“Wild Sex! That Big Bang Is the Sound of Your Bed Breaking!” Why does that line want to make you peek inside the latest issue of Cosmo at the grocery checkout, even if you were only shopping for cat food and yogurt?
Or take a site like Upworthy:
How does Upworthy always make you click on stories like this even when you have an inbox flooded with work emails?
Welcome to the world of great headlines.
Upworthy founder, Peter Koechly, explained the big business behind writing great headlines. “The difference between a good headline and a bad headline can be just massive. It’s not a rounding error. When we test headlines we see 20% difference, 50% difference, 500% difference. A really excellent headline can make something go viral.”
Companies like Upworthy and Cosmo live and die by their headlines. Which is why they invest in a pro copywriting staff and survey readers so they know — beyond a shadow of a doubt — that their headlines will work before they even hit publish.
How’s a little website in a far-off corner of the internet supposed to compete with this?
Relax. I’ve got you covered.
Today, I’m going to walk you through the main headlines a first time visitor will see on your site. (Yes, there are more than one.) These are the touchpoints that make new visitors click, come back for more, and eventually become paying customers.
So let’s get started.
Your front door: the homepage headline
If you’re like any other new business owner, you have a love-hate relationship with your website.
On one hand, you’re proud that you finally have something up! On the other, you don’t quite love it.
But before you run off and hire an expensive designer for a complete revamp, let’s talk about something that matters more for visitors than the font you use or a fancy banner.
It’s the headline on your homepage. These few words tell visitors what your site is all about. If it grabs their attention, you have a new reader. It not, they’ll hit the back button and read about “15 Life-Changing Ways to Eat More Shrimp” on BuzzFeed.
Your homepage headline is important, but it doesn’t need to be a chore to write.
The key to getting your visitors to stay is focusing on how your site, product, or service will help them. Here are a few examples you probably recognize:
“Melts in Your Mouth, Not in Your Hand.”
“The Nighttime, Sniffling, Sneezing, Aching, Coughing, Stuffy-Head, Fever, So You Can Rest Medicine.”
“15 Minutes Can Save You 15 Percent.”
Notice how they’re offering some kind of concrete benefit?
M&M’s promises you their chocolate won’t melt when you’re holding it, only when you eat it.
Nyquil gives you relief so you can get a good night’s sleep.
Geico says they’ll save you 15 percent on car insurance if you go through a 15-minute process (phone call or online form).
If you’re a potential customer, a benefit-driven headline will pull you in like a magnet.
The best way to create a benefit-driven headline for your site is by answering 3 simple questions.
- What are you offering?
- What is the end result?
- Who is your customer?
To give you an idea of what this looks like in practice, let’s look at how a few successful, 6-figure online businesses are doing this.
We’ll use four Zero to Launch students as examples. (Zero to Launch is our premium course that teaches people how to start their own profitable online business.)
|Naveen Dittakavi: How to Build Recurring Revenue||Business strategy advice||Build recurring revenue||Software consultants|
|Sarah Jones: Introverted Alpha||Dating Advice||Attract a woman||Introverted men|
|Nagina Abdullah: Masala Body||Weight loss advice||Lose 10 or more pounds||Busy women|
|Danny Margulies: Freelance to Win||Freelance advice||Make money and be successful||People interested in freelancing|
Naveen Dittakavi of How to Build Recurring Revenue came up with this tagline:
Sarah Jones, the dating coach for introverted men, has this on her site:
Then there’s Nagina Abdullah — the weight loss coach from Masala Body — who got a little fancier than our first two businesses. She wrote:
Finally, Danny Margulies, whose business teaches people how to freelance on Upwork, came up with this:
Simple, straightforward, and compelling for their audiences.
To write a quick and compelling headline, just plug your answers into these two templates:
[End result] for [people you are serving]
[Your offering] for [people you are serving]
You can keep it as is, just like How to Build Recurring Revenue and Introverted Alpha did. Or you can play around. Ask a question like Masala Body did.
Freelance to Win started its headline with “Learn what it really takes” to highlight the end result he can get for his customers.
Obviously, the templates aren’t a 100% solution. For example, “Losing 10 pounds for busy women” doesn’t make sense, but “Weight loss advice for busy women” does.
The important thing is to play around and try different combinations. Don’t get too caught up. Once you get something simple with a clear benefit, move on. Heck, our tagline for GrowthLab is just this:
If you answer the 3 questions and plug them into the templates above, you’ll be ahead of most websites who try to imitate big brands with something fluffy about what they do.
I mean, what’s your best guess at what this site does?
Now, let’s move on to the next important headline.
Turn browsers into regulars with this often-overlooked part of your site
The email signup box (or opt-in form in marketer talk) is crucial if you want to build an army of loyal fans that eventually become customers.
People might love your site, but if you don’t give them an “automatic way” to return, they’ll forget about you.
The form is a way for visitors to tell you, “Hey, I like you. Keep me posted on what you’re up to.”
However, a lot of sites mess up this small, but critical, piece.
Let me ask, how many times have you seen something like this?
Um, no thanks.
Or how many times have you seen “Sign up for my free newsletter”?
This is a marketing crime. People are protective of their emails. They get enough as it is, which is why you must offer something of value and tell them about it.
The best approach to this is offering something called a carrot (or lead magnet in marketer lingo). This is usually a free video or PDF that gives people even more valuable content in exchange for their email address.
Here are examples of carrots from two successful online businesses:
Nerd Fitness uses a “15 Mistakes Newbies Make” ebook as a carrot.
Ryan Holiday recommends books to his readers as a carrot.
The carrot you give away can be something simple. Our 30 Successful Online Business Ideas PDF on GrowthLab is only 4 pages — including the cover — but it’s incredibly valuable and one of our most popular carrots.
Once you pick your carrot, you can write a benefit-driven headline to entice people to sign up. Just like any other headline, your opt-in forms should feature headlines that communicate the specific, benefit-driven value you offer readers.
Here is a simple script you can use for a clear and compelling opt-in form headline:
[Achieve XYZ result] with [name of carrot]
Yes, show me [XYZ result]!
Here’s an example from Kinowear, a style site for men:
Kinowear shows the benefit of their carrot
At GrowthLab, we use a combination of our tagline and the 30 Business Ideas carrot on our homepage:
The headlines that turn first-time visitors into engaged readers
Most of the time, the first thing people see won’t be your home page. It’ll be a post from your blog.
These are what people will stumble across when they’re Googling for answers to life’s biggest questions at 2am with a Netflix marathon on the TV in the background.
Good headlines get clicks in Google.
They’re what people see when you post on Facebook or Twitter.
Your blog titles are the Cosmo headlines for your business. They’re what determine if you’re worth a click. And they’re critical because almost all visitors to your site will enter your business through a headline — if they’re compelling enough.
Luckily, there are common templates for great blog headlines.
Here are 10 formulas we’ve used at GrowthLab, along with the specific headlines:
- Ask a question – “What would you tell your younger self?”
- Give a command – “Go where the fish are!”
- Use a “how to” headline – “How to drive traffic to your website.”
- Tell a story – “The fast, cheap way I started my online business.”
- Make a list – “The 100 things you need to know to start a business.”
- Announce news that’s novel and relevant to the reader – “New Free Guide: Launch your online business.”
- Make the headline time-sensitive or urgent – “I’ve never done a contest like this”
- Be direct and address a pain – “So you have skills. How do you get paid for them?”
- Give the reader useful information – “My checklist for finding a profitable business idea.”
- Create mystery – “Are we being manipulated?”
Behind the scenes at GrowthLab, our writers always draft multiple headlines for every blog post. Then we vote for the best one as a team, sometimes even sharing them with readers to see which get the most people to stop and say, “Yes, I need to read that now.”
When you find that headline, you’ve got your Cosmo or Upworthy headline.
Next steps: How to keep their attention after the headline
Now that you can get readers’ attention, you have to keep them interested. What’s the best way to do that? By following up your great headlines with remarkable content.
To help you get started publishing amazing blog posts that your readers will devour, we’ve put together a free bonus for GrowthLab readers.
It’s called the Ultimate Guide to Remarkable Content.
In this 61-page guide, you’ll learn:
- The anatomy of a viral blog post. It’s not luck, or major press coverage. Viral posts actually have 7 key elements. Start putting these to work to attract a flood of new readers to your site.
- How to go from blank page to amazing blog post. Whether you consider yourself a writer or not, a blank page staring back at you is no fun. Luckily, you can follow 4 simple strategies to crank out amazing content time after time.
- The “creative on demand” strategy to come up with great ideas. Brian Koppelman, the screenwriter for Ocean’s Thirteen and The Illusionist, reveals his creative process in an exclusive interview. You can use it to never run out of blog post ideas.
- How to know if your writing is good right away using the “bar test.” Simple, yet incredibly effective. Ramit Sethi used this test to take his blog from a Stanford dorm room to the pages of Fortune, Forbes, and the New York Times Bestseller list.
- Plus – 8 bloggers will reveal the one thing they wish they knew when they started. You may recognize these names. They write about and run businesses related to fitness, marketing, personal finance, and personal development. They’ve joined forces in a special “Lessons From the Masters” section to help you get started creating remarkable blog posts.