How to Write Sales Copy – Headlines

Headlines are what attract people and make them want to read more.

If your headline doesn’t grab people’s attention, then they won’t stick around to read more.

So how do you write a good headline?

How To Write A Great Headline For Your Sales Page

David Ogilvy, the world-famous advertising man, once said that five times as many people on average read the headlines of an advertisement as read the main text of the sales copy.

And whether or not people will read the rest of your sales copy depends on whether your headline interests them.

This is even more so with online sales copy where it’s very easy for people to just click away from your site.

So your headline is the most important part of your sales copy.

Headlines are the first lines of your sales message that people read. Your headline will either make your readers curious to find out more – or cause them to stop reading any further.

It doesn’t matter how brilliant the main body of your copy is. If your headline fails to appeal, then you’ll have lost potential customers before you’ve even had a chance to get them to read what you have to say.

The Sole Purpose of a Headline is To Get Your Reader To Read More

The sole purpose of the headline in a piece of sales copy is to attract the attention of your reader and give him or her a reason to want to read your copy. No more and no less.

John Caples, a famous advertising professional, wrote in his book Tested Advertising Methods, that a headline should do the following – in order of effectiveness:

  • Appeal to the reader’s self-interest
  • Provide some new information
  • Arouse the reader’s curiosity

And if possible, a headline should achieve all three of these aims.

There’s another thing a successful headline should do.  It should strive to be unique.

If your headline is just the same as everyone else’s or uses clichéd phrases that your customers have already heard a million times over, then it’s less likely to be effective as it could have been.

People are now exposed to more and more advertising. This means you have to work harder to get their attention. So you need to find slogans and headlines which stand out – and which also appeal to these three factors – self-interest, information, and curiosity.

A headline doesn’t actually have to consist of just one sentence. It could be two, or three, or sometimes even more sentences.

You can achieve this by means of “taglines”. These are sub-headlines which you place before, and/or after, the main headline, usually in smaller font or using different typeface.

You can also ask a question. Or do a question/answer combination.

Self interest is the most powerful emotion your headline can appeal to. And so it’s the one you should always try to include in your headline.

You can write headlines based on curiosity alone rather than information or self-interest.  But you have to do this in such a way that the majority of readers will actually be curious enough to read on.

Otherwise, trying to rely on curiosity alone is a high risk strategy – and it has to be very good to be successful.

In most cases it’s better to stick to providing solid information which encourages your readers to continue reading.

Providing information in your headline has more chance of success than trying to write something clever which doesn’t appeal to self-interest, doesn’t provide any information, and doesn’t offer any curiosity value either.

Your headline should also be specific to your product or some aspect or benefit of your product. General headlines which don’t give an indication of what the copy is about or which could be generically applied to practically any other product are not a good idea.

So make sure your headline sets out clearly what the product is. Otherwise you forego readers and with that potential customers.

Don’t Try To Make Your Headline Overly Clever or Creative

Too much sales copy tries to be overly “creative”, literary, artistic or jokey. This results in headlines which do not appeal to any self-interest of the customer.

For example headlines such as “Enjoy The Moment”, “Live Life Now”, “Be More Dog” and similar such oddities.

Do headlines of that kind appeal to any self-interest? Do they provide any information? Do they make you curious? Perhaps they might make a few people curious. But that’s about all they achieve.

Yet the advertising profession love that kind of thing. At least I assume they do because they give themselves awards every year for copy written in that style. But I doubt it achieves much for their clients sales.

If your headline doesn’t promise anything specific to the customer, then people won’t know if the product is of interest to them or not. No matter whether the headline or the ad has won an advertising industry award or not.

This kind of thing happens when businesses, ad agencies and copywriters start thinking of their own status and standing and forget about the interests of the customer who will actually buy the product.

If you always put the customer first, there is no need and no point in being overly clever, weird or creative.

Remember: you are writing copy to sell a product. Not to win an advertising agency industry award.

Some Proven Headline Techniques

Here’s a quick and to the point list of some headline techniques which have been proven to work time and again.

These by the way are all recommendations from the world-famous advertising professional John Caples, and they’re described in his classic book on advertising: “Tested Advertising Methods”.

News style:  Introducing, Announcing, New, Now, At last

Date: As of Today, Starting, From 1 January

Price: From Only, For Just, For Less Than

Special offer or special deal: Buy One – Get One Free, Free Refills, We’ve Cut Our Prices, Sales Starts, Big Reductions on

Value: The Best, Quality At An Affordable Price, Not The Cheapest, But The Best

Exclusivity or snob appeal:  Our Range Isn’t For Everyone,  For The Discerning Customer

Keyword: How To, How, Why, Which , Who Else, Wanted, This, Because, If, Advice For, Some Tips

Questions: Do You, Is Your, Are You Looking For, Do You Like

Negative: Don’t Buy A.. Before You’ve, Don’t Just, Don’t Choose, Don’t Waste Your Money On, Don’t Settle For Less Than

Direct Appeal: We’re Inviting You To, We Guarantee That, We Want You To, I Can Help You, I Can Show You

Benefit: Make 25% In Three Months, Live Longer, Lose Weight fast, Make Yourself More Attractive

Test: Take Our .. For A Test Drive, Try Our, Take Part In A Free Trial

Testimonial:  I Was Amazed, I Couldn’t Believe, I Used To Think, I Never Thought

Create a Sense of Urgency In Your Headline

Urgency is another approach which also works well.

Given the opportunity, people generally prefer to procrastinate rather than to take action. So if you can add a sense of urgency to your headline, then your copy will have a much better conversion rate.

This is why businesses tend to hold discount sales every so often, but only for a limited period. Discount sales combine self-interest (the chance to save money), with a sense of urgency (a limited time period).

These two factors alone entice people to read the rest of the copy.

You should draft at least several or more possible headlines for your copy. The more the better. It can take many attempts and a lot of drafting to work out a headline which will do the job effectively.

Don’t forget:

Ideally you want your headline to appeal to the self-interest of the reader by stating a benefit, to provide some useful information, and to have some curiosity value.

And the point of the headline is always to attract attention and encourage the reader to read the rest of your copy.

That’s all.