How do you capture your audience’s attention? By creating winning headlines for your ads that will make your target customers stop, read, and click.
This is a famous quote by Joseph Sugarman, one of the greatest direct response copywriters in history. He claimed that every single element of your ad, such as headlines, subheadings, or visuals had the same job: to compel the reader to read your ad copy.
And it’s true. Your first sentence is critical. And in ads, your first sentence is actually your headline. If your witty headline doesn’t stop your target customer in their tracks while they’re scrolling through their feed or Google search results, chances are – your copy will remain unread.
But how do you write such an effective headline that it captures your audience’s attention?
We’re sharing fail-proof strategies to help you master the art of writing winning headlines that get your target customers to read the whole ad.
Let’s get started.
1) Use the ROT Formula
Copywriting formulas are classic for a reason – we’ve tested them so many times so we know they generate results. How come? Because they’re based on the way people think and behave.
For example, many people want to lose weight or learn a new language, but they come up with excuses for not doing it. Some of the most common ones are lack of time, lack of money, skills, motivation, etc.
But can this fact actually help you sell your fitness program or language course? Yes!
How? By using the ROT copywriting formula to fight your audience’s excuses. ROT stands for Result – Objection – Time. It means you’re going to show your audience that their excuse is invalid because they can achieve their goal despite that excuse.
Let’s take a fitness program as an example.
Your target customer wants to lose weight and get fit. But, they hate cardio and similar types of exercise. And they’d love to see results soon because otherwise, they lose motivation.
Your ROT headline may sound like this:
- Lose Over 10lbs in 30 Days Without Going to the Gym
This ad will undoubtedly grab your target client’s attention since you address their pain point, but you also promise them they’ll be able to do it without pushing themselves to do something they don’t enjoy. Moreover, they get to do it quickly.
Here are more examples:
- Write a Bestselling Book with Little to No Experience in Less Than a Year
- Build a Motivated Team Even if They’re Underperforming in Less Than 90 Days
- Learn How to Use [X] Software in 10 Days Even If You’re Not Tech-Savvy
2) Use Power Words
“Amazing recipe” sounds boring. “Proven strategy” – you’ve seen it too many times. But what if you say mind-blowing? Breathtaking, outstanding, exceptional? You’re less likely to stumble upon these words while browsing on the web.
The thesaurus can be your best friend if you want to avoid writing headlines with overused words that don’t have the desired impact on people anymore. By using power words, not only do you grab the target customer’s attention, but you also make your calls to action more compelling. They trigger a reaction in the reader.
But using power words doesn’t end with replacing proven with fail-proof.
There are more ways to enhance your headline and make it more convincing and appealing to your audience.
Here’s a list of words you can use in your ad titles to drive more clicks.
To create a sense of urgency and instill the fear of missing out: now, only X seats left, limited edition, one-time offer, don’t miss your chance, once in a lifetime, running out.Here’s an example from Dreamforce:
To instill curiosity: top secret, mind-blowing, little-known, unconventional, behind the scenes, thought-provoking, eye-opening, sneak peek, controversial.
- Example: Find out the Little-Known Ways to Get Extra Website Traffic from Your Social Media
To play the “greed” card: free, bonus, extra, six-figure, monetize, economical, bargain, giveaway, triple, fortune, value.
- Example: Build a Six-Figure Online Business With This Simple Strategy
To fight people’s excuses: painless, all-in-one, effortless, uncomplicated, streamlined, no sweat, comprehensive, printable, instantly, in minutes.
- Example: A Simple Way to Get More Newsletter Subscribers in Less Than 10 Minutes
In the example above, you can see how they used the word “quick” to prompt the target customer to click – they can’t say they don’t have time for a quick test.
To build trust: approved, tried-and-tested, expert, professional, guaranteed, proven, fail-proof, backed by science, certified, verified, no risk, secure, refund.
Here’s an example with social proof, too:
- Example: The Fail-Proof Method of Increasing Your Metabolism, Backed by Science
To call to action: apply, get, create, benefit, learn, improve, reduce, increase, remove, get rid of, defeat, gain, double, generate, build, start, master, make, maximize, try, optimize.
- Example: Optimize Your Data Reporting with Our Free Dashboards Today
3) Use Emotions to Move People to Action
We buy things because of how they make us feel. A person who buys a language course doesn’t do it for the course itself, or because they like the teacher. They do it because they’re excited about the result – they’ll be able to talk to their significant other in their native language, for example.
And they will FEEL happy about it.
Emotions are powerful triggers and are commonly used in marketing to increase conversions or engagement. It’s particularly important to address the desired emotion in the headline, as only two out of 10 people who see an ad or a post on social media will actually read the whole text.
But it’s essential to remember that you can leverage both positive and negative emotions in your headlines – emotions like love, happiness, anger, or fear. What do we mean by that?
Well, you can either use superlatives, such as optimal, best, ideal, etc. to trigger positive emotions, or use don’t, avoid, never, etc. to trigger negative ones.
Headlines that contain such emotional words will drive clicks because people want to find out how to be successful at something or what they’re doing wrong. In some cases, ads that trigger negative emotions, for example, instill fear, have a higher CTR or conversion rates than ads where the headline sounds optimistic.
Here’s a good example of a campaign that used a fear-based headline to trigger an emotion (and more importantly, a reaction) in people:
If you’re not sure whether your headline is emotional enough, we have a great tool to recommend. The Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer evaluates your headline based on its emotional value and gives you a score expressed in percentages.
At the same time, it describes your headline as empathetic, spiritual, or intellectual so you know exactly how your target audience will see your ad title.
4) Address the Customer Directly
People don’t want to know when your company was founded. They want to know what you can do for them, why you’re better than your competitors, and why they should trust you. That’s why your headline should be focused on the customer.
It’s very common, not only in ads, but in copy in general, that businesses make this common mistake of saying “We do this, we do that”. The customer is, naturally, wondering: Where am I then? What can you do for ME? Simply replacing the “we’s” with “you’s” can go a long way.
Why does this work so well? Neil Patel noticed that headlines containing the word YOU have more clicks than others, and the explanation is simple:
You’re approaching the target customer directly and making them feel like you’re talking specifically to them.
And the best thing about these headlines, where you address the target audience, is that they work in both B2B and B2C industries.According to Moz, headlines that address the reader directly get 21% of total clicks, as you can see in the graph below.
5) Use Numbers
Some of the best, proven copywriting formulas say you should be specific in your copy.
For example, Kiss Knee Pain Goobye in 20 Minutes works more efficiently than Kiss Knee Pain Goodbye in No Time. Vague headlines don’t sound compelling enough and don’t grab the target customer’s attention that easily. Using a specific number makes what you’re advertising feel real.
On the other hand, headlines where a specific number is used get more clicks than others. You can see that in the graph above – headlines containing numbers are the most popular among audiences, and several reasons might be behind this fact.
First of all, if you use a huge number in the headline, it’ll also spark curiosity in the target customer, because they’ll start wondering how there can be 36 ways to practice Spanish on the go. Secondly, a number indicates that there are short, actionable items they can implement right away, so they’ll feel compelled to click and read the whole copy.
Not to mention the fact that this type of headline also promises a clear structure. If you’re promoting a three-step strategy to increase CTR, your target customer will know what to expect after they click on the ad – three sections in which they’ll be able to learn something specific.
Simply put, numbers give us a sense of logic and organization, and that’s what we’re always on the lookout for, especially in the messy world of the internet. If you do a bit of research, you’ll find plenty of ads, blog posts, and other forms of web copy and content with headlines that contain numbers:
- 10 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress (Healthline.com)
- 3 Steps to Better Communication (Reachout.com)
- SEO KPI Reporting: 19 SEO KPIs You Should Include in Your Reports (Databox.com)
Here are a few more examples of numbers used in ad headlines.
6) Ask Questions
Around 8% of all Google searches are questions. People turn to Google to find answers, and the most common queries start with “how” and “why.”
From the SEO point of view, questions make great headlines because they sometimes coincide with your target keyword, which helps you nail down your target customer’s seach intent. On the other hand, using questions as headlines helps your ad resonate better with your audience.
If you’ve done your research and identified the key pain points in your target customers, you can form a headline by using a question you know they’ve been asking themselves – or they’ve entered in the Google search field.
In fact, knowing the right questions is just as important as having the answers. It’s no wonder there’s the People Also Ask section on the first page of Google! There are also numerous tools that can help you find out what your audience wants to know:
- Answer the Public
- Also Asked
And here’s another thing. Joseph Sugarman also said it was critical to get your target customer to agree with you. By asking them a question you know has been troubling them, you get them to nod their head immediately upon seeing your ad.
- Want to get rid of that annoying back pain forever?
- Looking for the best way to optimize your Facebook ads?
Struggling with English grammar? If you’ve done the targeting part well, the person reading this headline will immediately think: YES! That’s exactly what I want.
7) Don’t Forget about Optimization
SEO is often associated with blogging and long-form copy, but it shouldn’t be neglected in ads either. Apart from the fact that your potential customers will see the keyword they’re searching for and stop scrolling, using keywords optimizes your ads for SERP.
Writing generic headlines that don’t clearly show the benefits of your product or service, not optimizing them for the specific keyword you’re targeting, or failing to add a strong call to action may result in lower CTR and conversion rate than you aimed for. Luckily, if you apply the following headline tips, you’ll increase your chances of getting a higher ROAS for your ads.
- Do some extensive research. Although headlines are short, they may take the longest to write. Since ad titles are a critical part of your Facebook or Google ad, make sure you write in mindfully. The first step is to choose a good keyword for your headline – the more on-point you are with what your target audience is searching for, the more successful your campaign will be.
- Don’t make the headline too long. Around 50-60 characters is optimal, since you have enough room to write something compelling, and the headline will still be displayed in full in search results. Shorter headlines are also known to perform better for the middle and bottom of the funnel – when people are looking for your brand specifically.
- Place the keyword close to the beginning of the headline so it’s the first thing your target customers see when the ad is displayed. People read in an F-shaped pattern, so the first couple of words are critical.
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