Five Keys to Writing Killer Web Page Headlines

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You probably are wondering why I keep pounding on the importance of web page headlines. I beg, I plead, but you still just don't get it.

Here's the reason:

You have competitors. You have a website, they have websites. And those of you who have your sites optimized for the web will pop up first on Google or MSN or Yahoo.

So here you are in the first five sites that pop up. What happens next? The searcher reads the descriptions and then starts clicking on websites.

It's the same as if all your businesses were lined up in a hallway on the same corridor. A (potential) customer or client just starts at one end of the hallway and peeks in the first door. If they don't see exactly what they're looking for, they just close the door and walk over to the next competitor.

How long would that take? Maybe three to five seconds to look in, scan the place, and make a decision?

Well, that's what happens when someone visits your website. And the thing that's going to make them stay and read is not the pictures, not the fancy graphics, not the ads, and certainly not an annoying Flash movie that they have to sit through before they can find out whether you have what they came for.

It's the headline.

Now that the sermon is over, here are the five keys to killer web copy headlines:

There must be a customer benefit

You've all seen those headlines on “get rich quick” sites that make ridiculous or outrageous promises. That's not what I'm talking about. You simply must show them that if they read your page, they will get something of value.

You must peak their curiosity

Even if a visitor sees a benefit that may be of interest to them, that may not be enough. A benefit is still just a fact and humans act on emotions, not on facts. There's actually a type of marketing called Hate Marketing based on the idea that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

That's not what I'm advocating but it's a powerful way to get people emotional. It's why negative advertising works. Ask your self how you can tease your visitor into reading the page.

  • How can you give them enough to get curious without giving it entirely away?
  • How can you make them “have to know”?

Questions work great. I just gave you some. So do challenges, numbers (Five Keys to Killer Web Copy Headlines), and strong statements.

Your headline must be specific

As I've mentioned before, I'm a big fan of Jay Abraham. And Jay is always talking about making specific claims in your off-line headlines. He would tell you, “If you're having a furniture sale, don't just say you're having a furniture sale.

Say something specific like, “25% Off On Any Sofa in the Store.” Even that would be too passive for Jay. He would change it to, “Buy Any Sofa in the Store and Take Home 25% Savings!”

The same ideas apply to on-line headlines. Don't make generic claims like, “Our Company is the Top Engineering Firm in Tallahassee .” People don't buy hyperbole like “top” and there is nothing to back up your claim.

Better would be, “Our Company Won 10 Engineering Contracts in the Past Year!” That's a claim you can back up and people are more likely to believe it because it is specific. And then a perfect sub-head would be “Why are we trusted with more work than anyone else? Read on.”


We're all familiar with the term, Keep It Simple, Stupid. Too many times, when you do find a headline on a website, it tries to tell you everything that is on the page. In other words, it covers more than one idea.

A headline can only contain one idea. You don't have the time or the space to get more than one idea across and get it across powerfully. That should also be a format for the page. The more ideas you try to get across on one page, the more likely people will lose interest and wander off.

If you have several ideas you must communicate, put them on separate pages and devote a page to each.

Words Tell Emotion Sells

I'm sure many of you are familiar with this saying but it still doesn't register. As I say in my seminars on writing web copy and on writing powerful headlines, human beings are emotional animals. We make decisions based on emotion and then justify them to others based on logic.

Otherwise, headlines like these would not have sold consistently for years:

“When I sat down at the piano they all laughed. But then I started to play…”

I'll leave you with two contrasting headlines selling the same product:

This was the headline for an $83 dollar “premium” showerhead at a plumbing supply site:

8" Adjustable Premium Shower Head

This was the headline for a $30 showerhead at another site:

The Pampered Guests At Five Star Hotels Love This Showerhead

I leave it to you. If you were looking for a premium showerhead, which one would you buy?

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