Win over more readers with better headlines (Part 1 of 2)

Even though they make up a small percent of your overall communication, headlines and subheads are the most important real estate on the page. That’s because 8 out of 10 people merely scan the largest print. If the few pieces of big copy don’t draw them in, there’s no chance they’ll read the little copy.

Remember, we’re smack in the middle of the age of over-information. You get about one second to grab a reader’s attention and draw him in before he tosses the communication aside. Get the headlines right and you’ve won 80% of the game.

Here’s how to write a winning heading:

Answer your reader’s question, “What’s In It For Me?” 

To craft a good headline, you need to understand what motivates your audience. Remember, he’s asking, “What’s in it for ME?” not “What’s in it for YOU?” What does he REALLY want? In other words, state the benefit of your product or point ― in terms that speaks to your reader.

There may be more than one benefit to every product. The one you choose needs to resonate with your particular audience. For example:




Windshield wiper blades

Wipes rain from windshield

  • Keeps you safe in the rain
  • Keeps schoolchildren safe in the rain
  • Helps car pass inspection


Mixes ingredients

  • Healthy smoothies
  • Delicious sauces
  • Fun cocktails, etc.

Let’s say you’re launching a new drill. Your reader probably didn’t wake up this morning thinking, “I don’t have a drill. I think I’ll go buy one.” He just needs a (product) drill see he can (purpose) drive in screws for a project. But, he REALLY wants (benefit) to get the project over with so he can watch the big game.

He opens the paper and sees your headline, “Save 15%: 5-speed drill with 24-piece bits in titanium case.” Then he turns the page and sees a competitor’s headline that says, “Precision Drills — Finish the job in half the time.” Bingo! Guess which drill he’s going to buy.

Tip: What your audience REALLY wants may surprise you. Don’t assume you know it unless you’ve done a survey or focus group. They can be well worth the expense if done right.

Make it clear what you’re selling (or communicating)

  • Put keywords as early in the headline as possible. While it’s not necessary to state the product name in the headline, you can incorporate it if it’s helpful for clarity.
  • Use simple terms in complete sentences to keep your headline fast and easy to grasp.  
  • Limit your main headline to 9 words (less is more).
  • Use positive terms instead of negative. “You can” statements work well too.

Stay tuned: Part 2 of this topic will discuss subheads and callouts. Meanwhile, if you need help understanding your audience or with crafting winning headlines, QubComm can help.