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Putting Your Best Foot Forward: Heavy Headlines and the Triangle

Copywriting | 8 Jun 2012

As I’ve discussed before, the audience that you will be interacting with online is a unique one. That doesn’t mean that all of the old methods that made copywriting a modern force no longer apply. In fact, the unique attributes of the online audience (in particular, their short attention span) make some of the classic copywriting techniques even more powerful when applied in the most modern setting.

Today I’ll be discussing the importance of two major concepts in copywriting: The headline and the triangle. Headlines refer to all the titles that you’ll be using on any of your copywriting. Anything from the banner above a new product to the heading of a blog post should take into consideration the power that these first impressions can have on whether your customers decide to buy or sell.

The triangle refers to a method of developing your copy, which we’ll be discussing next time. It’s already a major part of the education of journalists and public relation specialists, but it’s considered vital to copywriting too. We’ll explain more about that later.

Headlines: The First Line of Defense against Apathy

People who browse and shop the web are busy, even if they have nothing to do. Their connection to the internet offers them an almost unlimited amount of information, entertainment, and other pleasant distractions. If you want to be a part of that, you need to put forth the effort, and the first chance you’ll get is with your headline.

The Headline is an odd beast. It must be both short enough to be read in a quick sweep, and substantive enough to actually convince your audience that what follows is not a complete waste of their time. It’s a delicate balance that can stump even veteran marketers.

Just because coming up with the perfect headline is difficult doesn’t make it a waste of your time, though. It could very well be the biggest factor in any conversion you make. Remember—no product feature means anything if no one sticks around long enough to find out what it is.

If you want to take advantage of the power of a good headline, you’ll need to know how. Below, I’ve collected some of the most popular ways to give headlines power, paraphrased from some of the most famous names in copywriting.

Make it About Them

The people that come to your website don’t trust you. They are part of the most jaded and generation of buyers that ever lived, and they’ve been promised more by advertising since they were five years old than every resource in the world could deliver. If you want to catch their attention, you have to make it less about what you can offer them, and more about what they can offer themselves if they bought your product.

Take yourself out of your headlines. Don’t say “I can offer you” or with my help”. State the biggest advantage of your product upfront in a way that addresses exactly the people who need it. When possible, use your headline to hint that what you’re offering is something they already want, something they’ve always wanted, something everyone wants.

Prod at Their Emotions

The phrase “there’s no such thing as bad press” can also apply to copywriting. If you can get a customer to read the next line below the headline, you’ve made progress. Don’t think that the most famous copywriters were above using the dirtiest tricks in human psychology to get that second glance.

Customers can be hard to excite, but are typically very curious and easy to confuse. With the right techniques, a headline can be a puzzle that their mind will be compelled to solve by reading on. Using the headline to present a perplexing problem or contradiction is an old tactic that is known to be very effective.

A headline can be adjusted to target almost any emotions, but there are some that should be avoided. Much testing has been done to establish that people react badly to advertising that encourages them to feel pity, sadness or remorse. Targeting human insecurities is obviously effective, but rarely as effective as presenting the solution instead of telling them what they already feel…which brings me to my next point.

Put the Solution before the Problem

You won’t get very far by reminding people that they have problems, particularly when you are using a medium where your customers most often come looking for you. Your priority is the solution to their problem, and it’s the first thing that they want to know. If it sounds promising, then they’re far more likely to read on to see what you have to offer them.

There are Exceptions to Every Rule

Just because these tactics are known to be effective doesn’t mean they are the limit to what is effective. Comparatively speaking, copywriting is still a very young industry, and it is now dominated by an even younger medium. Your best bet for getting ahead is to focus on what works for your customers and then shaking up your technique over and over again until you find out what you’re doing right. Hopefully, you’ll make a boatload of money along the way.

Related posts:

  1. The Fundamentals of Copywriting
  2. Refining Your Copy for the Web
  3. Why Copywriting Matters in Online Marketing

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