Trying to write a good headline can be one of the most challenging experiences a copywriter can face.
Here’s why the pressure is on, even for experienced copywriters…
o There are an infinite number of ways to write a headline
o This of course means that you have to ‘narrow things down’ somehow
o But be careful about how you attempt to do this
o Because a headline has a disproportionately higher importance than the rest of the copy
o If you get the headline wrong, the rest of the copy won’t matter!
Headlines are critical to copywriting success – marketing studies show that four times more people will read a headline than will read the rest of the copy. It follows then that the smart copywriter will go out and read what the ‘experts’ say and incorporate that knowledge into their writing processes.
The problem is, there are thousands of voices out there, each spruiking their own version on how to write headline gold. So, where to from here? Lets answer some important questions…
Results-focused or image-focused?
There are essentially two copywriting schools of thought out there – results-focused and image-focused.
Results-focused: uses the ‘4 Cs’ – CLARITY, CONCISENESS, COMPULSION and CONVERSION
You emphasise how to solve the reader’s problem and you convert them by being clear, concise and compelling.
Image-focused: copywriting is driven by being ‘innovative and artistic’ and ‘using x-factor concepts’
You emphasise you own skill as a writer in order to wow your client and impress them with your wordsmithing abilities.
Which of these approaches do you think will be more effective when it comes to writing headlines? The vast majority of successful copywriters argue that being results-focused is far more important.
Is using formulas a good idea?
There are lots of blogs out there that suggest the use of formulas when creating headlines. This is dangerous for two reasons:
1. Formulas rely on the use of templates.
Templates are by definition generic. Is a headline based on a generic template going to ideally match the very specific, the very individual needs of a business owner?
2. They create laziness.
Even good copywriters can develop bad habits. It can become easy to recycle tired old headline ideas that were once perhaps good, but are now stale.
But I need some guidelines…
Ok, so you need to be wary of formulaic writing.
But every copywriter is sometimes in the position where something doesn’t readily come to mind and you need a spark to write a good headline. Here are two important guidelines:
1. Always write your headline at the end of the writing process, not at the beginning
Don’t worry about getting started on the headline until after you finish the content. Your headline should be like a summary of everything else you’re planning to write – and everything else you write should inform what headline is created.
2. Use the 4 C’s
To be a results-focused copywriter, you need to focus on prospective customers, which should be the main goal of any copywriter. To maintain your focus, you need…
CLARITY: Is the headline easy to understand or is it too obscure?
CONCISENESS: When a headline is rambling, readers lose interest.
COMPULSION: Creating a sense of urgency to act in a headline is always the goal.
CONVERSION: Is the client getting more customers? If not, change the headline.
If you’d like to read more about compelling copywriting, look out for more blogs in this series. Or if you’d like to share your thoughts, contact me at [email protected].