Four Easy Steps to Writing a Great Headline in Five Minutes

If you are reading up to this point, I reckon this headline has successfully retained your attention, or better still, brought you into this site from elsewhere because of it!

We all know the importance of a headline; the short string of words that makes or breaks an article or a copy. As a result it also gives us one of the biggest headaches when trying to pen one that packs the most punch. And when time is of essence and a deadline is looming, we simply can't spend the entire morning mulling over those few words that are to appear in larger typeface.

Which is why I find the following method a real time-saver in coming up with a simple but solid headline that can accompany the body of almost any promotional copy. In fact, I used this very method to write the title for this post, and hence I'll use it as an example here.
Step 1
Complete the sentence: My product helps my customer because it ___________________.

This step compels you to write down the main benefit of what you are promoting. The above sentence, of course, is just a broad statement that may not apply to your specific needs. In my case, I wasn't exactly selling a product, nor did I have potential customers. So to adapt, I changed the first part of the sentence and completed it as such:

My post helps my readers because it shows them a sure-fire way to write a great headline in four steps.

Step 2
Cut everything up to and including 'it'.

That left me with:

Shows them a sure-fire way to write a great headline in four steps.

Step 3
Change 'them' and 'they' to 'you' (and tweak the rest as necessary):

Shows you a sure-fire way to write a great headline in four steps.

Step 4
Add 'NOW: an easy way to' at the beginning.

'NOW: an easy way to' didn't exactly fit into the structure of the sentence I derived from Step 3, but with some tweaking, I get:

NOW: Showing You a Sure-Fire Way to Write a Great Headline in Four Steps

I could have left it like that and it would still be a decent headline, but I wasn't too satisfied. Nevertheless, the content of the headline had definitely taken shape, and all I had to do was to refine it further.

Editing the Headline
'NOW' went well with a new, revolutionary product, but not with my post, so I changed it to 'REVEALED'. Since 'REVEALED' and 'Showing' meant pretty much the same thing, I did away with the latter:

REVEALED: A Sure-Fire Way For You to Write a Great Headline in Four Steps

Next, I felt that 'Four Steps' should be at the beginning of the headline, not at the end, because it was an important "selling point". At the same time, 'Sure-Fire' didn't sound right for me, and 'Way', coupled with 'Steps', was too much of a journey. I wanted something more easy to digest... that's it. Easy.

REVEALED: Four Easy Steps For You to Write a Great Headline

This headline was beginning to grow on me. I just wanted one more "selling point" to push it through. The element of speed was also important. Easy and quick. Everyone would like that. Why not talk about how much time it would take? I estimated that I took five minutes to get from Steps 1 to 4 (and probably slightly longer after refining it, but that wasn't counted).

REVEALED: Four Easy Steps For You to Write a Great Headline in Five Minutes

Finally, I decided I didn't need the word 'REVEALED'. And 'For You' was redundant as well. Shorter, sweeter:

Four Easy Steps to Writing a Great Headline in Five Minutes

So that's settled. My headline for this post. It's actually changed quite a bit from what I had in Step 4, but the original headline served as an excellent foundation to build my actual line upon.

This four-step method is taken from the book The Copywriting Sourcebook: How to write better copy, faster - for everything from ads to websites by well-known Copywriter Andy Maslen. I can't help but to comment on how much this book has enlightened me as a Copywriter. As I was reading through each page, I found myself repeatedly nodding my head in agreement with so many things that were said, and taking in so many tips that got me excited about applying them in my next copy! From a book that was randomly picked up in the library, it is now part of my collection of essential copywriting resources. Two hundred pages of pure copywriting gems.

I'll end this post with a piece of advice about writing headlines from Maslen:
If you do nothing else with your next headline, spell out your main benefit. And if your reader can say 'so what?', it's not a benefit.


Susan May said...

That is great advice. Very interesting to see the steps you take to create a headline. I shall practise that next time. And I will repost this link on Twitter. Its good advice for everyone.

WordyAffairs said...

Thank you once again Susan for your encouraging comment!

atomicluu said...

Great post, I am always looking for ways to enhance my writing skills!

I was wondering if you'd be interested in sharing your articles with like-minded content marketing strategists? I am building a content marketing community to showcase everyone's expertise in this field.

Please send me an email if you have any questions and I can share further details with you. Thank you for your consideration.



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