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"How To Write Stunning Main Headlines"

Updated on July 12, 2013

Headline Copywriting For An Internet Audience

Web-based, article copywriters must invest infinitely more time and effort honing an extraordinary main headline than creating the body copy.

Allow me to provide THE reason--Studies show a viewer on the Internet will allow mere seconds for the headline to hold his/her attention. Those precious, few seconds determine whether this individual becomes a goner or an attentive reader.

Advertising genius, David Ogilvy says, "Remember, you have only about 5 seconds to get your prospect's attention. If you haven't grabbed his interest by then, you'll never get it."

Ogilvy's savvy should reveal headline craftsmanship must be foremost and at top-level. This information cannot be overstated.

A high-quality leading headline:

  • Is concise
  • Includes the focused top keyword or keyphrase
  • Typically is formatted in bold
  • Provides a subject overview for a scanning audience
  • Arouses curiosity
  • Highlights a new idea
  • Targets a narrowly-focused readership

What is Concise?

Successful copywritrers differ concerning an exact number of words that make the perfect headline.

I've written main headlines that contain as few as 2 words and as many as 17.

Fourteen words seems to draw agreement among the experts as being the absolute maximum number of words a headline should contain, but rules are made to be broken.

Remember this award-winner?

"They laughed when I sat down at the piano but when I started to play..."


HubPages Title Tuner

This article, "How I Cured Low Testosterone Before It Ruined My Life" contains 10 words, but has proven to be a huge winner for this copywriter.

As shown, this hub had very humble beginnings . . . enter Title Tuner!

There I found 3 search words showing big popularity in Google. Those 3 words were:

  1. Before
  2. Ruined
  3. Life

I amended the headline to reflect these search terms and this hub skyrocketed literally overnight, and continues to propagate across cyberspace.

I highly encourage all HubPages' copywriters to make use of this helpful tool.

Include Focused Keyword

One can find many excellent articles on how to research keyword and keyphrases. Most experienced copywriters know these basics. Once you have the most focused keyword, use it in your main headline.

This practice:

  • Immediately guarantees a specific audience looking to read your subject copy.
  • Eliminates those viewers NOT interested in your particular topic.
  • Helps the search engines to categorize your body copy.

The main headline is bolded to lend emphasis, further spotlighting the keyword.

The Curiosity Factor

Headlines and sub-headlines should arouse curiosity.

MAKE the scanner want to read your article to discover answers to questions you subconsciously place within the headline.

Gene Schwartz, a highly successful copywriter, uses the curiosity factor very nicely in these 2 headlines. ...

"Bills It's OK To Pay Late"

"What Never . . . Ever To Eat On An Airplane"

These two, terse headlines make the reader want to know more of, 'WHAT bills can I fudge on', or maybe it's good to investigate the foods served on an airline trip.

Using Numbers

'7 Ways To Beat The Taxman.'

You've never seen this headline before because I just invented it. Good reasons exist for using numbers in your headline.

Why do you think David Letterman's Top 10 list is so popular? It builds suspense and makes one want to stay to hear the #1 on his list, always revealed at the end. USE THIS OFTEN IN HEADLINE CREATION BECAUSE IT WORKS!

6 Tips For beginning Photographers is an article I wrote months ago that is still enjoying Internet success.

Final Thoughts

Do not use clever technique when writing main headlines for the Internet. Remember, the search engine 'bots are searching your copy for specific items:

  • Keywords
  • Unique content
  • Specificity of audience
  • Plagiarism
  • Usefulness

Select your audience for the topic you have chosen and write from your heart. "Spinning" another copywriter's content is cheating and is rife with plagiarism possibilities.



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    • copywriter31 profile image

      James Ranka 4 years ago from Port Neches

      Thanks, Sheri - I am always more than happy to help! Feel free to ask. ...

    • Sheri Faye profile image

      Sheri Dusseault 4 years ago from Chemainus. BC, Canada

      Wow! I am new and think I could learn alot from you. Thanks!

    • copywriter31 profile image

      James Ranka 4 years ago from Port Neches

      Thank you, Heidi. I remember seeing that headline as a 12 year old kid and I still remember it to this day. Also, I think the graphics perfectly reinforce this timeless headline.

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 4 years ago from Chicago Area

      Good, timeless tips! The "piano" headline from advertising great John Caples is a classic. Voted up and shared!

    • copywriter31 profile image

      James Ranka 4 years ago from Port Neches

      Thanks, Ethan!

    • Ethan Green profile image

      Ethan Green 4 years ago from England

      Really useful tips here. Thanks for the reminder to put effort in at the headline stage:-)