The first touchpoint most of us have with a webpage is its headline. Therefore, if you’re in charge of writing them for your business website or blog, they need to be belters!
It’s no different to a newspaper or magazine; the articles we end up reading are nearly always governed by the headline. Sure, the main image might have some bearing on it, but we probably wouldn’t dive in further if there’s as no cliff hanger-like introduction.
Most experts will suggest that you need just six to twelve words to craft the best headline, but that makes it sound rather straightforward.
After all, we’re all capable of stringing together that many words. See? I’ve just done it with eleven of them.
You wouldn’t use that first sentence above as a headline though, would you?
With that in mind, we thought we’d put together the ultimate guide for crafting the best possible headline for your webpages. You don’t need to be a professional copywriter or literary genius, either just make sure you follow these simple steps:
Step 1: Forget what you learned at school
If you apply everything you learned at school to your headline writing, you’ll end up with sentences that may well be grammatically perfect, but they’ll in no way draw in readers.
There are rules to headline writing, but they’re nothing like the stuff we’re taught from an early age.
As previously noted, you don’t need to be a writer to do this. In fact, the more you throw caution to the wind and break the traditional rules of writing, the more likely you are to create something that is unique and highly engaging.
Step 2: Write the headline after you’ve written the page content
There’s a reason the phrase ‘working title’ is used so often; very few creatives start the process by devising the title for their work.
Clearly, you’ll have a plan for what you intend to write on this particular webpage or blog, but if you spend too much time on the headline from the outset, you’ll probably end up with something that bears little resemblance to the contents.
This is because content changes as we write. Your plan will mould and develop as you get into the process of writing, and as a result, it’s a far safer bet to work on your headline once you’ve finished.
If it helps, make notes for potential headlines as you go – inspiration will strike at numerous stages.
Step 3: Write your headline for a niche within your market
If you attempt to write a headline for 100% of the people who visit your website, you’ll end up with a very low conversion rate, because you simply can’t please that many people with a single line of text.
Instead, write a headline for the 20%; the people who you know will be a dead cert to act on the information you’re providing. As a result, you’ll end up with far more impressive conversion rates and a piece of web content that works effectively for a considerable amount of time.
Step 4: Focus on the most important feature or benefit
Once you have your audience in mind, think about what it is within your product or service that is of most benefit to them.
It might be a particular feature or benefit (opt for the latter, if possible), but whatever it is, make it front and centre within the webpage’s headline.
You can aid this process by writing down as many features and benefits you can think of and picking the one (and only one) that talks directly to the audience. Craft a sentence around it.
For example, if your groundbreaking bicycle phone holder is designed specifically for mountain bikes, why not write “The most secure way to attach your smartphone to your mountain bike”? Simple!
Step 5: Brainstorm as many headline options as you can
Great ideas come from many failed attempts, and if you can spend time listing as many potential headlines as possible, the best one will shine far brighter than the rest.
Aim for around twenty. That might sound like a lot, but this is a cathartic process and one that will exhaust your creative mind; it’ll rinse it of every possible idea, thus leaving nothing to chance.
The one you like will stick out, but if you’re still struggling, take a closer look and try and work out if the best headline is actually an amalgamation of several you’ve brainstormed.
Step 6: Remove junk words
Let’s take another look at our mountain bike smartphone holder example.
Imagine that it started life in this form: “This is definitely the best way to secure your precious smartphone to your even more expensive bike – avoid breaking it… today!”
Right off the bat, we’ve demolished the recommended word count, but more importantly, the copy above is filled with junk words and stuff that simply doesn’t need saying.
By all means, start out with a lengthy headline for your webpage, but make sure you take time to whittle it down by removing words that do nothing more than pad out the text.
Remember – the longer people have to spend reading something, the less likely they are to do so.
Step 7: Put the headline in context – and review its effectiveness one last time
If you’re undertaking this process in the correct manner, you’ll have been crafting the headline in an app like Word, or possibly even on a scrap of paper.
Let’s assume that you’ve worked hard to refine it and believe it to be perfect.
Not so fast!
Seeing web content in context will often highlight issues you weren’t aware of, so the next stage of the headline writing process should be to put it on the page and see how it looks.
If you have a semi-finished site on which to place it – great, but a wireframe will be just as eye-opening.
Put the headline in place and take a look at it in context. Does it still work? Or does it clash with the rest of the content?
Don’t stop until you’re happy the headline works on the page itself. And don’t be disheartened if it doesn’t – you’re not far off.
Step 8: Accept you probably won’t get it right first time
Some A/B testing is what’s required next, because no matter how much time you spend on the headline writing process for webpages, you will almost certainly have overlooked something.
Go live with your current headline and let it run for a month or two (longer, if possible). Regularly review page visits, time on site and bounce rates.
Then, swap it for an alternative and do the same. How does that one perform over the same timeframe?
A/B testing is a fantastic way to suss out what does and doesn’t work with webpage headlines. After the testing period, you’ll be able to either stick with the highest performing headline, or head back to the drawing board if both fail to deliver the results you’re after.
See? We told you there’s no need to be an experienced wordsmith if you want to create a crowd-pleasing webpage headline.
Our tips above aren’t fool proof, and they’ll require a good deal of concentration and practice go get right. You should also bear in mind that failure is no bad thing at all, because you will fail, no matter how much time you spend on this process.
Learn from your failures, pay close attention to the wants of your audience and remember that all important A/B testing – your headlines should storm the internet, as a result.
You may want to check out our other posts on copywriting: