How to Write Headlines That Sell

Read our 3 biggest tips on how to write headlines that would make David Ogilvy himself smile.

“When you write your headline, you’ve already spent 80 cents out of your dollar,” says David Ogilvy, a 20th Century ad man widely considered to be one of the founding fathers of modern advertising and copywriting.

In other words, your headline carries the greatest responsibility in grabbing reader attention before they even so much as notice any other content on the page.

Whether you’re writing for an advertisement, a blog post, an email, a social media post, or most other types of content, you should start with your headline and work your way down from there.

1. Notice Your Verbs.

Much of today’s copywriting focuses on eliciting action from the reader more than it did in the mid-20th Century.

Digital marketing has greatly shortened the customer journey; now, we’re vying for free trial signups, email newsletter subscriptions, and digital coupon redemptions more than we are for retail store foot traffic.

As such, when you write headlines, it’s generally a good idea to start with a verb that addresses a consumer pain or pleasure point.

For example, instead of saying, “You’ll Notice Amazing Results,” if we’re talking about a weight loss product, you’d say something like, “Lose Weight Just in Time for Summer,” or “Drop the Pounds You Picked Up in Quarantine.”

Not only do these two examples start with verbs that drive action, but they also address the pain point of wanting to lose unwanted weight in the same line.

2. Don’t Fear the Offer.

Human attention span has dropped to about eight seconds. That’s barely enough time to read your headline, never mind the rest of your body copy.

Your headlines start with active voice verbs that resonate with the consumer’s problem or pleasure, but they should also offer something temporary in return for more immediate action.

For instance: “Drop the Pounds You Picked Up in Quarantine with 20% Off Today.”

Online shopping has revolutionized consumer behavior. More people are shopping around, comparing deals, and gathering coupons before making a final decision.

If you fear the offer, you’re already behind the competition.

3. Test, test, test.

You should never assume in the world of digital marketing and copywriting. Always rely on data, always make informed decisions, always test.

Write multiple versions of the same headline and test each one. Make sure the headline is the only thing you’re testing at any given time so as to avoid inaccurate data.

Let the consumer tell you which headline is better. Leave your ego at the door; you’ll be surprised by the results.