3-4 seconds. That's all you get. And usually, the decision on whether the visitor will stay or go will be determined by your headline and the first paragraph. In this article, I am going to go over some ad headline strategies that will help you sell things on your website, even if it isn't a product you are selling, but yourself.
A headline motivates the visitor to keep reading. The best headlines are specific in nature, sometimes exclusive and clearly states the benefit of staying on the page to the reader. Some can be catchy, imply a benefit, offer a little mystery, or present a warning to reader or give a unique feature or reward if the visitor chooses to "buy into" the headline.
A carefully crafted headline can increase the time spent on a page and pre-sell the visitor on the product, whether it is an actual product or simply a brand.
In most cases, there are 2 critical parts to crafting a great headline-
- It must grab the reader's attention immediately.
- It must imply that there is a reward for staying.
In no particular order, here are my top 5 best ad copy headline strategies.
1. The Fear Based Headline.
Fear headlines don't have to be manipulative. They are rooted in the fact that if the person doesn't do something, there will be consequences. However, if they know, all will be safe. Take this headline and subheadline from the AARP website's front page for example (author's note- the front page headline is different than the article headline). The implications are there are drugs that can potentially harm you that even some health experts were surprised to learn were unsafe. The reward is if you read about them, you will know and save a potential problem from happening to your or your family in the future.
Headline-Beware! 4 Common Drugs Could Send you to the ER
Subheadline- You'd be surprised (health experts were too)
2. The "How To" Headline
How to headlines are a staple headline for bloggers. Companies like ehow have based their entire business around those 2 words. And the reason for this is simple. When people want to know how to do something, they search for it using those words. How to articles are crystal clear to the reader and imply a reward at the end for sticking around.
Headline- How to Landscape on a Small Budget.
Concise and to the point, this headline came from an ehow article and does a good job of being specific, tailoring their ad copy to a specific group (those on a small budget). The visitor looking for information on how to landscape would clearly be interested in this article and would probably continue reading, especially if landscaping cost was a concern to them.
Sometimes, the "how to" is implied; the headline may make a statement like "Learn or Discover (how to)...
3. Exclusivity Headline
One of the first things I learned from business is that if you are selling to everyone, you are selling to no one. While many would think that exclusion principles would cut sales, they actually drive right to the heart of good ad copy, increasing conversions by speaking to a specific group.
This is particularly effective for brands that are in a general market but are offering something that is fairly specific.
Headline- Read this only if you are 50 or older
This headline came from an email sent by Bob Bly and is exclusive in nature. This headline uses several "psychological" triggers to get the right target market to click through. It also is used to help those not included make the decision not to waste their time.
- The Command- Bob isn't mincing words here. He isn't asking the person over 50 to click through. He is telling them. Believe it or not, people typically respond better when you tell them exactly what you want them to do.
- Mysterious Headline- Bob also doesn't give away the farm as to why someone over 50 should click through. He only states that they should.
- Exclusivity- This email, though sent to me, wasn't necessarily for me because I am not 50 or older. If I was, I probably would have clicked through.
4. The 3Rd Person Headline
Headline- How Brian Turned a Hobby into a Business- and almost doubled his rates.
This headline works because it moves the focus away from the content creator, instead implying that anyone could potentially turn their hobby into a business and uses a case study to demonstrate it. The headline doesn't necessarily need to rely on the credibility of the author since the author isn't stating how he did it (which could make someone suspicious as to why he is making the claim and what he may get out of telling it). Instead, he uses a third party as an example which implies that anyone with a hobby should be able to do it.
This headline would not have been near as effective had it simply stated the how Brian turned his hobby into a business; the fact that he was able to double his rates doing what he did, implies that the visitor is going to learn how he did it (the reward for reading).
5. The List Or Reason Why Ad Copy Format
Perhaps the most commonly used headline format for the blogger is the list. The reason why is that lists implies easiness from the get go; it's easy to scan and easy to read. You can get pretty much everything you need from a list posting in a matter of seconds, even if the content is long.
Headline- 30 New, Free High Quality Fonts.
This headline came from SmashingMagazine and is one of their most popular posts. The reason why it works is the reward. If you are looking for fonts, there is nothing better than finding fonts that are free and high quality. And you have 30 to choose from.
Reasons Why Headline- 5 Reasons to Buy a Home Despite Gloomy Headlines
This headline uses the list ad copy format and implies a big reward for the visitor who is thinking about buying a home but is unsure because of all the bad news. The headline also uses another copy trigger, the current event, as well.
Those are my top 5 ad copy headlines that will either sell products or, in the very least, get those eyes on your page to consider your offer. What other ad copy headlines work for you?
- 5 Traits of a Great Headline
- 4 Common Copywriting Mistakes Everyone Makes
- Prevent Your Blog Titles From Sabotaging Your Efforts [Headline Writing 101]