Your headline is one of the hardest workers in your marketing collateral. It’s a handful of words that can make the difference between your copy being read, and being ignored. But writing headlines can feel like your brain has been picked over by a tribe of garage sale fanatics.
You know the feeling…. You’ve been trying to come up with a headline for hours. The ones you have are ok; some of them are even pretty good. So how do you know when you’ve got the one?
This is a handy test of four U’s I picked up from Bob Bly’s Copywriters Handbook.
Is your headline unique?
You can grab your audience’s attention by offering them something new or unique. Even if your product or service is far from unique, look for new and interesting angles that will get your audience’s attention.
“Book a Japanese Beauty Treatment” turns into “Discover the beauty secret that keeps Japanese women young.”
Your headline should also be unique to your business (as much as possible). If your headline could just as easily apply to a business that sells swimming pools as beauty treatments, you know you’ve got work to do.
“Get ready for summer” turns into “Get your legs summer ready with a free bronze with every wax”.
Is your headline ultra-specific?
Making vague claims in your headline secures your seat on the ‘Ignore Me’ bus. Use concrete, quantifiable terms to make your claims more credible and trustworthy. Numbers are great as they imply you’ve done some research but you can also use specific names, titles, descriptions, projections and results.
“Download your free 10-step report that reveals how you can pay less tax.”
“Sign up as a VIP to save up to $325 each time you order.”
“Clear up your hay fever in just 15 minutes.”
Is your headline useful?
Being helpful is a great way to build trust with your audience. Include your most highly desired or unique feature or benefit, or hit upon your audience’s big worry and the problem you solve. You can even let them know about a problem they don’t know they have yet!
“Five familiar skin troubles – which do you want to overcome?”
“Guaranteed to go through ice, mud or snow – or we pay the tow.”
“Toxic Killers in Your Grocery Cart.”
Is your headline urgent?
While your headline might nail your key benefit and be ultra specific, if there is no urgency there is no need to act. Urgency gives people a reason to turn later in a specific time frame. It might be today, next week, or the end of the year but when you add a time frame to your headline you start a countdown.
“7 easy ways you can boost your profit from today.”
“Is your child really prepared for their forthcoming exams?”
“Why tomorrow’s coffee is one too many.”
Grade your headline
After you’ve written a whole bunch of headlines (that’s right, you should be writing more than one headline!), rank each one against the four categories above, on a scale of 1-4 (1 being the lowest and 4 being the highest).
You probably won’t rank highly in every category but if your headline doesn’t rank highly in at least 3 of the 4 categories, you can do better.
How do your headlines hold up? Do you think this test will make it easier or harder?
The Copy Detective