5 Kinds of Headlines ✍️

The Big Idea

A great headline will:

  • Grab attention. There’s a lot to read. Great headline copy causes your copy to stand out with the reader.
  • Qualify readers. Aspiring parents notice small babies; aspiring car buyers notice car ads. If you are writing copy meant for senior IT specialists describing new offerings in the IT security space, attracting tweens won’t help you meet your goals (unless, of course, they happen to be senior IT security interested).
  • Draw readers into the body’s copy. Great copy will inspire readers to invest more of their time into the content—creating the itch that only the body of the text can scratch.
  • Sell the big idea. Your headline is the promise that the body of the text delivers on. The headline should capture or refer to the one “big promise” that your copy is making.
  • Speak with authority. If it’s not credible, it’s not interesting.

This heuristic is adapted from Ray Edwards’ lovely book, How to Write Copy that Sells

The Heuristic

The “How To” Headline

The goal here is to write content that solves a customer need or pain point. If I need to know how to do something, you’re going to tell me how to do it.

How to Write Emails that Get Opened

How to Sell More Dessert at Your Restaurant

Write More, Faster: Your Step-by-Step Guide

The “Reasons Why” Headline

If the How To Headline answers the question of how to solve my problem, the Reasons Why headline answers why I have a problem in the first place.

7 Reasons Yours Emails Don’t Get Opened

Why Your Customers Say “No” To Dessert Sales, and How to Fix It

The “What Do I Get” Headline

Nobody wants to read your writing. So make it a trade. If you give me your time, what will you get back? If you take my advice, what results might you expect?

Give me 10 minutes and I’ll save you $8,000

Ask this sales question and double your close rate

This headline is fundamentally about a promise of an outcome—if you take the actions described in the content, you can expect the outcome listed in the headline.

The “Probing Question” Headline

These headlines are great ways of digging into a customer pain, or

Is your email open rate tanking?

Are your customers skipping your sides and desserts?

Why did McDonalds’ spend $6 billion on their menus?

The “If, Then” Headline

This takes a qualifying question (if) and a promise (then) and fuses it into a kind of “What Do I Get” headline.

If you can take a photo on your iPhone, you can be a great artist

If you have a voice, you can sing

If you have 15 minutes, you can save 15% or more on car insurance