to write catchy headlines that will transform your copy into a masterpiece.
Pain, agitate, solve
One of the most effective and oldest copywriting formulas for headline writing is pain + agitate + solve.
Let me explain.
Pain is the emotional experience that a reader is experiencing. It’s different for every audience and product, but let’s imagine that we’re selling cars.
The headline to the piece of copy should pick at a pain point the customer is experiencing, such as:
- Wanting to replace their old car
- Wanting a new stylish vehicle
- Lack of fuel economy
- Their current car isn’t very comfortable
Then we’d agitate this problem. We are effectively arousing emotion and attention out of the reader by elaborating on the issue a bit more.
Lastly, we solve it. This means that we provide a solution to fix this issue to make their life better. With all of this in mind, a pain + agitate + solve headline might look like:
- Tired of Your Old Car That Makes You Late? Introducing The Infinity X99
- Most Economy Cars Are More Expensive Than You Think — But Not The New 2020 Toyota Corolla
- Stop Feeling Embarrassed When You Pick Your Kids Up From School in The New 2019 Honda Accord
Appeal to the seven deadly sins
Remember all of those times you skipped Sunday school? You missed out on some great copywriting lessons.
Yep, the bible can actually teach us a lot about writing copy — specifically the seven deadly sins.
The purchasing process is heavily emotional and irrational at times, and writers can take advantage of it by appealing to the various “sins” in the bible. Keep reading to understand what I mean.
Lust doesn’t necessarily mean anything sexual in the world of copy, but rather making the customer desire something badly. You want them drooling at the mouth because you’re selling a product so well.
Look at this Amazon FBA course, for example.
This headline is amazing because it implies that readers will learn an easy trick to create an online business on Amazon. It appeals to the global desire of making money easily. Who doesn’t want that?
Excess is the name of the game. It’s normal as a human to want to have as many resources as possible, even if we don’t use a large majority of them. As a copywriter, you can appeal to this primal nature by creating headlines that appeal to customers self interest.
Here’s another Amazon business course that uses this strategy in one of their headlines beautifully.
Note how the headline is all about the reader and they literally capitalize “YOU.”
The rest of the copy is no different. It elaborates further on how the customer will be able to have a flexible and free lifestyle through quitting their 9-5 job, and buying their course.
Next time you’re itching for a good headline, engineer yours to be all about the customer. Make them feel like their wrapped up in a cozy warm blanket of ego and self interest.
Are you in the B2B, finance, or internet marketing space? Because this applies to those markets the most.
Greed — as you already know — is the desire for an excess of wealth or money.
I mean, who doesn’t want to swim in a pile of cash?
Check out this headline from a Udemy course on building wealth.
It’s simple, yet effective. The title directly appeals to those that want to build their net worth, and the secondary headline mentions investing, reducing loans, and retiring in peace.
Make the results tangible like they did. While this headline could’ve ended at “Easy Guide to Build Wealth,” the secondary headline tells readers exactly what they will get out of the product in terms of financial benefits.
People are lazy. They want to push a couple of buttons, kick their feet up, and become a millionaire over night.
Very few want to make sacrifices, take risks, and wait years with no signs of progress.
This is why appealing to laziness can create one of the best attention grabbing headlines possible.
While I love Men’s Health, they finessed us with this one.
You don’t have to be Albert Einstein to know that you can’t get abs in five to ten minutes, but people still fall for it.
Health is one of the biggest industries for headlines that appeal to laziness.
Very few individuals want to spend months or years getting into shape. Hence why titles like this work so well.
Brainstorm how you can make your customer feel like they don’t need to lift a finger to get the results they want, and implement that into your headline.
Anger and annoyance are very common and powerful emotions. They are often the catalyst to make change or decisions.
What annoyances are your customers experiencing? Take the time to write down a few ideas right now.
If you need inspiration, here’s an example of how The Cut uses this deadly sin in a blog headline.
It’s not uncommon to be very passionate about a career, but your boss SUCKS.
How many times have you heard family or friends complain about their employer? I can’t count how many times I have.
This blog post strikes the reader’s nerves by relating to an experience which spikes irritation. As a result, it gets their attention.
Seeing someone currently have what you don’t can make you feel envy.
It’s a robust feeling that we’ve all experienced at one point or another.
This is exactly why it makes an excellent tactic for headlines. It can make readers feel more obligated to take action, so they no longer have to feel envious.
Some examples include:
- He Gets All of The Girls: Here’s 5 Reasons Why YOU Don’t
- Learn How Entrepreneurs Make Triple What You Make in Half The Time
- She Drives a Ferrari. You Drive a Honda. Learn 4 Her Steps to Success.
The overall idea is to speak about what the reader doesn’t have, and how another person does have it to spike envy.
Nobody wants to feel like a loser, lesser than others, or that they screwed up.
This is another primitive component of all humans that copywriters can target.
Many copywriting strategies target pain points and negative emotions. While it works, some times it’s better to uplift customers and make them feel awesome 🙂
The travel app AroundMe pulls this off effortlessly.
Their motto “Because You’re Going Places” shows that they understand their audience, while also supporting their passion for being on-the-go.
How can you compliment customers based on the product you sell?
Make them use their imagination
Unless the reader has a demo in their hands of a product, they won’t truly know what it’s like to use it before the purchase.
That’s why you want to paint a picture like Picasso, and help them use their imagination.
Not only should you describe the product in vivid detail that makes them feel like they’re using it that very moment, but sum up the experience in the headline.
I’m a huge car enthusiast, so it’s only natural that I bring up this Ferrari 458 advertisement.
The headline and copy is more beautiful than the sharp lines and red paint on the car itself.
“Own it, Drive it, Live it” embodies what supercars are all about: lifestyle.
Accompanied with the image, this is a piece of copy you NEED to include in your swipe file.
Additionally, the body is what really nails the concept of imagination: “With head-turning styling, neck-snapping acceleration and that indescribable but incredibly potent Ferrari allure, the 458 Italia supercar is one of the most desirable rides on the market.”
It makes the reader feel like their driving the 458 without eve needing to take it for a test spin. and provokes their imagination to envision what it’d be like to own it.
Talk about the price as a selling point
Let’s be real.
The price of a product is a massive reason why customers will buy it or not.
That’s why pricing can be a valuable element of a solid headline.
Look how ASOS blatantly promotes their sales by focusing on how much customers will save.
Do you price your product competitively? It is a more affordable option than other items on the market? Make it known!
Alternatively, you can use an expensive price point to make your product appear more rare and luxurious.
Fear of missing out is one of the greatest psychological phenomenons.
There are more opportunities than ever, and we’re constantly bombarded with them.
From social events to cool gadgets, there’s new things popping up every day that could improve our lives.
It’s easy to feel that if you don’t immediate action that you will miss out on something great. Here’s a quick video that explains FOMO very well.
Fear of missing out can be integrated into headlines via urgent wording.
For example, you can append the following words to your headlines to make them instantly appear more urgent:
- Don’t miss out
- Don’t wait
- Limited time
- Don’t delay
- Once in a lifetime
Make it unique among competitors
You can have the best headline in the world, but if it blends into competitors like a blade of grass on a freshly cut lawn, it won’t do much.
That’s why it’s crucial you research into competitors to ensure that you make a title that cuts through the static.
Let’s image that we’re writing a blog post about the best dog food. The first step we’d take is visiting Google for a keyword we’re targeting like “Best dog food under $50.”
Save all of the headlines on the first page of results. These will be from authority websites that have teams of writers, so they will most likely be very high quality.
Whether you put them into a spreadsheet or note file, ask yourself the following questions:
- What makes them unique or interesting?
- Do they have any similarities or patterns?
- What headline could you write to stand out from the results?
Brainstorm titles you could use that would pop from the SERPs compared to everything that’s already there.
Continuing off of the dog food example, we could include parentheses or brackets, such as:
- Best Dog Foods Under $50 [Ultimate Guide]
- The Best Dog Foods Under $50 (25 Different Products)
- Dog Food Under $50 You Don’t Know About [Budget Friendly AND Healthy]
Be ultra specific
Vague headlines kill excitement.
They also don’t help the reader understand what they will find if they continue reading.
Brian Dean from Backlinko executes this perfectly on the homepage of his website.
Instead of just saying “How I Increased My Website Traffic,” Brian uses very specific numbers.
It makes the product, which in this case is a newsletter case study, more tangible and understandable.
Readers know exactly what they will learn if they opt into the email list, and kind of results to expect.
Create a useful headline
Copy and content is all about practicality.
That’s why I used heaps of examples in this article 🙂
I want you to read this post, and know exactly how to write headlines that will generate sales and leads.
Even if I went over the different strategies, it wouldn’t be anywhere near the same as useful if I didn’t include images and real examples.
Not only is this article very useful(At least, I like to think so!), the headline to this blog post implies it will be helpful, as well.
Next time you’re writing a headline, brainstorm versions that summarize what the reader will learn by finishing the copy.
Final thoughts on headlines
That’s it folks.
Headlines make up a tiny portion of your copy, but they are hands-down the most important element.
If your title sucks, nobody is going to read the rest of the body.
If they don’t do that, you make no money 🙁
Here are the main headline tactics I covered today summed up for your convenience.