What catches your eye as you browse the internet or scan the morning paper? Do you pass over articles or websites with unimaginative, boring names? Journalists and copywriters never underestimate the power of a well-chosen headline. Nevertheless, people frequently fail to realize the critical effect that a headline has on the success of an ad, article, press release, marketing document, or website.
Regardless of the kind of marketing that the document is designed to do, its first vital role is to grab the attention of the reader. A dull or uninteresting headline is likely to be overlooked without its copy being read. As a result, the subject will not get the attention it deserves.
Because its success depends directly on snatching the reader’s eye, the words of the headline must be carefully chosen. The first consideration is its audience, and the title should target specific prospects. If the headline fails to generate interest, there is little chance that the document itself will be seen. The results of any marketing campaign will be a direct result of the succinct and pertinent quality of the headline. It is essential for it to arouse interest and keep one’s attention if it is to be effective.
The failure of a headline to be noticed means that information will be ignored. As a result, sales will be lost. Since many people read a headline and few continue to read the complete body, half of the editor’s writing efforts should be spent on the development of a good headline. Doing this well will ensure that the copy has a much higher chance of actually being seen.
Yet, a great headline in itself is not enough to guarantee that the writing will be successful. To do so, the body of the copy must follow up the information in the title with specific and relevant information. While a well-chosen headline can sell copy that has excellent, or even good, content, the opposite may not necessarily be true. Even the greatest body can go unread if the headline is poor.
It is mandatory that writers realize that all headlines need to be useful to readers. In fact, the headline should in itself create a sense of urgency that compels the reader to continue reading. It should sell the reader on the fact that the “benefit” offered is unique. Strong emotions usually attract readers, and so do rewards for reading. The headline should be intriguing, yet believable.
There are many ways any given headline could be written, but it should always relate directly to the tone of the content. “Direct” headlines state the sales proposition in a straight, no-nonsense way. “Indirect” headlines are more subtle and invoke the reader’s curiosity, tempting them to continue reading. “News” headlines are simply a news release. Likewise,”how to” titles are often read for their practicality. Still others, such as “command” headlines, “question” headlines, “reason why” headlines, and “testimonial” headlines, present the subject matter in various ways.
When a writer understands the importance of saying just the right thing in a headline, he is better able to choose appropriate wording. The creation of believable, yet intriguing, titles not only guarantees that the document will more likely be read, but it helps the reader to choose exactly the information he is searching for, as well.