According to “The Father of Advertising,” David Ogilvy, the headline is responsible for 80% of success (of an article, an ad, or your homepage.)
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
That’s why headlines deserve the majority of our attention when writing copy. But what does a solid headline look like? As it turns out, John Caples (one of the most famous copyrighters of all time) put together a list of 35 headline formulas in his book, Tested Advertising Methods.
Save this article for future reference. Consult it whenever you need a strong headline. Get inspiration and use templates that have been proven to work.
Using Keywords in Headlines
These are your workhorse headlines. Use them often.
When you can’t come up with anything and your blinking cursor starts staring you down, choose one of these bad boys. Each sets you up to get the attention you need.
These headlines also encourage you to write good copy that provides value through helpful information. Use these headlines to teach, explain, and help people. Then ask for the sale. You’ll build trust with your audience and prove to them that you have value to offer.
- Begin Your Headline with the Words “How To”
- Begin Your Headline with the Word “How” (It’s basically a duplicate, I know)
- Begin Your Headline With the Word “Why”
- Begin Your Headline with the Word “Which”
- Begin Your Headline with the Words “Who Else”
- Begin Your Headline with the Word “Wanted”
- Begin Your Headline with the Word “This”
- Begin Your Headline with the Word “Because”
- Begin Your Headline with the Word “If”
- Begin Your Headline with the Word “Advice”
Headlines that Focus on Benefits
These headlines will give you the most sales with the least amount of effort.
Take the time to get good at them and you’ll never have to worry about your marketing failing ever again.
- Use a Testimonial Headline
- Offer the Reader a Test (Can Your Kitchen Pass the Guest Test?)
- Offer Information in Value
- Tell a Story
- Warn the Reader to Delay Buying
- Let the Advertiser Speak Directly to the Reader (Write the entire ad in the first person and speak directly to the reader)
- Address Your Headline to Specific Person or Group (I suggest you address your target market)
- Have Your Headline Ask a Question
- Offer Benefits Through Facts and Figures
People always want to know what’s new and exciting. And the best way to show them that you have something new and exciting is to blantantly tell them.
- Begin Your Headline with the Word “Introducing”
- Begin Your Headline with the Word “Announcing”
- Use Words that Have an Announcement Quality (Finally, Presenting, Just Released, etc)
- Begin Your Headline With the Word “New”
- Begin Your Headline With the Word “Now”
- Begin Your Headlines With the Words “At Last”
- Put a Date Into Your Headline
- Write Your Headline In News Style (This one’s a little redundant, focus on pushing the announcement angle)
Price Related Headlines
Be careful with price headlines, they’re too easy. Marketers rely on them WAY too frequently and condition their customers to only respond to discounts. When you can only sell with discounts, you’ve pushed your business into a death-spiral. Keep them in your back pocket for emergencies but avoid them as often as possible.
- Feature the Price in Your Headline
- Feature Reduced Price
- Feature a Special Merchandising Offer
- Feature an Easy Payment Plan
- Feature a Free Offer
One to Three Word Headlines
You’ll want to leave these headlines for the pros. Why? Because they still need to accomplish what the other headlines do naturally (grab attention with benefits or curiosity). But they only have 1-3 words to do it.
It’s simply too easy to slip from attention grabbing to completely confusing.
Remember: don’t make your copy cute. No one will get it. They’ll just think you’re boring and confusing.
So approach these last 3 with extreme caution.
- Use a One Word Headline
- Use a Two Word Headline
- Use a Three Word Headline
This should be your solid base. Take it, improve it, and make it work for you. It has worked for countless others, so you know you’re starting with a great foundation.
The 35 Headline Formulas of John Caples
PS. Tested Advertising Methods book is fantastic. If you haven’t read it, you definitely should.