The right headline can draw in even the most disinterested reader, luring them in to read the rest of your sales pitch. In the same way, a bad headline can totally turn off a reader who might be very interested in what you’re trying to sell.
While it would be nice to have, there is no specific rule that every headline needs to follow. That’s because it depends on what your topic is, what the goal of your writing is, and several other factors. There are, however, some basic rules and guidelines that can help you get started.
Tell them what they’re getting – If you have an interesting or desirable product that no one else has, telling people what you have or what your product can do may be all you need to get the reader to want to see more. The problem is, not all products are that unique or have proven results – but if they do, why waste your time trying to come up with something clever and eye-catching that may just confuse the reader rather than draw them in?
Keep them guessing – A good headline should inform the reader what they’re going to be reading about, but keep a little mystery in order to keep them reading. If the headline is totally ambiguous, people will just move on, but a little mystery will pique their interest.
Keep it short – There used to be a cardinal rule that a good headline couldn’t be longer than seven words long. While this rule is not always recommended, that doesn’t mean you have to totally throw it out the window. You can have headlines that are longer, but the fewer words you can get your point across in, the better. You can always use your introductory paragraph to elaborate a catchy but short headline.
Remember, it not only matters what your headline says, but what it looks like. Changing the font or color can make your sales pitch more appealing, but if you go too far, it can just confuse the reader and be painful to the eye.
This seems like an awful lot of thought to put into one line of writing for a document that may be several pages, but it’s not. Often, the headline is the only part the reader sees of your writing. If the headline is good, there’s a better chance they’ll read more (though it’s still low). In fact, the advice is to spend about as much time working on your headline as you do writing the rest of the piece. Yes, it is THAT important.
While the headline is the most important part of any article, blog post, copy, or any written material, it isn’t everything. Every good headline needs to have good material behind it.
The key to writing good headlines involves two things: study and practice. Take a look at sales letters, articles, and anything else with a headline and see what other people are doing. Then get to work on your own, and figure out what you’ve written that works, and what doesn’t.