A famous quote from advertising legend, David Ogilvy, goes like this: “On average, five times as many people read the headlines as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”
Well, if the “Father of Advertising” tells me I should be investing considerably more time into writing headlines compared to my body copy, I’m inclined to listen. And with the speed at which we consume content today, I think headlines are more important than ever.
The headlines you use on your website are a key way to communicate the purpose, values and personality of your brand. So, with that said, here are some tips and writing prompts to create website headlines that will capture the attention of your ideal clients. Let’s get them sticking around and reading the rest of your copy!
Basics first: Your brand strategy
Ever sat down to write a website headline and found your mind was totally blank? If so, chances are you’ve got some work to do on defining your brand first.
Developing your brand strategy is a key step to attracting your ideal clients (not to mention working out who exactly your ideal clients are). It’s the why, the how, and the who for. It’s defining the voice of your brand and the experience you want to create.
In my posts, my advice comes from a branding perspective and this is no different when it comes to copywriting. You’ve got to start by knowing what your brand is all about. Here’s a post on brand strategy that you can check out if that’s the stage you’re at!
Now, assuming you’ve done that work and created a brand strategy for your business, let’s move on.
The building blocks of your website headlines
So, here’s how this is going to work. You begin by defining the following four components. These are going to be the building blocks for your headlines. You’ll want to keep your definitions brief — just a few words for each one. However, you can definitely come up with multiple variations/ways of describing each component. In fact, I highly recommend it.
1. Your Ideal Client
You want to be specific about the type of people you can help and to call them out in your website headlines. This helps to make sure you’re catching the attention of the right people. It lets them know they’re in the right place and that the services you offer are relevant to them.
Examples: “solo business owners”, “new parents”, “people who are [blank]”, etc.
2. Your Client’s Desired Outcome
This is the goal your ideal client is striving for. That big result they want to achieve. This is ultimately the reason why they’re looking for help, and you want to demonstrate to your audience that you understand this. This makes it a lot more believable that your offerings will genuinely be useful for them.
When writing these out, address your audience directly.
Examples: “reach six figures in your business”, “increase your productivity”, “have more time to spend doing the things you love”
3. Your Services/Deliverables
In other words, the way you help your clients. What do you actually provide, so that they can close in on their desired outcome? Again, the key is to be specific. You also want to explain your services using as simple terms as possible. Generally, you want to avoid using any jargon. That said, if you’re confident that your ideal client would be in-the-know when it comes to industry-specific words, then using them can be a good way to qualify your audience.
Examples: “Facebook ad management”, “a personalised fitness plan”, “a 12-week calligraphy course”
4. The Benefits/Core Values
This is how you make your services that much more attractive to your ideal clients. Think about the core values you share with them, and the types of benefits that would win them over. Also consider their concerns and how you address those.
Examples: “stress-free”, “doesn’t take months”, “proof-driven”
For questions to help you with come up with different wording, try out this post.
Consider your brand personality and voice
Just before we start putting everything together, I want to make sure you’re thinking in the voice of your brand. When developing your brand strategy, your brand personality should have been another component that you defined. How do you describe your brand personality? How does its voice sound? What kind of words would it use?
Keep that voice in mind as you begin putting your website headlines together. You want to sprinkle in a sense of that personality, so that your copywriting doesn’t sound dry or robotic. You’re not writing an academic essay here. Keep things conversational.
Related post: How to develop a brand voice that sells your services
Putting the pieces together
Play, at this point you should have a list of copywriting building block pieces, as well as a sense of your brand’s tone of voice. Maybe you’ve already started coming up with some ideas for headlines? To help you along, I’ve suggested some basic writing prompts that you can try. All you have to do is plug in what you’ve came up with in the earlier section (you’ll probably have to tweak things a little to make the words flow better).
Let’s start with a very simple but effective one:
[Deliverable] for [ideal client]
This is as simple as I think it can get. State what you offer and describe who it’s for, e.g. “Relationship coaching for women who are too busy to mess around anymore.”
You’ll probably find it fairly easy to add in [benefits] and [desired outcomes]. So a simple headline like, “Online marketing for health-service professionals.” could easily become, “Simplified online marketing for health-service professionals ready to scale to multiple six-figures.”
As with all these prompts, never limit yourself. See where your creativity can take you. Here’s another example using this first prompt: “A lettering course for people who can barely hold a pen. (You won’t believe what you’re capable of after 8 weeks!)”
[Desired outcome] without/that won’t [opposite of benefit]
You’re probably wondering what I mean by [opposite of benefit]. Let’s take a benefit like time-saving. So, perhaps you have a system that allows you to deliver your services in a fraction of the time that clients would normally expect from service-providers in your field. Saying “I’ll save you 2 weeks” is one way of stating that benefit. Another way could be to say, “It won’t take a whole month”, is another. “Simplified” could be a benefit, but perhaps a more descriptive way of explaining that would be to say, “No need to use 10 different apps anymore”.
Sometimes emphasising the downsides that they get to avoid by working with you can be a very enticing way to frame your offers e.g. “Healthy meal plans that won’t leave you feeling hungry.”
[Deliverable] so you can [desired outcome]
In this example, you’re making a clear connection between what you offer and why your audience would want it. Not only are you explaining what you do, but also the reason it’s valuable for your ideal client e.g. “I’ll take care of your bookkeeping so you can focus on making more money.”
You could also easily fit in a benefit in the way you describe your deliverable or service e.g. “Family photoshoots taken at home so you can capture your happiest memories right where they happen.”
And a bunch more prompts
So, I think you get the idea with these prompts. They’re designed to give you a starting point as you brainstorm your headlines. Below, I’ve provided a bunch of other suggestions.
Often the key to coming up with really compelling headlines is to come up with a lot of “meh” ones first, so don’t stop at the structures I’ve provided. Let them lead you to other ideas and interesting ways to communicate your brand message.
- I’m/We’re here for [ideal client] who want to [desired outcome].
- We believe in [deliverable] that [benefit].
- The best way to [desired outcome] is to [benefit].
- If you want [desired outcome], you need [deliverable] that [benefit].
- I’m/We’re a [service] that helps you [desired outcome].
- I’ll/We’ll help you [desired outcome] with my/our [deliverable].
- [Deliverable] because you want/deserve [desired outcome].
- This is how I/we help [ideal clients] to [desired outcome].
Always make sure you’re writing with clarity
The most important rule to good copywriting is being clear. The reason I’ve suggested starting with those four basic components (client, outcome, offerings, benefits) is because those are the things that you absolutely want to communicate, first and foremost.
Sometimes business owners get a little too clever for their own good. Maybe in an attempt to be more memorable or sophisticated, they come up with convoluted or abstract headlines on their websites that end up making very little sense to their site visitors.
Look, I love being cute and clever. But it should never be at the expense of clarity. Be aware that something might make perfect sense to you (because you’re the one who came up with it) but to a fresh pair of eyes, it might just cause a lot of head scratching. The last thing you want to do is make your website visitors feel stupid or confused. Confusion is not a state from which people make decisions.
You want to use headlines that allow people to say, “Yes, this is for me.” and then book that call, fill out that form, opt into your lead magnet, or whatever that next step looks like. So, always make sure your message has clarity.
Your website is often a place where people first start to learn about you. It’s a place for you to introduce yourself to your audience. To make the best first impression, make sure you’re communicating precisely what you do and why it’s valuable.
By using the copywriting building blocks and prompts above, you’re hopefully able to create a whole bunch of potential headlines. The next step for you is to start testing those headlines on your site!
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