Redeveloping the Headline – How to Generate and Narrow Down Headline Ideas

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Ever wondered how professional copywriters, ad agency creatives, and online marketers arrive at killer headlines that draw readers in and have them pulling out their wallets like nobody’s business? Wonder no more, because today, we’ll be taking a look at exactly how many of those headlines come to be.

The Process

One of the things that too many people don’t understand about headline writing is that it is a process. Just like anything else worth doing for your business, proper headline writing takes up time and concerted effort. The misconception that time spent on headlines should be relatively smaller compared to, say, the time spent to write a sales letter, is probably rooted in the fact that the final product where headlines are concerned is fairly small.

A small final product doesn’t mean a small effort, however. The next time you’re writing a headline for your email, sales letter, or even just your next blog post, try this:

Sit and write 25 to 50 headlines. Don’t stop until you’re there. How do you come up with so many ideas? Go bigger than you think you can, go more ridiculous than you think you can. In this initial phase, we’re too often already wearing blinders and filtering out ideas that could be developed later on if we gave them a chance.

Even if any idea seems too risque, “out there,” or bold, jot it down to get the juices flowing. A big mistake many people make when trying to write their own headline copy is that they don’t actually write ideas down unless they think they’re “good enough.” Most people aren’t able to visualize in our heads as well as we can do on a piece of paper, and you’re doing yourself a disservice by not letting the process take its course out in the open.

Once you’ve got your ideas on paper, go through the list one by one and ask yourself if there are other directions you can go with it (variations, slight changes, etc.), or if the idea just wasn’t up to snuff and needs to be eliminated. In this stage, you’ll drop out the weaklings while simultaneously developing your stronger ideas.

When working on variations and trying to pick out your top contenders, here are a couple of things to keep in mind:

– People generally buy on emotion: things like love & acceptance, the want for wealth and popularity, etc. are almost always elements of a successful headline. Don’t hesitate to push a bit with your headline, oftentimes a (not-too-misleading) shock means that people will stop and read.

– The age-old trick about including numbers of tips, tricks, and steps into a headline holds true. People like things that sound logical, specific, and easy, so “3 easy steps to eliminating acne at home” is likely to perform better than “Here’s how to eliminate acne at home!”

Finally, your overall champion of a headline, once you’ve narrowed it down to 2-5, will probably not be able to be determined by intuition alone, especially not without experience, so get ready to split test, split test some more, and then split test again.

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