Headlines. Eleven ways to create great headlines - fast

Len Smith
A free video tutorial from Len Smith
Freelance copywriter and communications consultant
4.4 instructor rating • 10 courses • 107,820 students

Lecture description

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

Learn more from the full course

Copywriting secrets - How to write copy that sells

Discover the secrets of copywriting success from the master. From novice to pro in easy stages

03:07:29 of on-demand video • Updated April 2018

  • Structure and write compelling sales copy
  • Apply the power of emotional drivers, even when writing in a B2B environment
  • Beat run-of-the-mill writers who focus on 'needs
  • Write powerful calls to action
  • Understand how to leverage features, benefits and advantages
  • Craft professional press releases that get published
  • Know how to become a Voice in their Industry
  • Understand how to schmooze bloggers and the press to get published
  • Interview end customers with confidence to create persuasive case studies
  • Use the power of words to generate more sales leads
  • Glean from a wealth of real-life examples
  • Master White Papers - the most powerful way to generate sales leads bar none
English - [Voiceover] The whole point of a headline is to capture attention, and I guess this famous headline from the Guardian newspaper in 1956 probably achieved its objective. Looks like a health warning, but a few old Brits like me will remember that Sir Vivian Fuchs was a famous Antarctic explorer. He was responsible for another press-stopper two years later, with “Sir Vivian Fuchs at the palace”. How important is the headline? Well, according to one of marketing’s most hallowed gurus, "On average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy." He was talking about adverts and direct mail. "When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar." He went on to suggest that with adverts everyone sees the picture, 80% read the headline, but only 5% get round to reading the body copy. So, perhaps we should apportion the time we spend on headlines with a bit more weight than we probably do right now. Time for our 11 tips, and we’re going to start with four rules. Know your media. First, we need to remember there’s a key difference between printed copy and online copy. Online, we have to pay a lot of attention to squeezing keywords or key phrases into our headlines for SEO purposes. That’s if we want a decent ranking on Google. That’s why, did you know this, newspapers often have a different headline in their printed version to their online version. Knowing your media means you’ll always know when keywords are, and when they’re not, important to your headline. Tip number two. Keep online headlines less than 70 characters. In print, we have the luxury of not worrying about headline length, but online we should stick to no more than 70 characters, or at least make sure that the first 70 contain the meat of the matter. This is nothing to do with SEO, by the way. It’s for the humans. Google and so on truncate our headlines, like this: "Welcome to Huddersfield clinic, medical, drug trials, and medical research section. By clicking on the capsules, you can select which best suits either your...” Tip number three. Don't use a full stop or period. There’s a fondly held belief in the industry that a period or full stop at the end of a headline can have just that effect, make the reader stop. I don’t believe a word of it but, well, you never know. Tip number four. Capitalize for an American audience. Unlike British newspapers, American ones add a capital letter to each word in their headlines. "Crippen Pays Penalty for Murdering his Wife." Americans have been conditioned to this, so capitalize for that audience. Different recipes for headlines, to decimate the time it takes to compose them. We’re now going to look at some well proven recipes that copywriters love to use and for good reason. They work. Tip five. Try using numbers. Digits among words stand out. “Drop 8 lbs this week pigging out.” Think of it as a recipe, a benefit within a stated timeframe. And there’s something very factual about numbers, so they add weight. They add veracity. They make a very specific promise. So, avoid vague claims like “Increase sales inquiries significantly”, and try “Gain a 3-times increase in sales inquiries." That sounds so much more factual, something that can be backed up. And there’s another way to use numbers, numbered lists. Numbered lists, such as “9 biggest investor mistakes and how to avoid them.” And notice how in sales headlines we break some of the cardinal rules of serious copywriting. Like never starting a sentence with a digit. Like never using digits for numbers that are less than 10. We normally spell those out. You’ll realize how popular numbered lists are from this list, which should get your creative juices flowing. 5 secrets, 5 proven, 5 reasons, 5 tips, 5 ways, 5 ideas, 5 techniques, 5 tricks. It's easy, but more importantly, it works. Tip number seven. Make your offer first, then squash a key objection. Tell somebody they can make $2,000 a month on YouTube, and they think “Ah, yes, but I’m hopeless at creating videos.” One of the top selling courses on Udemy is called "YouTube secrets: How I Make $2000 a Month And No Filming," squashing the objection. Does it work? Nineteen thousand students says that it does. Tip eight. Let's get personal. Elsewhere in this course, I talk about the need, wherever possible, to write as though from one person to another person. Do you see how in the example above the title used “How I make $2,000 a month.” That’s not a training company speaking. It’s a real person, an individual with firsthand experience. You can do it the other way around too. Instead of “How to lose 6 lbs in one week”, try “How YOU can lose 6 lbs in one week.” Tip number nine. How to use "How to." That last example was a "How to" recipe, and that’s a hot favorite with headline writers. We all want to improve our lives, our careers, our health and so on. There's a danger, though, of describing the process, rather than the benefit. "How to write a great book, from concept to publication." That's rather factual. It doesn’t spell out a benefit. Whereas, “How to write a great book fast,” now that I do find appealing. Fast is a real benefit, and it also suggests easy, and what's more, it squashes a common objection at the same time, as I suggested in our sixth tip. “How to get fit in 21 days and no visiting the gym.” "How to stop smoking with hypnosis, in the comfort of your own home." "How to relieve joint pain and no drugs." Tip number 10. Use a testimonial as your headline. “It’s great working with a professional copywriter who enjoys writing White Papers. Len Smith has made life so much easier for us.” Okay, that’s not going to be an SEO title. It’s too long, but it does work in print, and it does work on-screen, if the message is for humans and is more important for them than it is for SEO. The quotation marks are vital. They show instantly that it's an individual speaking to the reader, and it's quickly obvious that the speaker works in the same role as the reader, in this case, a marketing manager or business owner, and a photo of the speaker makes the whole thing even more powerful. This technique is strangely underused, which makes it even more useful. Tip 11. Avoid round numbers. When using numbered lists, avoid round numbers, 10 tips or 20 tips. Looks like the sort of thing lazy journalists write to quickly fill some space, whereas 11 tips looks as though some proper research might have been done, and it has. Time for a bonus. I'm going to give you a free bonus now. The Advanced Marketing Institute has a free online Headline Analyzer. You just type in your headline, and up comes the score. Does it work? Well, it's good fun, and there it is. Okay, it's all in your handout. Print it off and have a go for yourself.