WARNING: Headlines Are Holding You Back

Jon Elordi

Jon Elordi

There is one part of any advertisement that is more important than the rest. The one thing that can make or break your ad. It’s the part that should get the bulk of your attention. A good one can lead to high click-through rates and amazing conversions, and a bad one can leave your ad ignored.

I’m talking, of course, about the Headline.

The headline is far and away the most important part of your ad. It’s the part of your ad that grabs the reader’s attention and persuades them to keep reading. If you can’t do that effectively, your ad is toast. 

A good attention-getting headline will get more eyeballs on the rest of your copy. The purpose of the headline is to get people to stop what they’re doing be it scrolling or reading an article or flipping through profiles and to pay attention to what you have to say. The better your headline, the more likely the rest of your copy will get read. The more likely the rest of your copy will get read the more likely the user will click and so. Great headlines lead to more sales.

On the average, five times as many people read the headlines as read the body copy. It follows that unless your headline sells your product, you have wasted 90 per cent of your money

David Oglivy

How To Approach Headlines

A great headline makes someone stop in their tracks. The best way to do that is to appeal to emotions. People make decisions on the emotional level and then use rationality after the fact to justify their decision. Make people feel something, and you’ll have their attention. The two big emotions for headlines are fear and desire. Scare them or fulfill their desires; anything less is suboptimal. 

Your headline will primarily get you many readers, but it can also get you high-quality readers. This is because your headline can act as a filter. The end metric that matters is sales. So a headline that gets less traffic but more sales is the better headline. To this end, try using in-group language to signal to the people who would most want to know about your product. 

Then test out both types of headlines and see which one gets better results: the headline meant to attract the most traffic or the headlines meant to attract the best traffic. Go with the winner. There is no try and true strategy. With digital marketing, we have the luxury to test and make changes quickly; use that to your advantage.

Don’t get cute with your headlines. Puns and wordplay are unnecessary. The average reader probably won’t get it. Be direct and be evocative. 

You have to write great headlines. That's the number one skill everybody needs to develop, no matter what you sell or who you sell it to.

Jim Edwards

Headlines Are Everywhere

Headlines are formally part of paid media. But headlines are everywhere. The title to your blog posts, the title of videos, your Twitter handle, etc., are all examples of headlines. So approach them as you would the headline of an ad.

All the content you create, be it paid or organic, needs to have the ability to get people to stop what they are doing and have them pay attention to you. 

For example, this post uses what’s often called a WARNING headline. It’s by far the most obnoxious, but it also gets the job done. 

Take a lesson from clickbait. There’s a reason you see it everywhere: it works. But it works as a way to get a high number of clicks. Clickbait does not produce high-quality traffic, but it will produce traffic. It doesn’t do any filtering because it’s not designed to. I would avoid too much clickbaitiness as it can cheapen your brand, but clickbait can teach you lessons.

The next time an ad grabs your attention, try and pause for a second as to why. Then see if you can replicate something similar for your marketing efforts.

It must capture attention. And it must offer a "reward for reading." This reward must be sufficiently attractive to induce the reader to continue reading beyond the headline.

Victor O. Schwab

Join The Newsletter

Join now and get my copywriting cheatsheet and my guide to marketing statistics free in the welcome email.