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How to Give Good Headline

dude...you give good headline!

People don’t just read on the Internet, they “Scan”. One of the few things that are guaranteed to be seen and actually read is your headline. A successful email, landing page, Blog or Social Post is an accumulation of several elements, but if your headline fails, the rest of your page will fail. You need to spend more time on your headline than on any other element of your post, page or email.

“You HAVE to crap out 25 headlines for every piece of content”
-David Ogilvy

Your headline should be either clever, shocking, or interesting. It should be focused, relevant and address your target’s pain. You might even throw in a sense of urgency if it makes sense.

The truth is any headline you are likely to come up with is some variation of one that has been used successfully multiple times over. Think of it as a formula:

  • The Secret: The 5 Secrets of [Retail Success]
  • Be Done: Be Done with [Procrastination] Once and For All
  • Need to Know: What You Need to Know About [Training Your Cat]
  • Play on Words: Urine Good Hands with PowerPlus! (about a generator that runs on urine)
  • You can have it all: Now You Can Have [Financial Freedom…And Keep Your Job]
  • The Secret Variation: 5 Little Known Ways to Dominate [Your Office Cubicle]
You get the idea, there are scores of formula driven examples out there. If you’re having trouble coming up with something completely original, take a look as some of the headlines that got your attention and play around with substituting your offer for theirs.


Headline Formatting

  • Keep your Headline to one or two lines: Remember, people aren’t reading your headline, they’re scanning it. It isn’t body copy, it’s an attention grabber at a glance.
  • Center Your Headline: This gives it the special emphasis it deserves. It stands out as important. DO NOT EVER center body copy. Anything over two lines that is centered is harder to read…not easer.
  • Make them Big: No BIGGER! Your Headline should be disproportionally larger than any other text on the page, not just the next font size up.
  • Make them Bold? Maybe, maybe not. Depends on the overall size differential between the headline and the body copy and the font selection.
  • Use a Different Font: Reserve separate fonts for the Headline and the Body Copy. You might try mixing serif and sanserif fonts.
  • Use Title Case: Make the first letter of each word capitalized. You can keep spacer words like “to” and “the” lower case to put more emphasis on the more important words.
  • Don’t Use Punctuation: Since the headline stands on its own, it doesn’t have to be separated from the next sentence with a period. Punctuation is a mental cue to stop. That’s the last thing you want your visitor to do. You might experiment with the occasional exclamation point.
  • Quotation Marks: In some cases you might consider putting quotation marks around your headline to further make it stand out.
  • Use a Sub-Headline: Make it the same size as the body copy (or much smaller than the primary headline) and perhaps make it bold.

Ready to start scribbling down some Headlines? Not just yet… Exactly who are you writing that headline for? Certainly not for yourself. You’re writing it to appeal to your next best customer, and that customer should be a very specific person. If you don’t already know how to do this, check out this example of an actual Buyer Persona from one of our actual clients. 

Note: This article is an excerpt from the upcoming revision of the WSI Book: Digital Minds: 12 Things Every Business Needs to Know About Digital Marketing. You can download the current Kindle edition from Amazon now for free.

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