The most successful advertising copy writers will often tell you the headline is the most important part of the ad. If the headline doesn’t grab your attention, why would you waste precious time reading the ad? And if you don’t read the ad copy, how could you be expected to buy the product?
A bad headline can neutralize even the finest, most persuasive copy (but you probably already knew that). What you might *not* have realized is how this fundamental law of advertising is constantly violated online – everywhere you look – but where you might have least expected it.
First, you need to think of your web site as the equivalent of your advertising copy. So if that’s the case, then what’s the headline?
Usually, web designers and marketers like to think of the headline as any prominent piece of text at the top of the page. Sure, that can be a headline. But here’s your site’s real headline, the one that brings people in and prevents them from leaving…
Visit a web page, and then look at the blue “title bar” in the very top of your web site browser. Now *there* is your headline – and I’m going to tell you why it is very important that you do yours right…
You need to look at your site from the perspective of someone who: – doesn’t work for your company; – has never been there before; and, – doesn’t care about your all-important corporate identity.
Don’t assume the bigger, more established web sites are doing it right. Sometimes, it’s just the opposite that is true.
Visit Yahoo.com and then look at their title bar headline. What does it says? “Yahoo!” Wow – isn’t that a real attention grabber? Is it any wonder that one of the most frequently searched terms at Yahoo is the word “yahoo”?
Imagine people who are new to the net. They’ve heard the word “yahoo” a million times. They’ve finally made it to the site (probably by accident). And then they spend their time looking for something that’s right in front of them, because no where does it say what the hell Yahoo is, or does.
Venture off to computer retailer Outpost.com, and what’s their headline? “Outpost.com”. Another winner. But what would you expect from the marketing geniuses who shot hamsters out of cannons expecting it to help them sell more computer equipment?
GoTo.com greets you with “We power results.” Well yippee for them, they power results. It’s a hair better than the previous two, but still… yawn. As a marketing tool, I personally love GoTo. But for someone visiting their site for the first time, their headline says next to nothing.
Now, visit MyFamily.com. What does it say? “MyFamily.com – Your free, private family website. It’s quick, easy and free.”
Well spank my bottom and call me Sally! Finally, we’ve found someone who’s not asleep at the wheel. What does the MyFamily title accomplish that the others do not? It…
– piques curiosity. Words like “free”, “private”, “quick”, and “easy” lure you in. – involves and appeals to the reader by using the word “Your…” – is a great “unique selling proposition” (USP) which sets them a part from everyone else. – talks in terms of the anticipated benefits the visitor can expect to receive. – improves their rankings in the search engines due to important keywords in the title. – is more likely to generate a click-through in a search engine where results are displayed by title. – increases the likelihood of return visits from people who bookmark their page (by default, bookmark descriptions are usually created in your browser using a site’s title).
Surf around and you’ll see companies and sites so enamored with themselves and their big fat corporate egos that they fail to realize no one outside the company knows what their company or site is about.
Therein lies the problem. The little guy wants to be like the big guy. How does he do it? By copying the big guy. As a result, we have countless web sites that fail to understand and incorporate the most fundamental rule of copy writing. Don’t emulate the big guys. They’re out of touch.
If you need help developing your headline-writing skills, one of my favorite business books is Tested Advertising Methods by legendary ad man John Caples. In this classic, he dedicates five chapters and seventy pages to the art of crafting the perfect headline. His chapter “Thirty Five Proven Formulas for Writing Headlines” by itself, is worth the price of the book.
Look at your web site from the perspective of a newcomer or first time visitor. Are you assuming they’ll know what it’s about? If so, make some changes and TELL them what it’s about with a fantastic, attention-grabbing headline. You’ll be pleased with the results.
Wishing you much online success… Joe Chapuis
Working from home, Joe Chapuis is a self-employed internet
business consultant and online publisher who swears he’ll
never work for someone else again. His free report:
The 10 Commandments of Online Success and
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