7 Simple Tips for Writing Better Marketing Headlines

Image from "The Simpsons" TV show, showing someone holding a newspaper with a photo of Grandpa Simpson holding his fist in the air at a cloud in the blue sky, and the headline over that photo reads, "OLD MAN YELLS AT CLOUD."
Headlines drive all of us crazy at times.

Headlines are among the most important topics in marketing. According to advertising legend David Ogilvy, “On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy.”

Simply tweaking the headline of an ad, email, or other marketing promotion can take it from a failure to a huge success.

If you want to improve your marketing results, start with these tips.

1. Choose Open-Ended vs. Closed Headlines

The headline has to draw people in and make them curious to read the rest, which is why open-ended headlines are powerful.

Let’s look at a simple example:

Vitamins Are Good for You

Because this headline is closed, it’s really just a statement—so it’s not very compelling to the reader. How about this one?

Here’s the One Supplement You Should Take Every Day

Better! People are more likely to be intrigued and want to find out the answer.

Two popular examples of open-ended headlines are lists and how-tos, such as:

  • 10 Ways to Improve Your Blog
  • How to Get More Blog Traffic

One reason these types of headlines work so well is that people are naturally curious.

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2. Get Readers’ Attention

The headline needs to interest your readers and grab their attention.

Some businesses make the mistake of thinking this doesn’t apply to them because they think their industry is dull. Many people are passionate about topics like traveling, snowboarding, and gardening, but what if you sell commercial-grade kitchen appliances?

Fact: The headline doesn’t have to be interesting to everyone—just your target market!

Most people don’t want to read an article titled “10 Tips for Choosing the Best Commercial Oven,” but if your target audience is restaurant owners, then it can still be an effective headline.

Don’t Miss: How to Create Boring-Industry Content That Gets Shared

Image of a quote that says, "A headline doesn't have to be interesting to everyone—just your target market."

3. Make the Headline Useful

You want to get your readers’ attention, but you don’t want to mislead them. So make sure the headline matches up with the rest of the content.

Think of the headline as a promise to readers: It should hint at what they’ll get in return for their time and attention.

4. Try to Be Specific

Vague headlines usually don’t perform well. It’s time to get specific.

If you saw two different blog posts or ads with these headlines, which one would you be more likely to read?

  • Save Money
  • How to Save 50% on Groceries Right Now

5. You Don’t Have to Write It First

Just because the headline is the first thing the reader sees, that doesn’t mean you need to write it first.

In fact, it’s sometimes best to write it last. That way, you know exactly what the entire piece is about, and you can craft a headline that suits it.

Don’t Miss: Why You Should Always Write Your Headline Last

6. Try Out Multiple Headlines

One mistake that many people make is to focus on crafting a single, perfect headline. It’s usually better to write a bunch that come to mind, then choose the one you like best.

If you’re able to test different headlines and see which one produces the best results, that’s also a great way to choose between them. A/B testing your headlines like this can boost your readership by 25 percent or more.

7. Headline Length

The length of a headline can vary depending on whether it’s for a blog post, a white paper, an advertisement, or another type of content.

A good rule of thumb is five to 10 words long, but don’t take that too literally—it’s OK to be outside that range. The quality of a headline is much more important than how many words are in it.

By following the tips above, you can produce great headlines for all of your marketing content. And if you’re looking for a copy editor who understands headlines and other marketing topics, contact us today.

Dave Baker

View posts by Dave Baker
Hi, I'm Dave Baker, founder and copy chief of Super Copy Editors. I have more than two decades of professional proofreading and copy editing experience, including work for The Nation magazine, The New York Times, and The Times-Picayune of New Orleans, where I shared two staff Pulitzer Prizes after Hurricane Katrina. Today, I have put together a hand-picked team of copy editors, and we especially love working with ad agencies, marketing departments, and education companies to make their text as polished as possible. Learn more here.

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