Kristen Guy Copywriting

Why Your Headlines Aren’t Working

You’ve spent hours writing a brilliant landing page about your company’s new product. Now you’re ready to go live so your soon-to-be adoring prospects can learn all about it.

But, wait. You forgot the headline. To remedy this, you spend 30 seconds thinking one up, then slap it at the top of your landing page.

Bad idea.

Why, you ask? Because these days, prospects only spend about five seconds deciding whether to read on or move on.

If your headline is junk, all those people who come across your page will stop there and never get any further. Never learn about your amazing product. Never find out how it will help them solve their problems. Never learn how it can improve their lives and bring peace and joy to the world.

Okay, maybe I’m being a little dramatic. But the truth is that a bad headline often leads to a missed opportunity, a lost sale, a never-gonna-get-them-back situation.

Headlines are so important, in fact, that most copywriting gurus recommend spending 80% – 90% of the project time developing the headline versus the body copy.

In his book How to Make Your Advertising Make Money, master copywriter John Caples wrote, “If you can come up with a good headline, you are almost sure to have a good ad. But even the greatest writer can’t save an ad with a poor headline.”

So how do you know if your headline is a good or bad one?

Ask yourself these questions:

• Is my headline ho-hum or attention-getting?

• Does it simply try to entertain or does it communicate real benefits?

• Does it include clichés and overused phrases or original, creative wording?

• Does it appeal to anyone and everyone, or does it target a specific audience?

• Is the message weak, or does it offer a compelling reason for prospects to read on?

Headlines that are boring, missing a benefit, use clichés, speak to a general audience, and lack a compelling message are not effective. These are the “bad” ones.

For a headline to fall into that magical category of “good,” it must do three things: get attention, speak to a specific audience and arouse curiosity.

Get Attention

A good headline must call to your prospects and lure them to you . . . like a mythical Siren beckoning. It needs to say, “I have a solution to your problem that will improve your life. Come closer.”

Here are a few examples:


10 Questions to Answer Before Selecting an ERP System (software consultant firm)

Longer, Straighter Drives . . . Without Lessons (golf club manufacturer)

You’re Injured, But Not Helpless (medical device company)


By including an important benefit or tidbit of useful information in the headline, you appeal to your prospect’s self-interest. This helps him answer the “What’s in it for me?” question and compels him to read on.

Speak to A Specific Audience

Few products are meant for everyone. For instance, most high school seniors don’t have the means to afford a sports car. And a retiree likely doesn’t need the latest breakthrough in acne prevention.

Yet many companies struggle to attract the right buyers because their headlines are just too general.

A good headline makes it clear who the target audience is through the words used. Here are some examples:


5 Reasons Your Mancave Needs Daylight (audience: men with dark mancaves)

Market Peaks: Welcome or Worrisome? (audience: financial investors)

The Most Energy Efficient Lighting for Your Home. Ever. (audience: home owners who want to save money)


When creating headlines, select words that speak directly to the prospects your product can help. By doing so, you’ll waste less time answering questions from people who aren’t a good fit for—or perhaps can’t afford—your product.

Arouse Curiosity

Humans are naturally curious. A good headline takes advantage of this by piquing a prospect’s interest. You can achieve this by:

• Asking a question

• Making a statement that challenges the status quo

• Sharing new or useful information

• Promising a reward

• Telling a story

• Using an interesting statistic

• Making an offer

Headlines that convey a sense of intrigue, humor or mystery compel prospects to hurry on to the body copy to learn more.

Developing effective headlines is challenging work. Yet if you want your prospects to become customers, a good headline is the first and most important step.

Start by making the three improvements I’ve shared with you, and you’ll be able to craft stronger, more focused headlines that attract the right people to your business.

Or if you have better things to do than obsess over headline strategies and techniques, I’m happy to chat about how I can help. Just give me a shout here.

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