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

How to Write a Landing Page That Sells

landing page writing

There are several elements that every landing page needs in order to convert.

If you don’t know what a landing page is, it’s a page on your site that is set up specifically to ask for an action: this could be signing up for a newsletter, ordering an ebook, or registering for a webinar.

Think of it as your 24/7 sales page.  The page that works night and day, answering questions, selling your products, and helping your customers (even when your company is closed).

Start with a headline

The first thing your page will need is  a great headline.  This is the first thing readers will see when they get there, and it has to grab their attention right away.  If not, they’ll just click away.

If you’re sending readers from an ad campaign or an email message, make sure the headlines match. This tells visitors they have come to the right place.

Build on the headline

Did that headline make a big promise?  Or offer to solve a problem?  Are you directing it at a specific group of people?

Build on the attention you got with that headline.  Tell readers how you will deliver on that promise.  Show them you understand the problem they are having and that you really can solve it.

Use simple words

When you know too much about something, and how it’s supposed to work, it’s difficult to look at it without that “curse of knowledge.” Instead, use clear, simple language.  This is not the time to show off your vocabulary or lard your page with jargon.

Resist the temptation to use technical terms (unless you’re absolutely sure that your audience knows them). I recently reviewed a site discussing great PC apps – the writer talked about P2P, winamp, and VPNs.  I know what those things mean (since I speak conversational geek).  The average computer user probably doesn’t.

Talk in terms your audience will understand (without running to Google, or worse, leaving your site in frustration).

Clear instructions

See the sign at the top of the post?  It’s in a park in Canada.  Should you go left? Or should you go right?  What would you find in either direction?  Restrooms?  Restaurants?  Lodging?  Flower gardens? I can’t tell what the people who posted the signs want me to do.  Can you?

Same thing with web sales pages.  If you’re not clear about who you are or what you want people to do, they’ll click away from your page, leave your site, and never come back.

Stay focused

Have a single object in mind (that sign up for instance). Know what you want people to do when they get to your page.  Sign up for a newsletter? Buy something? Click on more articles?

Ask for one thing

Don’t overwhelm or confuse people with too many choices.  Use those big call to action buttons. Explain what readers will get when they sign up, and how often they’ll receive it.

I spoke to someone recently who set up his website with several pages discussing his services…and no clear call to action.  Instead, he had links on the side he was hoping people would click on to find out more.  No clear call to action.

Experiment and test

If your page isn’t doing as well as you’d like, experiment.  Try different calls to action.  Move the buttons around.  Test different versions of your page against each other.  Track the clicks and the sales to see which version performs better.

10 Tips for Successful Landing Pages

10 landing page tips

10 via Wikipedia

A successful landing page means more subscribers, more queries, and more clients. But what 10 things can make or break your page?

Here are ten tips for designing and writing a landing page that converts.

A good landing page has to be relevant, has to appeal to its audience, and, of course, has to convert (turn visits into subscriptions or leads or sales).

These simple steps will make your landing page better.

1. A catchy and relevant headline

This is not the place to be funny or cute. People don’t want to admire your writing (sniff). They want to solve a problem. If you sent them to the page from an ad or an email, keep the two related to each other (so they know they’re in the right place.

2. Testimonials

Use real people, with real names, not initials. If they’re in the same industry as your audience, that’s even better.

3. A photo of the product

Advertisers call this the “hero” shot. It’s the big, beautiful picture of everything they’ll get (all the mp3 files, ebooks, worksheets, and videos in one glorious pile). This is especially important online, as it makes e-products look real and tangible. Make it a clickable image (people click on everything).

4. Your logo or your photo

This is another good way to establish trust. It shows you’re not hiding behind spammy content – you stand by what you sell and your proud of it.

5. A simple form

The more fields people have to fill out to get something, the less likely they’ll do it. If you can create a form that fills in information automatically, or has check off boxes (rather than long menus), even better.

6. Benefit statements

Use lots of them. Bullet points are good. Or, if not, then short, to the point paragraphs. Break them so they’re easier to read. If it’s an ebook, point to the page numbers where the information is found in the book.

7. Sub-headings

It’s long been a truism that people don’t read (Claude Hopkins complained about it in 1920). However, they do skim.

Some read just the headlines and sub-heads, others will look at headlines, skip along, and then read more closely when they see something of interest. Write for both kinds of readers.

8. Several order buttons

Some people take one look at your page and shout, “Eureka! My problems are over!” Others need a bit more information to make up their minds. Include more than one order button or form.

9. Simplified format

Leave the subscription page, the links, the other offers, away from your landing page. You want to keep it simple. Break up the paragraphs into small, easily-digestible bits. Don’t use long (10-15 line) paragraphs. It’s just too hard to read onscreen. Use a lot of white space (this also helps readiblity).

10. Value statement

Also called anchoring, this means comparing the cost of your product to the cost of something else – or, stating a high value for it – and then telling the reader that it will actually cost much less. It’s a steal!

The Connection Between Copywriting and Home Improvements

one year and four months later

Image by eye of einstein via Flickr

Ever hear of “so long and might as” project syndrome?

It’s what happens when small projects slowly (and sneakily) turn into big ones.

It all began when a family friend started remodeling his house.  One thing led to another, and the project kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger.

Here’s what happens

For instance, the living room looks kinda grungy.  So you repaint it.  Then, of course, the dining room starts to look dingy in comparison. So you think, “well so long as I’m painting the living room, I might as well paint the dining room too.” Then you notice that the wooden floor in the hallway looks all scratched up.  So you refinish it.  And on and on and on.

This happens with copywriting and marketing projects too.  So long as you’re placing an ad  or writing a landing page asking people to download your ebook, you might as well ask them to sign up for your newsletter too. Oh, and maybe follow you on Twitter or Facebook.

Stop the scope creep!

Keep that up with home renovations and pretty soon you’ll be buried in paint, lumber, new plumbing, new fixtures, and large appliance boxes.  You’ll swiftly turn a $200 project into a $2000 project.

Let that scope creep affect your copywriting and your marketing and you’ll confuse people.  They won’t know what to do first. The danger is that they may be overwhelmed and end up doing nothing at all.

The other variation on this is when a simple project (write three blog posts) turns into three blog posts, plus a landing page, plus a newsletter, plus an email campaign.  This is great if there’s additional payment to go with the additional work.  Make sure you stop and make it clear to your client that adding to the project adds to the bill too.

Keep your call to action simple

The best thing to do is to focus on one thing.  Ask for that thing, such as downloading that ebook, or calling for a free quote.  But just that one thing, don’t add sharing buttons to your landing pages.

It’s OK to offer several ways to contact you (email, web, phone). Some people prefer to talk to someone, while others would rather just send an email and be finished with it.

Options that make your customers lives easier are fine.

Just don’t end up like the poor guy in the photo (still working one year and four months later).

Oh, and the family friend? He ended up starting a renovation business called “So Long and Mightas”

How to Write Copy That Fascinates Your Readers

fascinating bullet points

Are your bullet points so fascinating they can keep a baby’s attention?

There’s a little-known, but fascinating copywriting trick used by top copywriters and direct marketers such as Mel Martin, Eugene Schwartz, Boardroom, and Agora.

Direct mail may be considered old-fashioned by some, but the writing techniques developed decades ago by top copywriters still work. And, they also work online.

One of these old tricks is fascinations.  They’re called “fascinations” because you just can’t resist reading them.

What’s so fascinating about fascinations?

Fascinations are simply little bullet points. Bullet points by themselves are not particularly interesting, but these are different.  They’re specially constructed to make you curious, to tease, and to tempt you to read more (much more).

The key to writing a successful fascination bullet is to state a fact and then add a benefit. Sounds simple, right?

It is simple.

How to write fascinating copy

First, keep your bullet points short.  Just write a single line, or two at most.  The goal is to make the bullets quick and easy to read.  You don’t want to slow people down or confuse them.  Don’t use subheadings or run-on sentences with lots of commas.  Edit them ruthlessly.

The bullet points don’t even have to be complete sentences.  You want your copy to be easy to read and easy to scan.

Think of them as “mini-headlines”: short, attention-grabbing, and so compelling that your visitors can’t stop themselves from reading further.

Here are a few examples to get you started:

  • bills it’s OK to pay late
  • the one thing you should never eat on an airplane
  • try this weird old (________) tip*
  • how to quit sending queries and have business come to you
  • the decades-old copywriting technique that still works today

*fill in the blank with the topic of your ad, such as retirement planning, IT management, etc. and yes, it’s been abused in the age of BuzzFeed, but that’s because it works.

All of these promise inside information that will make your life easier.

First they make a statement, and then they add a surprising twist the reader wasn’t expecting.

Two great practitioners of this art were Mel Martin and Bill Jayme.  They’re both gone, but there are two places you can see examples of their work:

Mel Martin swipe file

Bill Jayme swipe file

Why fascinations work

They arouse your curiosity.  They almost tell you something – but not quite.  The only way to find out what those bills are, or the secret weird tip is to click the link, subscribe to the newsletter, or open the envelope.

What do you think about fascinations?  Have you ever tried them?