A Simple Headline Writing Tip That Gets More Readers

numbers in headlines
Want to hear a simple headline writing tip? It’s become extraordinarily popular recently, but the truth is that this headline secret has been used since the days of Claude Hopkins in the 1920s to get readers to stop and take notice.

It’s really easy too. And, it doesn’t even involve using words.

What do these headlines have in common?

“8 Habits of Highly Effective Copywriters”

This works because it promises something short (only eight items to remember) and offers a big promise.  Learn a few new habits and your writing will be far more effective. The unspoken payoff is that you’ll then earn more and get more clients.

“How to Write a Blog Post in 15 Minutes”

This headline offers to help you do something hard (write a blog post) and cut the time needed to a fraction of what you probably expected it to take.

“Increase Your Blog Subscription Rate by 153%”

This promises specific, definite results.  Not just 150%, but 153. The exact number makes the claim far more credible.

“103 Ways to Get Top Bloggers to Link to You”

We want more links because links can bring more traffic and more clicks.  Offering over a hundred different ways to do it, and telling us that we can not only get those links, but receive them from top bloggers is a compelling promise.

15 Marketing Terms You Need to Know

The common theme is that they all have numbers in them. I know, everyone “hates” list posts, but they do get people to stop and look. And, the secret to successful marketing isn’t what you personally prefer. It’s what works.

Why numbers work

Numbers work because they force us to focus – and because they give us a finite, concrete sounding example of something; only 15 minutes to write a great post, or 103 ways to get noticed by blogging superstars.  Spend a few minutes reading these tips and you’ll get something concrete and important when you’re finished.

The more specific the number, the better.  For example, if you increased your subscription rate by 153%, don’t round it down to 150%, the “odd’ number looks more believable.

Lists and checklists

Lists help us process information and tell our brains that we’re getting a reward. A short list tells us that we can find out something useful in just a few minutes. A longer one shouts that it’s definitive and comprehensive.

A list called “five steps to getting clients on Facebook” tells us that if we just do five things, we’ll be able to turn our Facebook efforts into a powerful marketing tool. “101” Copywriting Tricks” promises information that will make our writing better and more effective, all in an easy-to-follow format.  Just go through the list and you’ve accomplished something big.

Bullet points and lists may be the “fast food” equivalent of post writing, but they’re easier to read (and finish) than a gourmet meal of long paragraphs.

Just follow the list! You’re now a better writer, a twitter guru, or irresistible to reporters.
And, who can resist something that will make you irresistible?

Image by Daniel Ullrich via Flickr

7 Secrets of Email Subject Lines That Sell


Image by smemon87 via Flickr

The right email subject line can make a big difference in the number of people who open your email. A great email subject line that sells will drive more opens and more clicks.

So, it’s important to make sure you write email subject lines your audience won’t be able to resist clicking.

These copywriting secrets aren’t new. Claude Hopkins used them and David Ogilvy used them, even though neither one of them ever sent an email.

1. Borrow some tips from newspaper headlines

“How”, “What” and “Why” are all compelling ways to start your subject line. We all want to know ‘How a $200 Investment Became a Multi-Million Dollar Company” or “Why Eating More Can Help You Lose Weight.” If there’s an apparent contradiction, or it makes us curious, that’s even better. Yes, it’s old and hokey. Still works though. Just ask Buzzfeed.

2. Use the “secret” words

They’re not really secret, they’re just words that get people to stop and take notice. Words such as “free”, “secrets”, “quick” and “easy.” Everyone likes free stuff, and wants simple, quick solutions to their problems.

3. Use numbers

You can use numbers in two different ways. First, as a list (5 Email Newsletter Essentials).  Second, as an indication of progress or improvement (How I Increased Clicks by 2300%.)

4. Comparisons

Make a comparison to something. This is especially effective if you compare something less known to something well-known or something that seems “wrong”.  For example,  “7 Reasons Why Target Jewelry is Better Than Tiffany’s” or “Why the Blair Witch Project is Scarier Than Nightmare on Elm Street. ”

5.  Commands and challenges

Tell readers to do something, such as “take this test” or “test your skills”  Encourage them to find out how good/smart they are in comparison to everyone else.   Or, challenge them to do something, such as “Can your floor wax stand up to a troop of stampeding cub scouts?”

6. Make a promise

Make a promise that your readers can get something done (especially something that they’ve been struggling with).  Offer to show them how they can “Start a Profitable Business in Just 30 Days” or “Finally, Get Rid of Stubborn Bathroom Mold.”

7. Offer something exclusive or limited

Limited offers and exclusive special deals can be very powerful (that’s why Groupon and w00t work so well).  If there are only a few books, coupons, deals, gadgets available, or they’re only on sale for a limited time, they become much more appealing.

How to Write Magnetic Email Subject Lines

Iron filings showing the direction of the magn...

Image via Wikipedia

Do you know what makes an email subject line irresistible?  What are the top email subject lines?  And how can you make sure that your emails get opened?

A great subject line is the key to your email campaign’s success. It’s the first thing your readers see. If the subject line is dull (or irrelevant), your message won’t be seen. Think of it like a news headline.  It’s got to grab attention, and grab it quickly.

Surprising top email subject lines

In some cases, the emails that get opened the most will have subject lines that are, well, dull:  “Broadcast Stat Report”, “[Company] Holiday Party, or “Your Order From [Company].”

These messages get high open rates because they’re immediate (where’s the party?), relevant (report on your email broadcast), useful and specific (how many people opened my email and how many clicks did I get?).

What makes a subject line irresistible?

Using the line “Holiday Party” is OK for just sending information. If you want people to take action, you’ll need something more compelling.

The best email subject lines (if you’re marketing something) are those that promise useful, specific, relevant information, without a hard sell or spammy promises of instant internet riches. If you want your emails to get opened, avoid continually offering “sales.”  At first, they may just hit delete.  After a while, it’s straight to the unsubscribe link.

Clean and simple headline

Use a spam checker (this should be included in your email newsletter provider’s software) to look for words that might send your message to the spam folder.

Keep it shorter (longer subject lines tend to get cut off in preview mode).

Offer solutions to immediate problems

One of my best-performing email subject lines was “Five things your website must have.” Another top performer was “How to get the fees you deserve.” Write something that excites curiosity; the only way to find out what those five things were was to open the email.

Focus on your readers

Make the subject about your readers (not you).  If you want opinions, ask “what do you think?, “rather than “help us with this survey.” Ask them to do something (in their interest), such as downloading their copy of a relevant new report.

A Copywriting Tip from Graffiti

Graffiti, Lower East Side, NYC

Image via Wikipedia

We New Yorkers love to express ourselves (shocking, I know). We’re noisy, opinionated, and like to let everyone know it.

Graffiti is everywhere, but if you put up something in this town, you’d better be prepared for wisecracks, kibbitzing, and takedowns.

For example, here’s a sample of graffiti spotted on a subway platform long ago:


Underneath that, someone wrote

Bartok? Lugosi? or Abzug?

One was a composer, the second starred in horror movies, and the third was a member of congress (famous for her big hats and her wit).

Clarity matters

When you’re marketing your business, there are three things you need to do:

1) tell the right people about your business

2) set yourself apart from your competition

3) be clear about what you do (and what you don’t do)

Don’t confuse your prospects

Otherwise, your readers could end up with horror movies when they wanted music.  Or staring at a gallery of hats when they were looking for zombies. They may like both (but they may not).

Before you hit that button, launch that site, or push that email campaign, show it to someone who hasn’t been directly involved in the project. It’s best if they closely match your target audience, but any smart person will do.

Ask them if they understand your product or your page.  If anything puzzles them, ask them why and how you can make everything clearer.

Confused readers and prospects won’t buy from you.  They’ll just click away, close their email, or turn the page.

Three Quick Ways to Write Great Headlines

Men and a woman reading headlines posted in st...

Image by The Library of Congress via Flickr

David Ogilvy said that ““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.”

When writing copy, he spent most of his time writing the headline.

Why spend so much time on a few words?

Because the  headline is the most critical part of your article or ad.  That’s where the money is.

Write a crummy headline and nobody will look at the rest of your content.

Write a great one, and people will eagerly keep reading.

But how?

How to easily write great headlines

Luckily, there are some formulas for this. All you have to do is take one of them and fill in the blanks.

Use an extreme:

The 10 Worst _______,

The Five Biggest _______,

The Best ________

Use a number:

10 Ways to _____________,

27 Secrets of  ___________,

101 Free ____________.

Larger numbers are more likely to be bookmarked (who can read 101 Blogging Secrets all at once?)

Promise something useful:

How to ______________,

The Complete Guide to _____________.

While I was looking for a photo to illustrate this post, I found a photo with images of newspaper headlines trumpeting the success of the Salk vaccine, “The Salk Vaccine Works!”, “Polio Vaccine is Safe and Effective!” That was certainly great news, but it was poor headline writing.  Those headlines give the entire story away.  Once you see the headline, there’s no need to pick up the paper, or click the post to read the rest of the article. There’s no suspense!

Have you struggled with writing headlines?  Which do you spend more time writing? The headline or everything else?