Checklist for Writing a Headline

Whether it’s the title shown on the search results page, or the subject line of your e-mail, or the title of your latest blog post, you need to provide a compelling reason for your customer to look closer. If you’re not sure which headline is compelling, try several different variations. You can test them on a few people you know at first, but eventually, you’ll want to try the promising ones on real customers to see which ones garner the most clicks.

E-LOAN, the Internet lender, ran one such customer test for an e-mail marketing campaign. They tried three variations for the e-mail’s subject line: “Your first payment is on us,” “Your first payment is free” and “Skip a payment.” By sending a small number of customers the e-mails with each version, they picked the winner within three days. (Turns out more people responded to “Your first payment is on us.”)

When you write a headline, consider what will appeal to your audience. Think like a headline writer at a tabloid newspaper-entice people to read on with proven approaches:

  • Ask a question. People tend to want the answer—”Do you have these symptoms of sleep apnea?”
  • Appeal to emotion. Strong feelings cause interest—”Is fear of public speaking killing your career?”
  • Raise curiosity. Only clicking will satisfy it—”Three Secrets to Successful Relationships”
  • Offer compelling value. Target the right people with the right offer—”Master Spanish in 30 Days or Pay Nothing”

Don’t limit yourself to these techniques. Experiment with what you believe will work with your target market and measure your success. Your title must drive clicks, especially for your ads. If you have a well-known brand name, test whether including your name in your title garners more clicks-studies show that it might.

Text ads don’t have many more words than a title does. The kind of ads displayed by search engines are excellent examples of how a few words make all the difference. Remember that search engines rank their paid results based on the per-click bid and the clickthrough rate. The ads shown on the first page of search results are far more likely to have high click rates than lower-ranked ads. Because the words in the ads prompt those clicks, the text you see in these first-page ads might make excellent title words for e-mail subject lines or Web page titles.

Want more tips to raise your Web marketing success? Check out Search Engine Marketing, Inc., which contains a complete step-by-step program for successful search marketing for your business. For more ways to improve your overall Internet marketing, take a look at Do It Wrong Quickly, an indispensable guide to the new ways of marketing.