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10 Secrets For Perfect Headlines
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Copywriting Tips to Help You Master the Art of the Pitch
Writing good copy takes practice and discipline, but it also takes something that makes many of us cringe: homework. To write compelling ad copy, you're going to have to look at the project from every angle. Who are you writing for? What do they want to read? What is going to grab their attention? What are the best keywords to include? Should you use a familiar, conversational tone, or is this audience strictly business? The successful copywriter knows the answers to these questions before he or she writes even a single word.
Of course, once the process has begun, every copywriting project should start the same way: with a headline. We can't stress how important the headline is - the success or failure of your copywriting services depend on your ability to craft a headline with a gravity well that could be measured by NASA. Hyperbolic as it may sound, if your reader doesn't make it past the headline, you don't have a reader. Let's take a look at some of the secret strategies that you can use when copywriting to create a magnificent headline that will work like a magnet for your readers.
1. Size Matters! It seems like we begin every copywriting guide with this tip, but it bears repeating. If your headline doesn't fit neatly into a Tweet with space for links and hashtags, it's not a successful headline. 90-120 characters is the sweet spot, and remember that search engines only index the first 65 characters, so make sure that your headline begins with a bang.
2. Avoid Ambiguity. Your reader should know what they're getting into before they click your article. If you've stumbled upon a masterful pun or bit of wordplay that may be clever and eye-catching but isn't so clear as to the content of your post, save it for the subhead or body text. Be clever and witty later - the headline is just the hook.
3. Who Else Wants It? This is one secret that has been proven to work over and over again, and is one of the fundamental secrets of good headline crafting: use your headline to imply that your subject is already something that others know, use, enjoy, or are otherwise engaging in, and therefore that your reader is missing out on something important by not clicking. "Who Else Wants to Lose 10 Pounds?" Well, I certainly do!
4. Add a Little Mystery. Use of words like "Secret" or "Little-Known Facts" will help draw readers in, as they will believe they're getting information that others aren't aware of. "Buying a House" isn't a compelling headline - but "The Secret to Getting the Best Mortgage Rate" or "Little-Known Facts about Getting Approved for a Home Loan," on the other hand, will draw in readers who are looking for insights they can't find anywhere else. Not convinced that it works? Look at the headline for this article one more time. Convinced yet?
5. Use Numbers. Once again, we've used this approach in this very article. Numbers help to quantify what you're talking about. "Getting a Better Body" is a fine headline, but "Getting a Better Body in 2 Weeks" is better, and "10 Steps to Get a Better Body in 2 Weeks" is better still. With numbers, particularly those 10 and below, readers feel like they know what they're getting into. An article on weight loss is still an article, and today's Internet reader is fickle and wants information in a hurry. 10 tips, on the other hand, sounds easy to scale and simple, and even the most-flighty reader can stick around for a list of 10 items. Second, adding the "in 2 weeks" to the end amplifies your claim and helps you stand out in a field of other articles about similar subjects.
6. Keep Your Promises. Since we're talking about making bold claims, it's important to note that copywriting doesn't mean hyperbolizing, stretching the truth, or lying. Make sure that the content of your post will deliver on the promises you make in your headline.
7. The Speedy Approach. As we've said, readers are fickle. Using the Internet to find answers and solve problems has become second nature to most of us. Websites offer quick answers to virtually any of our questions, from home improvement to healthcare, and good copywriting taps into this mindset. When you write a headline that fills the quick-fix, instant-gratification need, you're going to be honey for the speedy-bee reader. Items like "Get Rid of Carpenter Ants Once and for All" or "The Quickest Way to Get Over a Cold" are almost guaranteed to outperform articles with the same information with a blase headline.
8. Amplify It. So, you have a good hook and you've got a decent headline: "10 Ways to Get Rich." Not too bad, but there's some room to grow, and we can amp up your copywriting a bit with the use of some powerful adjectives and bold claims. If "10 Ways to Get Rich" is a decent headline, "10 Ways to Get Filthy Rich in Just One Year" is a fantastic one. Remember the other copywriting rules, though; keep it Tweetable, and don't make promises in your headline that you can't keep in your post.
9. Lists Always Work. Repeat after me: Lists always work. This gets into two items we've already discussed - using numbers and emphasizing speedy reading. No one wants to click a snappy headline to find a weighty wall of text - bullet points, top-ten lists, and other quantified, point-by-point explanations will always be more successful than articles with the same information presented in paragraph form. Copywriting is about capturing the skimmers and speed-readers as they blaze through the Web. Besides - lists are easier to write, too!
10. Write in the NOW. Finally, it doesn't matter if you're writing about something that happened two months ago; just make sure to always write in present tense. "Our Company was voted the #1 company in our state" sounds fine, but "Our Company is proud to be voted the #1 company in our state" sounds even better.
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