How to Write Better Headlines Even If You Suck at Copywriting
What do blog posts, sales pages, emails, ads, YouTube videos, etc., all have in common?
They need a headline.
And not just any headline.
They need a great headline.
The headline is the most important part of any piece of work for your website.
It doesn’t matter how awesome your latest blog post is if nobody reads it. And nobody will if you do not have a headline that captures their attention.
Not even your most loyal followers will read your content if the headline does not spark their interest.
If you don’t believe in the power of headlines, this article may change your mind. According to it, Upworthy writers are tasked with writing more than 25 different headlines for each post.
And they have good reason to. Headlines are that important.
But how do you create great ones? Especially if you suck at copywriting like me?
I this post I hope to answer that question and show you the following:
1) How to come up with headline ideas even if you lack creativity.
2) How to analyze these ideas and turn them into great headlines.
3) How to go beyond analysis and actually test your headlines to find the best one.
How to generate headline ideas in just 5 minutes
A simple google search will reveal a horde of headline tips, formulas, proven templates, etc.
You can — and should — use these formulas when creating headlines.
Why re-invent the wheel when other marketers are ready to hand over their blueprint for the latest Michelin tires?
Thanks to technology, you don’t even need to spend time searching through lists for your next headline idea.
Tools can do that for you.
IMPACT’s Blog About title generator is not only beautiful, it is also extremely useful for coming up with blog headlines.
Enter your topic and prepare to get served headline ideas for your notebook.
Inbound Now also has a blog title generator that will show you headline ideas en masse.
These two tools should give you plenty of ideas.
However, tools are only as good as the users of them. So knowing a bit about headlines won’t hurt.
Analyze and improve your headlines with these tools
Getting ideas for headlines is only the first step towards writing better headlines. Next, you need to analyze your ideas.
How do you know when you have a great headline?
The short answer: you don’t. Instead, you test and let the numbers tell you.
We’ll get to testing later, but for now, let’s look at what you can do before you start testing.
Again, thanks to technology, the internet, and science, we have tools that can help us in this situation.
The most popular free tool for this is the Headline Analyzer by CoSchedule. And there’s a reason why it is so popular: it delivers and a lot of useful information in a nicely presented format.
It will even give your headline an overall score so you can easily compare headlines and see how you are doing.
However, CoSchedule is not the only headline analyzer out there.
SHARETHROUGH also has a tool that will score your headline with overall, engagement, and impression scores.
Their tool is apparently built on principles from Behavior Model theory and their own neuroscience and advertising research.
The third tool I’ve started using is an analyzer with a lengthy name. It’s called the Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer by Advanced Marketing Institute.
This tool will analyze the Emotional Marketing Value (EVM) of your headline and give you a score based on this. EVM is based on studies of impact words — words with strong emotional value.
At first, this tool didn’t spark much interest as it’s not nearly as detailed or well-developed as the other tools. And it’s from 2009.
But after reading this blog post it became a bit more interesting. In the post, Garrett Moon reveals some of his findings after analyzing 1 million blog headlines.
The interesting part is that Garrett found that there’s a direct link between the EVM score and the number of shares a blog post received.
So, the higher your EVM score is, the more likely your headline is to get shared.
Which makes the EVM tool much more interesting.
On a final note, Garrett is the founder of CoSchedule so I guess these findings are also incorporated in the CoSchedule headline analyzer. Nonetheless, the EVM tool is there for you to add to your headline analysis.
There are many headline styles out there, from ALL CAPS to all lowercase with many capitalization styles in-between: Associate Press Style, APA, Chicago, MLA, etc.
What ruleset to use depends on the style of your website. But a good starting point is a consistent style, most likely following one of the major styles mentioned above.
Again, you can find plenty of tools online to help you do this.
I used to be very inconsistent in my headlines.
Sometimes I would capitalize words, other times I wouldn’t. Now I just paste my headline into one of these tools and I’m good to go.
Headline tests are the only way you’ll ever know the truth
A headline score supplied by a headline analyzer is one thing.
Results from real use is a whole other world.
Headline scores, formulas, and scripts are all just guidelines.
If you are consistently producing high scoring headlines, you are more likely to have good performing headlines than if you are ranking in the lower end of the spectrum.
But just because a headline scores 80 and another scores 79 doesn’t mean that the 80 will always outperform the 79.
To decide a winner in such a race, you need a real experiment in the wild.
A test like that is often referred to as an A/B test or a split test. You have two variations, A and B, and you want to test which one performs better.
A/B testing is one of the simplest variations tests. But the results can have broad consequences.
Marketers often find that one variation outperforms the other by 10% to 90%, and sometimes even much more. And that’s huge.
But how do you test your website headlines?
First up, you should start testing your most important pages: sales pages, landing pages etc. These will have the biggest impact on your overall profits.
But testing regular posts can also be beneficial.
A free tool like Google’s Optimize makes split testing relatively simple.
However, even a basic A/B test is quite technical with all the setup required. And doing it wrong can make your page act weird (happened to me while testing the platform).
How to use Google Optimize is beyond the scope of this post. After all, we were just talking about headlines, not full-fledged page tests and optimizations.
So let’s get back on track.
How can you test your headlines without doing a full A/B test on your website?
One tip I have is this: you can very easily test your headlines using your email autoresponder.
I recently started doing this.
And the first test I did with just two headlines proved rather useful: the headline I didn’t use for my blog post performed roughly 75% better than the one I used.
Naturally, I immediately changed my post headline after doing the test.
But if I hadn’t performed the A/B test, I would still be using the underperforming headline today.
And I wouldn’t know just how much better it could be doing.
Most email platforms allow you to do A/B split tests.
If yours doesn’t, maybe it’s time to reconsider. Testing should be a core part of any email marketing strategy.
With GetResponse you can simply enable the A/B split test when sending a newsletter and then pick the subject option.
This will allow you to test different subject lines:
Next, you set up your test, deciding what to optimize for, how many people to test on etc.
And the email system will take care of the rest.
Once the test is done you can come back and view the result. And if you are lucky as in my case, you’ll have a clear winner.
Not only does this allow you to test which headline to use in your actual post, it also boosts your email efforts tremendously.
Are you prepared to do the work?
On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar. — David Ogilvy
It’s hard to overestimate the importance of headlines.
Especially in a time where people are hammered with more information than ever.
You are competing for attention, and you are competing against the rest of the world.
Just think about how we use social media.
Twitter is essentially a platform for headlines. Albeit a bit longer headlines, there’s no body text present there. It’s all headlines.
The same goes for most social media.
And for the email inbox.
And for most advertising.
You can include Google search results too.
Even your own website front page is most likely dominated by headlines.
They are everywhere, and if they are not great, the body copy will never be read. You may as well not have written it if you don’t attach it to a great headline.
The lesson is quite clear: you better learn to appreciate the importance of headlines.
And then you need to turn that appreciation into action.
You need to study what makes a good headline, and you need to spend more time crafting your own.
The question is, are you ready to do the work?
In this post I have shown you some tools and places to start your journey. They have helped me, and I hope they will help you too. But this is just the beginning.
You decide where to go next.
Do you want to become a better marketer? Your headline is a great place to start.