This is the first in a series of 3 short articles about building an advert.
The first element of an advert is the headline so I will start with that…
Headlines are really important parts of our adverts. If you send out a letter, a website, an advertisement, a blog post and the headline is a good one, the subsequent text will be more likely to be read and acted on. However, if the headline is weak, then the chances are slim that anyone will be bothered to read on or act, no matter how good the rest of the item is.
So…what makes a good headline?
Marketing experts have puzzled over this for many years, trying to figure out why one headline produces excellent results and yet others flop. Why some words just work and yet others don’t.
Newspaper editors are experts at headlines. They have to be, to continually come up with lots that compel people to buy the paper each and every day. A really good exercise to scan a newspaper and look at each of the article headlines. Why do particular ones catch your eye? How does your brain seem to be attracted to some enough to start reading the text of the article? What words are they using? Are they large, or small? Are they long, or short?
I have read books by many martketing experts over recent years and most of them contain a list of words that have been proven to spark or increase interest and response to adverts. Words such as Free, You, Exclusive, Amazing, Valuable are known “triggers”. When these, and many others like them, are used in headlines, responses increase over adverts whose headlines that don’t contain a trigger word.
If you are like me and you struggle to come up with more than 3 or 4 headline choices for your advert, I strongly suggest you buy one of the books I have recommended on this blog, find out a list of these trigger words, and then look at writing at least one headline containing each of the trigger words. That isn’t a difficult job when you have the list in front of you and suddenly you will have the choice of up to 100 or more headlines to use. Some of these will seem much more usable than others and you will probably find the last few you write are the best as your brain is really getting into the idea of writing compelling headlines.
So now you have a much longer list of possible headlines, what do you do? You can’t afford to use them all. I would think it is time to test them out a few on people around you. Watch for their reactions – do their eyes glass over? do they laugh? do they ask what article the headline relates to as it has stimulated their interest? do they go down the list and say “sorry, but they are all rubbish – they wouldn’t compel me to even read to the end of the headline”.
When you have narrowed your potential good headlines down to 3 or 4, you must test them on your target audience. You will very quickly find out which ones work. This is where the internet is so powerful. You can put some software on your website that will alternate various versions of your website, different headlines in this case, so you can see exactly how people react.
Even if you think you are convinced you have a really strong headline, and it is out their working for you, you should still test changing a word or two, just to see if you can improve on it further.
There are no rules about the length of a headline. A newspaper will use as few words as possible due to space, but look at Paul Gorman’s book on my recommended reading page – his book title is “How To Outsell, Out Market, Out Promote, Out Advertise Everyone Else You Compete Against Before They Even Know What Hit Them!” What a headline – and what a book. Everyone considering advertising their business should read this book – and take action before competitors do.
In the next article, I will look at the body of an advert – how to write content that will compel the reader to take action once your headline has done it’s job and attracted their attention.