To get more clicks on your sales page, you’re going to have to figure out the science of writing compelling headlines.
Why? Because if you have a great sales page out in the wild, but you don’t have a compelling headline, is anyone going to read it?
It doesn’t matter how great your copy is, if your headline doesn’t stop the reader, grab attention, and help them self-identify they’re in the right place to keep reading, you’re S.O.C. (sh*t outta clicks).
Your headline could be the difference between a sales page that has a high bounce rate and the majority of people who never even scroll once…
And that industry-busting 9% conversion rate you’re chasing.
But, no compelling headline? No bueno.
So what do you do?
How do you create a headline that stands out from the crowd? What can you do to make your headline more compelling?
Crafting effective headlines requires understanding your audience (and what’s going to stop their scroll), leveraging emotional triggers (and Hollywood-style tactics), using powerful words for impactful statements (that peak curiosity and make people crave more) and testing different variations until you can find out what works (‘cuz it’s never one and done).
So let’s dive into each of these steps and see how we can write better headlines that give your copy the attention it deserves!
Understand Your Audience
The number 1 mistake we see people making in creating a compelling headline is they don’t really understand their audience – and don’t write for them.
It seems obvious, but when you have less than 6 seconds to grab attention, you have to hit the right message in your headline, and quickly.
To do this effectively, you can’t work on assumption – you need to be data-driven and research-backed. It starts with knowing your target audience, and researching what language they’re using and competitors are using, so you can use it back at them (which means, you don’t have to write from scratch – sweet!)
Identify Your Target Market
The first step in understanding your audience is to identify who they are.
Now, we don’t care if Suzie is a middle-aged mom from Timbuktu who lives for Taco Tuesdays and Cold Brew. That doesn’t help us write a better headline.
But, we do care who is best suited for our offers – what identifies those people so they would read this headline and immediately think “this is for me!”
Sometimes this might be about adding an emotional identifier to your ICA, like “frustrated mom”, or a specificity modifier like “co-parenting stepmom”. Sometimes the hardest part here is to figure out how they self-identify (because “boomer” isn’t always the most endearing).
Once you have identified your target market you can begin researching what resonates with them, and kiss that writer’s block buh-bye!
Research What Resonates With Your Audience
You can spend hours agonizing over just the right words to attract just the right people – and get them to resonate with your copy.
Or, you can hack it and cut down your time and frustration by 95% by doing a little research, pulling language right from your ideal client, and using it right back at them.
Why start from scratch – and bank on assumptions – when your ideal clients are feeding you their words?!
Effective research allows you to verify your assumptions about what your people want, what they’re struggling with, and why they want to solve this problem.
Here’s our process for customer research:
- Use Reddit, Quora, Amazon reviews, the Facebook Ad Library, and customer testimonials/interviews to mine for customer language. I search for the exact language my ICA are using to ask questions about how to solve their problems, talk about their problems, and talk about solutions. I mine Amazon reviews (the good and the bad) to see what they’re looking for and avoiding in a solution, and I search the ads of competitors and let them use their hard earned dollars to do customer research for me (the longer an ad has been running, the better it’s performing).
- Copy & Paste direct language into a spreadsheet. In one row I’ll drop the exact copy & pasted section, the link to the original, and then I’ll break out that quote into specific language that speaks to the desire, objection, like, dislike, etc. that I need for the copy.
- Look for themes in the research: what is the most common phrasing? What is the problem your people would be willing to pay for? How exactly do they describe their problem? What is it they’re searching for in their own words?
- Use this exact language in a couple versions of your headlines until you find the right mix.
The first time I used this method I was working on copy for a woman in the leadership space who had over 30 years of experience in marketing (which made me continuously wonder, why me?!). She had multiple awards under her belt as a senior VP of marketing for companies like Coca Cola, Microsoft, and Samsung.
To say I was scared shitless to hand copy off to her, would be an understatement. It was brutal.
But, because I used this method, it was less about me and more about what her ideal customers were saying. My job was just to infuse the research with her voice, marketing argument, and unique sales proposition.
So, when I finally handed it over and saw “anonymous aardvark” pop into the Google Doc (IYKYK) I was thrilled to see her not request a single change.
Not – a – one. Which is a copywriter’s dream come true.
Because I didn’t have to make up any language – it was handed to me on a silver platter!
By understanding your target market and researching what resonates with them, you can craft a compelling headline that speaks directly to the people you’re trying to attract.
But, if it were only that easy… so, let’s explore how to put it all together and create an effective one.
Craft a Compelling Headline
Your entire conversion rate, and bottom-line revenue, can live or die by the headline on your sales page.
That’s a lot of weight for a few short lines to carry…
So let’s start with the basics of what a headline has to do, then zhuzh it later (with language right from your research)
A compelling headline should answer these questions for your ideal audience
- Is this for me? (Identify your target audience, that “hey, frustrated co-parents…”)
- What is it going to do for me? (What’s the transformation we’re promising?)
- Why should I care? (Finish one of these lines: “even if…”, “without…”, “so you can…”)
And then, very quickly, your people are going to want you to answer “how can I trust you to get me this result?” (aka. provide social proof.)
If your headline doesn’t answer those 3 questions, no one is going to bother to read any further.
It should be short, sweet, and to the point while conveying an actionable message that resonates with your readers (and now you have research and language you can use directly from your people!).
Here are some pro tips when it comes to creating an effective headline…
Use Actionable Language
Your headline needs to evoke strong emotions and possibilities, so use language that speaks to the actionable results you can help them achieve.
“Discover”, “unlock”, “transform”, “explode”, etc. are the vibe – but find words that are most specific to your brand and offer and less generic. (Pro tip: check your market research!)
Make it Unique and Memorable
One of my mentors, Julie Chenell, talks about the importance of “sticky” copy.
What she means by that is copy that is so uniquely yours – and language that is so obviously YOU – that people leave it but can’t forget it.
Our friend Megan had a great example of sticky language, when she used this line in her sales copy to explain how much people hate running their own Facebook ads: “like running a mile in the desert in wool pajamas”. #accurate.
Sticky copy makes sure your headline stands out from the competition, and you can achieve it by using vivid imagery and descriptive adjectives to create a memorable impression on readers.
Keep it Short and Sweet
When crafting your headline, the goal is to keep it as concise and clear as possible – remember, you have less than 6 seconds to catch someone.
Here’s my rule of thumb for all copy (and this isn’t mine – I heard it from an author, but can’t remember who):
Every word has to earn its place on the page.
Which means, if it doesn’t move the copy forward, or it can be said in fewer, more powerful words, it doesn’t matter how much you might love the copy you’ve written, it has to go.
Each word should pull the reader further down the page. If it doesn’t do that, it goes. Sod, don’t get married to any of the copy, you might have to say goodbye!
As a rule of thumb, your preheader (that identifies the who) shouldn’t take up more than one line on your page, your headline itself should be no longer than 3 lines (but preferably two), and your subheader (the why it matters) should ideally be just one line.
This is where you get to be short & snappy, clear & concise.
Once we’ve nailed that, we can upgrade the language to create more conversions…
Leverage Emotional Triggers in Your Headline
When we make buying decisions we’re first drawn in by the emotional appeal, and then we look for the logical reasons to buy or not after.
So, if you can pull on the emotions of your ideal clients, you can draw them in and hook them with the marketing argument you’re making.
Here are some tips on how to do this effectively.
Appeal to Curiosity and Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)
One way to leverage emotion is by appealing to curiosity and FOMO (fear of missing out).
The brain is obsessed with closing loops (finishing thoughts, getting to the happy ending, learning what happened) so if your headline can open that loop, people will feel compelled to close it.
Pair that with FOMO, and our innate desire to be in the “in” crowd, and you have a winning combo.
Example: Leverage the secrets to making 7-figures as a reclusive copywriter, that only the old pros know.
This headline appeals to your curiosity that there’s something that you don’t know, and implies there’s an “in” crowd of pro copywriters who know these secrets – and those who don’t.
Utilize Positive Emotions
We’re so often trained to hit on pain points and rub salt in the wound, but there’s a lot of science behind why you should also leverage positive emotions.
I’ve often said there’s a difference between pain as a tool for manipulation and pain as an identifier. Pain as an identifier allows for opening up more possibilities – what could be – and this is the most powerful way to leverage positive emotions.
In a world where we’ve experienced a lot of pain and suffering over the last 2 years, the last thing people want to be reminded of is their pain and suffering. Something as simple as offering them hope can be a great, and more effective, alternative.
Example: Stop Chasing The Life You Want. Start Living The Life You Deserve
Incorporate Negative Emotions Sparingly
While negative emotions should generally be avoided when crafting headlines, they can be a powerful way for your ideal clients to self-identify with the problem you’re solving.
It’s just important to remember that your job is to meet them where they are and offer them hope, not make them feel worse. Be careful when you walk this line.
Example: Ready to get into the multi-billion-dollar education industry but don’t know how to stand out?
By leveraging emotional triggers in your headline, you can effectively capture the attention of readers and make an impactful statement, but avoid using it as your only tactic.
To take your headline from scroll pausing to scroll stopping, we have to go one step further…
Use Power Words to Make an Impactful Statement
The ultimate goal with a headline is to get a lot done (and create action) in a small amount of words, which means every word has to pack a punch, while resonating with your target audience.
For every word you use in a headline, the question should be “can I say this in a more impactful way?” and you keep revising until the answer is “no!”
Choose Words That Evoke Strong Feelings
When crafting your headline, choose words that evoke strong emotions in order to make it more memorable and engaging.
Think about what kind of feelings you want to elicit from your audience – excitement, curiosity, hope, opportunity? Choose power words like “revolutionary” or “mind-blowing” to convey enthusiasm, terms like “proven” or “5-star” for assurance, and “break through” or “discover” to hint at the awaiting transformation.
Create Urgency with Time-Sensitive Words
People will not make a buying decision (or even a scrolling decision) unless they have a reason to.
One of the tactics to help them make a decision is urgency, or a time-sensitive reason they need to act. Using words like “today” or “now” or using countdown timers can be beneficial.
Another powerful tactic is scarcity, or a resource-limited reason to take action. Using words like “exclusive” or “limited” can help to convey the sense of finite resources.
Adding one of these (as long as it’s real) to your headline can increase the sense that this is something that needs attention and action quickly.
Use Numbers To Add Clarity And Focus
There are a lot of places in copy where it’s suggested that you break the grammar rules – and this is one of them.
Adding numbers to your headline is a great way to include specificity and clarity to what you’re delivering. They also add credibility when used to explain how quickly someone can get a result.
The key? Don’t spell out the number, just use it.
This is the difference between “Become a Better Painter” vs. “Brush up on your oil painting skills and fuel your creativity in just 5 days!”
The key in your headline is to replace generic or overused words with more specific and powerful words to convey greater meaning in fewer words.
But, at the end of the day, we still may be stuck not knowing what our ideal audience will resonate better with. Thankfully, there’s a data-driven approach for that where we can test it and figure out for sure.
Test Different Variations of Your Headline
The absolute worst habit any business owner or marketer can get into is making (and believing) assumptions.
Because you know what they say about assumptions…
This is where data comes in handy.
No matter how great we think a headline might be, you have to be willing to be wrong because you don’t get to decide how great it is – your audience does.
And, if you’ve done the work researching customer language before you begin writing your copy, you might also have more than one great headline. The only way to know what’s going to work best is to test it!
A/B testing is a powerful tool that allows you to compare two versions of the same headline to determine which one performs better with your target audience.
By testing different variations, you can gain valuable insights into what resonates best with your customers and optimize your marketing strategy accordingly.
When A/B testing headlines it’s important to monitor conversion rates as your main KPI, but also leverage heat maps to track behavior so that you can accurately assess how each version is performing.
This data will help inform your decisions about which variation works best for achieving the desired results. At the end of the day, we don’t get to decide what is resonating with our audience – but if we’re open to their feedback, they’ll tell us.
Just don’t forget that headlines are one piece of the puzzle, and the rest of the funnel and marketing strategy has to be taken into account to understand the full scope and implications of the data.
A sales page that’s performing poorly might have more issues than just the headlines; it’s impossible to diagnose and treat this issue unless we experiment and collect data to fully understand what the issue is.
FAQs in Relation to What Can You Do to Make a Headline More Compelling
A best practice when writing a headline for a search ad is to keep it concise and relevant. Make sure the headline accurately reflects what your ad is offering, as this will help draw in potential customers who are looking for exactly what you have to offer. Additionally, use action words that create a sense of urgency or excitement so that people are more likely to click on your ad. Finally, make sure the headline stands out from other ads by using unique language and avoiding overused phrases like “best deal” or “lowest price”. By following these tips, you can ensure your search ad headlines are effective at drawing in customers and increasing conversions.
Changing your headline too soon may cause you to solve the wrong problem, so I like to see at least 300 people hit the sales page before making a change. 1000 is even better, but depending on how much traffic is seeing that page and at what rate, you might need to make an adjustment sooner. It’s important to remember to let it ride long enough to make a true analysis and not just jump without enough data to make it statistically significant.
False. We want clarity over everything else – clever, cute, complex. It’s important to have elevated and sticky copy in order to stand out in your industry, but not at the risk of confusing people. Remember, with 3-6 seconds to capture someone’s attention, your message better be crispy clear – crispier than KFC.
Headlines can make or break your sales page. And they’re also the most difficult to get right.
But, when you know what the purpose is with headlines, what questions to answer, how to leverage research and data to optimize for success, and how to get the most bang for each word-buck, you can get a lot further with a great headline.
And (pro tip) when you write your headline last, it can be the perfect attention-grabbing component of your high-converting sales page.