According to copywriting legend Eugene Schwartz, a headline’s main job isn’t to sell; it’s to gain the readers attention and compel them to read the ad. And this is sound advice, but the Internet also requires one other thing in today’s web 2.0 copy world…
Step 1. Scent: Web copy adds the requirement of scent. Your headlines and sub headlines have to assure visitors that they’re in the right place. A compelling headline that doesn’t orient readers to the page content risks bouncing paying customers before they’ve even started on the path to conversion.
So start your headline optimization process with a close look at scent. These links will help drive home the point:
Bryan Eisenberg gets interviewed on Scent and Landing Page Stickiness:
Step 2. Angle of Approach: After you understand what it will take to provide continuity of scent, you’ll need to do the research and idea generation to come up with that compelling hook, or angle of approach that will compel readers to stop and scan the article.
Think of it this way, if scent is about matching information, keywords, and look and feel, angle of approach is about matching your copy to visitors’ emotional drives, motivations, hopes, dreams, fears, etc. Of course, it’s also about introducing a compellingly interesting thought into the reader’s mind. For some incredibly helpful tools and techniques on Angles of Approach,take a look at the following blog posts:
I’d recommend you come up with at least a couple of different approaches and test them. This might cause you to rewrite your first paragraph or two of body copy for each test variant, but it’s well worth the effort.
Step 3. Wordsmithing: Once you have the angle of approach and the “Scent” requirements, then it’s time for some of the traditional wordsmithing normally associated with writing headlines. Can you sharpen the point? Can you increase the curiosity factor? Should it be a statement or a question? Can you swap out words to create different emotional associations or connotations? Can you test fractions vs. percentages? What kind of presuppositions can you bury in And so on.
Here’s a monster list of links containing some of the best stuff I’ve seen on Headlines:
First, go sign up for Sean’s newsletter and get his free PDF report on Why do most headlines fail.
Third, listen to Gary Bencivenga’s explanation of why you should build credibility into your headlines
Now feast on Brian Clark’s brilliant headline articles:
And for sheer tonnage of listed techniques, it’s hard to resist Chris Bloczynski’s post:
Or SEO Blackhat’s 54 Headline Templates That Sell
Of course, it goes without saying that with all these choices, you’ll want to test and optimize, and the Grok’s own post on Top 10 Ideas for Testing Your Headlines is a great place to start, or you can watch the webinar on testing headlines and calls to action: