13 Tips on Writing Effective Headlines

Here are tips from marketing guru John Caples on writing effective headlines:

Announce news

The “announcing” concept can take different forms, such as “introducing”…“presenting”…“today”…“just published.”

Begin your headline with “new” or “now”

After you have announced your new product, Caples suggests, you can reinforce the news appeal of later advertisements by defining what is new, as in “New method of keeping your personal finances accurately,” or “Now—a low-calorie Bacardi Daiquuiri.”

Use “at last” in your headline

It creates the impression, Caples says, that you are selling a product that many people have been waiting for. For example, say “At last—a steam iron with a Magic Brain,” or “Has a remedy for the common cold been found at last?”

Put a date in your headline

For instance, write “You can speak French by September 1,” or “Reduce your golf handicap with these clubs—new for 2001!” It lends urgency and leads to immediate responses.

Feature price in your headline

Caples notes that research shows that many readers will skip copy in large type in order to get to a mention of price in small type. If your price has been reduced, or if you are making a special offer, say so! Use headlines such as “Guaranteed 17-jewel quality watches for only $16.95 each,” or “Magnificent all-mahogany dining room set--$749.” Or take a tip from retail stores and feature a reduced price, as in “Pigskin executive file case $19.80 (regularly $35).

Make a free offer

“Free” is a magic word in advertising, Caples and most experts agree. For example, write “Free to new members of the Literary Book Club.”

Offer valuable information

Often, you can gain high readership and response by writing your ad in the form of a helpful magazine or newspaper article, for example such as “Do you make these mistakes in English?”

Tell a human-interest story

People are interested in other people. One classic Caples ad carried the headline “They laughed when I sat down at the piano. But when I began to play!”

Begin your headline with “how” or “how to”

Certain key headline words, Caples advises, play to the near-universal human curiosity about how to do the things they want to do. Besides, he adds, “how” and “how to” force copywriters to stay on track. Use headlines such as “How your energy curve responds to the world’s quickest hot breakfast,” or “How to start a backyard garden.”

Begin your headline with “why”

The same curiosity principal strengthens headlines that begin with “why,” Caples says. He urges use of headlines such as “Why some people almost always make money in the stock market,” or “Why your feet hurt.”

Begin your headline with “who else”

For example, Caples says, “Who else wants a whiter wash—with no hard work?”

Use the word “advice”

It entices the reader by promising useful information.

Address your headline to a specific person

For example, Caples cites “To the man who is 35 and dissatisfied.”

“The reader’s attention is yours for only a single, involuntary instant. He will not use up his valuable time trying to figure out what you mean. He will simply turn the page.”

—John Caples, “Tested Advertising Methods”

See also:

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