December 20, 2012

Newspaper headlinesWhat makes a prospect open your email, click on your advertisement, or choose your website from among all of the websites returned in search results? The answer is a compelling headline. A headline needs to be able to engage your prospects’ emotions, and convince them that spending time reading your email, advertisement, or website will be profitable for them. It needs to do all of that in just a handful of words. In addition to formatting tricks such as asking questions and using a numbered list, there are three basic ways a headline can make your material appealing.

Promise a benefit

This is the most common type of headline. In its simplest form, the headline simply presents the benefit to reading further. These headlines are often used by spammers and scammers, because they work so well. “Make money as a secret shopper” is the headline of a recent scam email that has proved very effective.

To further enhance the headline, you can include a specific amount of the benefit and a time limit. “Lose 7 pounds in 7 days” is a headline that includes both a specific amount and a time limit.

Prevent a fear

Another common type of headline presents a fear, with the implicit or explicit promise that reading further will help to protect from that fear. News programs and news websites frequently use these types of headlines to capture people’s attention. Any headline that poses the question, “What do you really know about…?” falls into this category.

Enhancements for this type of headline include references to trusted experts, with the implication that there is something dangerous that they are keeping secret, or that they endorse the solution to the fear. “Ten secrets your doctor isn’t telling you” or “Cure for skin rashes endorsed by doctors” would be fear-based headlines.

Offer the unusual

People love things that are new and different, that add an element of surprise to the ordinary, so long as they do not bring along fears of danger. Because of this, any headline that promises to reveal something new and unusual is attention grabbing. Words such as “new”, “different”, “unknown”, “surprise”, “secret”, “little-known”, “unusual”, or “unexpected” all attract attention. Funny videos also fall into this category, since the reason they are amusing is that something unexpected usually happens.

To enhance this type of headline, you can add celebrity elements, promising people a glimpse into the private life of a celebrity to learn something previously unknown. Celebrity product endorsements use this strategy, attracting people’s attention by promising them facts about which products a celebrity uses to achieve their beauty or sports performance. If your product or service is used by particular business leaders or if it could be used to solve a well-known problem those business leaders are experiencing, that can also contribute to a celebrity-enhanced headline.





Sean McPheat

Managing Director

The Internet Marketing Academy


(Image: MorgueFile)

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