- Using headline formulas eliminates the guesswork and gives you a place to start when writing
- Write about 50 headlines before you put one on your home page
- A headline should grab the reader’s attention and entice them to keep reading your copy
- Clear headlines trump clever headlines
Do you really need to use headline formulas?
Of course not…
But, as Joanna Wiebe says: “Only rookies write from scratch.”
And this isn’t something she’s said once – it’s at the beginning of everything she writes about formulas.
Just check out her ebook, Ultimate Collection of Headline and CTA Formulas.
Why is Joanna so passionate about formulas?
Because formulas help you take the guesswork out of writing copy.
Anytime you sit down to write a headline, grab yourself a bunch of tried and tested formulas to use as a starting point.
What’s in a headline?
Your headline is where your audience will start reading and, unfortunately, where most of them will finish.
David Ogilvy said in Confessions of an Advertising Man (1963),
“The headline is the most important element in most advertisements. It is the telegram which decides the reader whether to read the copy.
On the average five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent 80 cents of your dollar.”
Although this quote is over 50 years old, it still holds true today.
A study by the American Press Institute in 2014 confirmed that 4 in 10 Americans will read past the headline.
You spend so much time perfecting your copy, and yet maybe half of the website visitors will read it.
You nail the headline.
Awesome headlines can increase engagement, lower bounce rates and keep visitors interested enough to read the rest of your copy.
Headline formulas to try
If you need a refresher on the writing process behind great headlines, have a quick watch of the tutorial below.
In this Tutorial Tuesday, Joanna shows five ideas for generating more headlines (she recommends writing about 50).
Sound like a lot? Don’t worry! You’ll be surprised how quickly you can write 50 headlines with Joanna’s expert help.
There are so many formulas you can use when writing headlines it’s hard to pick a few to focus on.
I’ve chosen these 5 to show the difference in creativity and complexity that headlines can have.
The quantity headline
This headline formula is simple yet effective because it immediately gives your visitors proof that your product works.
Numeral + noun(s) + verb + object
Verb + numeral + noun
Of course, you’re going to have to provide more proof that the number you’ve used in the headline is true. You can use testimonials, case studies and more stats to do this.
Dropbox uses this formula on their home page:
Join [verb] + 700 million [numeral] + registered users [noun]
They’ve added more description to their noun by including ‘who trust Dropbox’.
They also make use of the subhead to show why their users love their product.
The timed headline
This headline formula is easy for your visitors to understand and hits on a desire they have to complete the task/do the thing you’re selling.
[Do something hard] in [Period of time]
Like in this example from Crazy Egg, they let their visitors know that they’ll get results – and get them fast – when they sign up.
Make your website better. [Do something hard] Instantly. [Period of time]
The headline is more effective because they include numerical proof and offer a free trial right below it.
The desired outcome headline
This one is simple and straight to the point. It addresses the main benefit that your visitors will get if they buy your product or service.
[Desired outcome] by [How to get it]
In this example from The Marketing Meetup, they address their ideal customers and tell them what they’ll be able to achieve when they join the membership.
Become a more knowledgeable and connected marketer [Desired outcome] by being part of our positively lovely community [How to get it]
The helping headline
This formula is similar to a value prop in its wording. But it doesn’t go deeper into your business’s ‘why’ and ‘how.’
Helping ______ do ______.
In this example from Copyblogger, they tell visitors who Copyblogger works with and what benefit they’ll get.
Although the wording is slightly different, it still follows the original formula.
We Help Writers [Who they’re helping ] Succeed [What they’re helping them do]
They’ve also added more description by saying where the writers will succeed ‘in the Creator Economy’.
This headline formula effectively tells visitors they’re in the right place immediately when they get to the website.
This helps reduce bounce rates because visitors need to read more of the website to determine if the product or service is right for them.
The paradoxical headline
This headline formula is one Jo taught in a workshop a few months ago. It goes like this:
Like a _______. Unlike any _______.
This is a more creative headline that draws attention to a specific feature of your product.
But, because it is more creative than descriptive, you’ve got to make good use of the subhead underneath.
Use the subhead to discuss how unique the feature is and why it’s important to your customers.
In this example from Motion, they use this headline formula and then go through why their calendar isn’t like regular calendars.
Like a calendar. [Like a _____.] Unlike any calendar [Unlike any _____.]
They’ve given the second half of this formula more impact by adding ‘you’ve ever seen’.
Using headline formulas
Using the formulas listed in this post or in the resources below is easy:
- Pick a headline formula
- Give yourself a time limit (a few minutes)
- Write out as many as you can think of in that time
- Repeat for other formulas you want to try
Remember that your headline doesn’t have to match the formula exactly.
Use your skills as a copywriter to determine what sounds best and what will speak to your visitors.
Resources for writing headlines:
- Copyhackers’ Book 2 (FREE ebook download)
- Copyhackers’ Ultimate Collection of Headline and CTA Formulas (FREE ebook download)
- The Practice: Rapid-Fire Headlines (Tutorial Tuesday)
- Master of Headlines (Copyhackers’ course)