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.John Caples (How to Make your Advertising Make Money)
There’s no doubt “John Caples” is one of the biggest names you’d hear in advertising and copywriting.
He lived between the years 1900 and 1990 and pioneered many aspects of advertising, copy testing and extensive research inclusive.
One of his most popular headlines, “They Laughed When I Sat Down at the Piano, but When I Started to Play!“, was written back in 1926, and it recorded a huge success (and follow-suits over the years).
Till today, copywriters read his books. And many of the copywriting tips floating all over the internet came from him and other Mad Men Era advertisers like David Ogilvy — a British advertiser known as “The Father of Advertising”.
As a content marketer and copywriter who writes with two goals of answering my reader’s question and ranking the content on Google, I am aware of the fact that Google lays emphasis on quality over quantity.
Quantity being the number of posts you publish daily, weekly, or monthly.
This is largely due to Google’s desire to give every user the best experience. They want you to get the best results when you use their search engine.
And that is exactly why every user’s movement is tracked. From the time they perform a search to the result they select, and how long they spend on a particular page.
The page that gets the highest click-throughs and time on page will eventually rise to the apex of the search result for several related search keywords.
The same applies to ad campaigns on Google results pages. The one with the most clicks (and highest time on page, which Google interprets as being valuable) gets ranked higher than the others, even though they’re all paid for.
Another thing you should know about PPC ads is that the higher your click-throughs, the higher your ad impression share, and the lower your Cost Per Click.
So when you craft headlines that command click-throughs from potential customers, it’s a 2-win for you:
- Higher rank and visibility = Higher click-throughs and conversion (more $$$).
- Higher click-throughs = lower CPC (you get more value without adjusting your budget).
Making more money while spending less. Sounds great to you? Then read this article to the last word so you can learn how to write headlines for ads.
9 Tips on How to Write Headlines for Ads
- 1. Keep Your Sales Ad Headline Simple
- 2. Select Your Audience in Your Ad Headline.
- 3. Make Your Ad Headlines About Your Audience
- 4. Promise To Solve a Problem
- 5. Be Specific in Your Ad Headline
- 6. Hint at Information in Your Ad Headline.
- 7. Ask a Question in Your Ad Headline.
- 8. Promise a Reward in Your Ad Headline
- 9. Write Multiple Headlines For Your Ad
1. Keep Your Sales Ad Headline Simple
This is probably the most underrated tip of all copywriting tips. And that’s why I decided to mention it first.
In his article, The Step-by-Step Guide to Writing Powerful Headlines, Neil Patel says you should never ever use a headline like “Top 10 Ubiquitous Places to Find Ravishing Blog Post Theses“.
He recommends that such headlines be rewritten as “Top 10 Place to Find Useful Blog Post Ideas” instead.
While the first headline is longer and unnecessarily makes use of that teeth-clogging adjective, the second headline is simple and could be understood by anyone who speaks the English language.
What you want a prospect to do when they see your ad is to take action by clicking through. Not scratch their heads and reach for a dictionary (something they probably won’t do).
The rule that says you should avoid clever play on words, puns, and ‘cute headlines’ fall under this category.
You can save those for your tagline if it works. But in your PPC ad, you want to avoid them like the plague (Oh! And remember to avoid the plague too).
However, to let a prospective buyer know that your ad is for them, you should:
2. Select Your Audience in Your Ad Headline.
It’s very possible for you to get your targeting right, keep your headline simple and straightforward, and yet have your ad skipped by potential customers.
That’s because they do not know it’s for them. After all, they know nothing about your targeting, budget, or whatever.
Another reason why you must select your audience in your ad headline is to avoid getting clicks from ineligible candidates for your offers.
For instance, if you run a Corporate Massage business, and you offer your services only to companies based in Texas or California (the cities with the highest number of companies in the United States). You want to make this fact known in your headline.
No, not the “cities with the highest blah blah blah” part. The name of the city you operate in. Mind you, not the city you operate from. But the city in which your buyers are geographicalized. Whatever that means.
Consider this headline:
“Corporate Massage Solutions | XYZ Spa and Salon“.
This headline is a bit targeted. At least it says you offer corporate massage services. However, if your competitor’s headline says:
“Mobile Corporate Massage in California | XYZ Spa and Salon“
They’d give you a run for your money.
The second headline above may not be the perfect headline for this sample ad. But it resonates with potential clients based in California.
Besides, someone searching from Texas won’t bother clicking this ad if they happen to come across it because they know it’s not for them. Thereby saving you the money.
In the same vein, if you only serve companies of certain sizes, say 50 to 100 employees (least to max), you might want to make that known in the quick description beneath the ad. Or cram it in your header if you can.
Also, while writing your ads, you should always:
3. Make Your Ad Headlines About Your Audience
In a press release, an ordinary blog post, or a social media post, you can post something or use a headline that’s about your business.
But when it comes to sales ads. Never make it about your company, even if you’ve just released a new product. Instead, make it about your audience.
An awesome example of a self-serving headline (given by Robert Bly, author of The Copywriter’s Handbook) is:
“Do You Know What The XYZ Company is Up to These Days?“
To which he says the reader’s response would be “‘who cares?‘ and a turn of the page”. Or more appropriately now, a scroll of the page or a click back (or back click, whatever).
If you’re announcing a new product, a great way to make the ad about your audience is by mentioning a benefit (hey, that’s a tip. Make that 10 tips). Consider:
“Our New App Let’s You Book Sessions Quicker and Safer. Download Free | XYZ Care“.
Now, that’s a better headline than the what-we-are-up-to option above.
It may sound harsh, but someone looking to buy doesn’t care about what your company is up to. They care about what your products can do for them.
Another thing you can do with your sales ad headline to boost click throughs and conversion is to:
4. Promise To Solve a Problem
Depending on the product or service you’re advertising, you can, in your headline, promise to solve a problem.
For instance, a fitness trainer who helps people to build muscles might run an ad like:
“For Skinny Guys: 3 Months With Me, and You’d fill Your Shirt | XYZ Fitness”.
“For Skinny Guys: 3 Months With Me, and You’d Send The Bully Running | XYZ Fitness“.
These headlines are great because:
- The audience is defined (skinny guys)
- Both headlines address a problem: size and appearance.
Believe it or not, but every guy (or at least, most guys) wants some muscles and a wide chest. It’s an innate masculine desire. Just as a wrinkle-, acne-, and spot-free face (and noticeable butts) are innate feminine desires.
I’ve never met a lady who doesn’t want those. Neither have I met a guy who’d rather remain puny.
The problem promised to be solved is size. Either to fill a shirt better, or make the bully think twice.
When you select your audience and make a promise in your headline to solve their problem, you’re in for some click-throughs and conversion.
Another element present in the headlines sighted in this section is specificity. While writing your ads, you should be:
5. Be Specific in Your Ad Headline
Being specific in your headline is another great trick you can use for better conversion.
Are you saving them money? Mention the amount. Are you saving them time? Mention it.
For instance, you as a Corporate Massage business owner may run an ad with the headline:
“Corporate Massage in California. Save up To $3,330 If You Order Today“.
How’s this possible? You have a One-month-free-on-one-year-sub promo going on.
Say you charge $100 an hour for chair massage. And you can massage up to 3 people per hour.
If you won a gig from a company with a hundred staff members, you’d share them into 3 per hour. So you have 33.3 hours to massage all of them.
Now, $100 (per hour) * 33.3 (hours) = $3,330.
If this company asks you to come once a month, your total fee will be $3,330 a month.
If this company buys a year plan ($39,960), they get a month free, so they save $3,330. Daz a’ lot a’ manni.
With this type of ad, you want to use your highest figure. Hence the “Up to” phrase.
Say you can handle a company with 500 employees, your ad should read
“Corporate Massage in California. Save up To $16,650 If You Order Today“.
“Corporate Massage in California. Up To $16,650 Discount | XYZ Spa“.
That’s a hard offer to resist. But make your terms known on the landing page. More sensible if you do this towards the end of the page. But mention the discount at the top.
You could be specific in terms of time like the Skinny Guy as above.
“3 Months with Me and and You’d be Captain America“.
Another tip for massive conversion on the ad listing is to:
6. Hint at Information in Your Ad Headline.
A phrase I’ve been fond of recently goes thus: “Information is life”.
There’s no single day that a person in charge of his physical and mental members won’t seek information.
You’re on this page to get information. I promised to give you 9 tips for writing sales ads headlines that sell. And now, I’m delivering the 6th.
What you should know about this type of headlines, though, is that they are not meant to lead to a page that only asks the user to buy a product.
They work better when they lead to a page that provides valuable information to the user. You can then mention and link to your product or service page in the body copy as an efficient solution.
For example, if you run an ad with the headline “Here’s Why You’ll Always Battle Acne“. You must deliver the “Why” on the landing page.
If all you rambled about on your landing page are
- You haven’t tried xyz acne cream
- You haven’t tried xyz acne wash
- Buy xyz acne cream now.
Those who have experience using Acne creams and are wondering if there’s something worng with them medically will most likely click off your page.
That’s because they’re not looking to buy any product – yet. Instead, they’re looking to understand themselves. And if you helped them with that information, they’d trust you enough to buy your product. Or at least, subscribe for your newsletters.
Another tip is that you should:
7. Ask a Question in Your Ad Headline.
Questions have several uses. From requesting for information and creating a feeling of doubt in people’s mind. That’s why we have several types of question.
When you ask people questions, it makes them check their knowledge base. And if they’re not sure that they have the right information, you’d get a click-through.
This is more like an indirect way of promising information in your headline. If you, as a dietitian, use the headline:
“Is Your Balanced Diet Balance? Check Your Standing ASAP!“
For this ad, people who care so much about (and lay emphasis on) eating well will want to confirm if they’re still on track or they’ve wandered off the path of eating healthily.
Another variant could go along the lines of “Sure You’re Not Making These Infant Feeding Mistakes?” This, however, is directed at lactating and nursing mothers.
One more tip:
8. Promise a Reward in Your Ad Headline
Consciously or unconsciously, people are on the watch for what will benefit them and what will not. It’s what gave birth to the ideas of “time wastage” and “opportunity comes but once”.
What you’ll promise in your headline should be something of value. Could be information, free consultation, or discount.
The corporate massage ad in this context could read:
“Corporate Massage in California. Free Consultation When you Use this Link“.
“Corporate Massage in California. Discount Coupon Inside“.
When you promise a reward in your headline, it makes sense to fulfil that reward on your landing page.
If buyers have to navigate to another page after the landing page to get this reward, your ad will be seen as a clickbait. And you will be rewarded with a high bounce rate rather than a high conversion rate.
And the last tip that’ll help you to craft amazing headlines for your ads is:
9. Write Multiple Headlines For Your Ad
It’s rare (almost impossible, actually) for a copywriter to spit out the perfect headline at the first attempt. Lol. Sometimes, your creative side won’t even show up.
Some experts recommend writing up to 10 headlines for each ad. Some say 5 is okay.
But Kelly Smith, in her article on Coschedule, says you should write 10 first, then write 15 afterwards. That’s 25.
Kelly’s opinion originated from the Third Third idea by Tim Hurson in his book Think Better.
Any way you choose to go, the destination remains crafting the best headline that will work best to achieve your advertising goal.
When you have a list of headlines, you can input your headline into an headline analyzer one after the other.
Coschedule has a free headline analyzer. But if you have ExactMetrics installed on WordPress, you’d get a headline analyzer right on your edit screen. Works for both pages and posts.
Alternatively, you can personally cross some of them out and analyze the rest.
If you have 2 promising headlines gaping at you, consider split testing them.
If you work with a team or an editor, you can run 2 to 4 headlines by them to find out which one sits right with them.
By the time you have the last headline standing, that’s most likely a great one.
Whether you’ll have a good ad or a bad ad depends largely on your headline. Sure, your landing page copy has a role to play too. But without a headline that converts, they won’t even get on the landing page.
Without the bait, no fish will find your hook. Your ad headline is your bait, hook, line, and sinker (metaphorically speaking). Make sure you use the best.
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Joseph Olu is an SEO copywriter for SaaS and Health and Wellness brands. He is a contributor to top publications like ThriveGlobal and Hackernoon. He has also written for natural health brands like Phd-organics.