One Helluva Seductive One-Word Headline

EDITOR’S NOTE: I’m republishing this post to bring attention to the success of Barack Obama’s most successful subject line during the 2012 election campaign. That subject line was “Hey.” We might be tempted to imitate that success. The bottom half of this post explains why that won’t work for you. And Brian Clark expands

Work in the copywriting field long enough and you get a knack for picking up on what works. Actually measure what you write and you get to be dead on.

Take the headline, for example.

John Caples calls it the most important part of an advertisement. That’s why he dedicates four out of eighteen chapters to headline writing in his book Tested Advertising Methods.

I recommend you read that book if you have any interest in improving your copywriting chops. In the meantime, I’ll sum up those four chapters for you in one hyphenated word: self-interest.

Not your self-interest. Your readers.

The Most Seductive One-Word Headline. Ever

Zero in on a need or want that your reader has and craft a headline in such a way that catches their attention and draws them in. The key is knowing your audience.

Exhibit A: college men.

One of the most successful headlines ever written for this audience simply said, “Sex.”

That one word stopped late adolescent, early twenty-something men dead in their tracks because it pinpointed exactly the most pressing thing upon their mind.

Have any idea what they were selling? Would you believe textbooks.

Two Other [Less Successful] Ways to Write Headlines

There are two other ways to write headlines: news and curiosity.

  • Introduce breaking news and you’ve got yourself a good headline.

Neither, however, are as strong as self-interest. That’s why “How to” and practical lists dominate the covers of just about every magazine on the racks.

People want solutions to their problems.

They don’t want clever or cute, (unless we’re talking about women, but that’s another post).

Clever or cute won’t cut it on the web. If you want to write those headlines that divert people to your blog, article, magazine ad or book, then dangle exactly what they crave in front of their noses with every headline you write.

They won’t resist.

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    • says

      You mean you don’t know? Or do you mean who should be my readers? If you’re talking about your blog, ask. Write a blog post and ask them to tell you who they are in the comments section. Or you could create a little survey in Google Docs or SurveyMonkey [both free] and float that on your blog, Twitter, etc.

      • says

        Hmmm, maybe I just don’t know who they are and who they should be since I tend to write for myself hoping people will read it and get something out of it.

        I guess I need to focus on the why a little more….

        Thanks for the suggestions.

  1. says

    Great post thanks for sharing. You mention “another post” about writing for women. Did you really address this topic? Would love to learn more.