Write headlines that convert

Contributors

@elise-dopson


Business Benefits

Convince users to purchase with actionable headlines on landing pages, ad copy, and more.


Learn about your customer pain points through qualitative surveys or social media research.

Only survey previous customers, not leads, since they have actually bought from you.

Send interview surveys to a segment of your audience via email, asking them to describe the problems they hope to solve. Scan your social media channels for information on why customers like or dislike your product.

Collate your research and note common pain points and requirements.

For example, do people buy your SaaS accounting product because they need help recording payments for their invoices?

For each pain point or need, research words that trigger reminders of it and add these to the same document.

Use these words as a list of options when you’re writing your headlines.

Start your headlines with a number and a noun. If you have multiple numbers in your headline, arrange it so the large number comes first.

Use odd numbers over even. Headlines with odd numbers have a 20% higher click–through rate than headlines with even numbers. Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman’s study showed that when the larger benefit is presented first, it changes the viewer’s perception. 100 albums for $5 each is perceived as a better value than $5 each for 100 albums.

Make sure that your content delivers on the headline’s promise. For example, if you show 27 photos of dogs, make sure there are 27 photos of dogs in your article.

Write headlines that contain between 5 and 9 words, and put the most important details at the start.

Headlines with eight words perform the best. Usability research by Jakob Nielsen found that users typically scan all web content, paying the most attention to the first and last three words of a headline.

Write longer headlines of 16-18 words for use in paid advertisements.

Looking only at paid links within Outbrain’s network, the ideal length of a headline increased to 16–18 words. This might be caused by users’ inherent click fear that comes with visiting a site they don’t instantly recognize. A longer headline gives an opportunity to describe the content in more detail and reduces friction.

Use negative superlatives like never, kill, or lose to spark interest.

Negative superlatives in titles performed 30% better than the control group—and more than 60% better than positive ones. Words like lose, kill, fear, dark, bleeding, and war outperform their more innocent or positive counterparts.

Use subheadings to boost the clarity of your message and support your headline.

The subheadline reaffirms why your reader is on the page and acts as a primer for the story that the page is going to tell. Timetrade.com switched their main headline with their sub-headline—which was more benefit-driven, anyhow—and saw a quick conversion increase of 85%.

Write clear headlines telling readers exactly what they will read in the following paragraphs.

Avoid clickbait, and match your title to exactly what the content is about. For example, How to Write for Social Media and Double Your Click-Through Rates in Thirty Days.