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Last article, I kicked off this series with part one of how to write a headline:
I stated that the headline is arguably the most important part of your copy. Because your headline must capture your intended customer’s attention and make them stop and read the rest of your copy.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with writing your headline first or last. There are benefits to doing it either way.
Sometimes the angle of your headline or “the hook” will change the follow up copy a little bit. So if you write your headline last you may need to tweak your body copy to fit in with it. Depending on the project you may feel you cannot get started without a good headline to get the momentum of the copy going and really get into it. If you write your headline last you will thoroughly know the product, the flow of your copy and it may be easier to pick out an angle or Unique Selling Proposition to push in the headline.
Regardless of writing the headline first or last, don’t make the fatal mistake of not investing enough time in the headline. For the above mentioned reasons the headline is not an afterthought, it is your foot in the door, it is the start of your sales “conversation” with the prospect. It is your first impression so don’t blow it. You only get one chance before your prospect closes the browser window or throws your letter in the trash.
Many a great copywriter has spoken about spending hours or writing hundreds of headlines until they found the perfect one. So do not underestimate this part of copywriting and do not feel bad investing some serious time into it.
People may know the pre-headline as that yellow highlighted text at the top of a page that sends a “caution sales letter ahead” warning sign into their brain.
But to be honest I don’t mind the pre-headline and a lot of the most successful sales letters use them. I think nowadays on the Internet with so much clutter and pre-avenues (search engine results, Adwords, Facebook, Twitter links, resource boxes in articles etc) that can lead to landing on a page – the pre-headline can help let your prospect know straight away that they are in the right place and you have something that can potentially help them.
Let’s look at one from a successful Clickbank product called Tinnitus Miracle. Tinnitus is the medical term for ringing in the ears.
ATTENTION! If You or Someone You Love is Suffering from Tinnitus, Then This Will Be the Most Important Letter You Will Ever Read…
This is great. Straight and to the point. If you are losing your hearing or have some other hearing problem then this letter is not for you. Conversely the letter is not only written to sufferers of tinnitus, but also their spouses or family members who no doubt have heard the frustrations of their tinnitus suffering loved one. So straight away the target audience is identified and reassured that what follows is very important to them.
Many people may scoff at this idea, but once you start doing it you will realize how powerful it can be. Just like reading good copy and sales letters can be beneficial, reading good headlines can help you get into a groove and feel what a good headline does.
It is a little known fact that some of the highest paid writers in the country write the cover headlines for magazines like The National Enquirer and other popular magazines like Cosmopolitan and Men’s Health. These a big money making magazines. I have heard The National Enquirer is the largest selling newspaper on earth (funny that cause nobody every admits to reading it!). These magazines occupy prime position at the supermarket checkout and their headlines are among the catchiest you will ever read.
I’m about to give you a priceless education in copy headline writing – seriously, this is worth a ton of money.
Check out this great link from Google images of all the Cosmopolitan covers. If you hover your mouse over the covers they will enlarge enough so you can read them.
Do you notice in 8 out of 10 covers what word appears in the headline under the “COS” of Cosmopolitan?
Coincidence? I don’t think so. Companies like this don’t gamble, that is why words like this are repeatedly used.
Two easy to use headlines that can be adapted to most niches are:
The “How…” headline was a favorite of master copywriter John Carlton. Here are two classic Carlton golf examples:
“How A Blind Golfer Stumbled Onto The Simple Secret Behind David Duval’s Swing That Can Give Anyone Unbelievable Distance With Total Accuracy!”
“How One Simple “Magic Move” (Which You Can Easily Feed Into Your Current Swing In Just 9 Minutes, Even If You Stink At The Game Right Now) Instantly Uncorks So Much Hidden Raw Power, Balance And Accuracy… That You Can Go Out Tomorrow And Launch A Pin-Point 230-Yard Tee Shot With A 3-Wood… From Your Knees!”
How is that last example for a headline?
Carlton shows you, if done correctly, a long headline with punctuation like brackets and ellipsis can work.
Now a lot of you reading this probably look at both those headlines, especially the last one and think they sound way too over the top. Just put them in context, these were most likely appearing in golf magazines and are targeted at obviously golf players. In that context it would be hard to argue, if you were the intended audience, you are at least not a little curious to read the opening paragraph. If the answer is “Yes”, then the headline has done its job!
I like the “if… then…” headline because it almost allows you to make a disclaimer with a bold claim. So instead of coming out and saying “You Can Get A Totally Ripped Six Pack!” I can say something like “If You Have 20 Minutes a Day To Exercise Then I Can Show You How To Get A Flat Firm Stomach”.
The second headline sounds more believable because there is a condition that needs to be followed. It grounds the statement in a little more reality, so it doesn’t just sound like some unbelievable miracle promise.
Next week, we will talk more about what happens after your headline, the body of your copy or salesletter.
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