The art of headline writing

By: Richard Michie

Writing a headline is one of the most important skills you can have. It’s also one of the hardest to master.

A great headline will give your reader just the right amount of interest and intrigue to read all your carefully crafted copy. If the headline doesn’t grab your reader’s attention, all the time you spent sweating over your beautiful copy or art direction will have been for nothing.

And yet, most people spend very little time writing headlines.

A lot of time is spent designing websites, emails, social media and print ads, crafting the offers and content so it speaks in the right tone and positions the offer perfectly.

But most people spend seconds on the headline, and this is a massive error.

The purpose of any marketing piece is for the recipient to read it, and the headline is the gateway to success. If it doesn’t hit the mark, your marketing campaign is toast.

When we at The Marketing Optimist craft blogs, social media posts, or subject lines for emails, we spend at least 20% of our time writing headlines. We come up with a list of at least 20, and then cull them back to 5 well crafted, to the point, killer headlines. Then we’ll ask the team, our clients, friends, family, and the dog, for feedback.

This will bring us down to the strongest two, this is generally the headline that both we and the client love. 

This is where the skill of a copywriter really comes in. They know which words will grab attention and draw the reader in to find out more. If we can combine this with a great designer, who brings images and graphics in to help, we should have a great piece of content that gains readers and makes them take action.

The masters of headline writing

The undoubted masters of crafting headlines are newspapers. Day after day they take their journalists’ copy and create headlines that make you read. They have very few words at their disposal to draw you in, so they make sure every word counts.

writing a headline

Marketing headline writing

If you’re writing headlines for SEO, emails, social media or ads, you have a similar role to a sub-editor on a newspaper. Each of these marketing tactics has restrictions on the length of your headline, so choose your words very carefully or they’ll lose their impact.

 

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