How To Write Headlines That Sell And Convert

David Frosdick

Last Updated: July 7, 2017

In this article, you’re going to learn why headlines matter, what makes a headline great (with examples), and most importantly, how to write them yourself, quickly and easily, using the same framework that professional copywriters use.

How To Write Headlines That Sell And Convert

Congratulations… you’ve built a great product or service for your audience. You’ve spent months or even years making it perfect, and you’re finally ready to release it to the world. The hard part is over, right?

All you need to do now is launch?

Many business owners follow exactly this trajectory, spending all their time on product development and expecting that their audience will line up to buy without much convincing. 

This line of thinking is particularly common amongst entrepreneurs who pre-validated an idea before starting to build. After all, you wouldn’t have built it if your audience didn’t want it, right?

The truth is, building a great product is only half the battle - even if your audience has been asking you for it for years, and especially if you’re hoping to reach more customers than you currently have. 

Your next challenge for increasing leads is to capture people’s attention about it, and that’s no small task in the very crowded, noisy space of internet marketing.

Take a look at all the open tabs on your screen right now, and it becomes immediately obvious that no one, yourself included, is just sitting around waiting to be sold something.

So, how do you convince people to check out your product?

The same way we convinced you to check out this article – with a great headline.

In this article, you’re going to learn why headlines matter, what makes a headline great (with examples), and most importantly, how to write them yourself, quickly and easily, using the same framework that professional copywriters use. 

Why Headlines Matter

Put simply, a headline is the most important part of your sales message. It’s the first thing people will see when you put your product out there, and in the 0-8 seconds you have to make an impression, a headline will make or break your success.

We’re not exaggerating here: a headline is so crucial that it can affect traffic by up to 500%.

Now that we’ve put the fear of headlines in you, here’s the good news: writing a good headline isn’t impossible.

You needn’t be or hire a professional copywriter. You don’t have to attend seminars or spend years tweaking every last letter.

You just need a framework.

What Makes A Great Headline?

One of the best ways to learn how to do something is to examine what has worked for others. In this content-driven economy, expert copywriters and successful business owners have generously shared the tactics, frameworks, and formulas that have helped them grow their businesses and capture the attention of their intended readers.

If you’re a new business owner with little to no experience writing headlines or sales copy, the information you’re about to read will put you on the fast track to creating professional-quality headlines that attract and convert.

The A.I.D.A. Framework

How do professional copywriters write a headline? For over three centuries, one framework has been the most trusted and reliable authority: A.I.D.A.

This simple, four-part acronym explains the typical path that an individual follows from the time they first learn about a product to the time they purchase it.

A.I.D.A. can comprehensively inform your entire marketing strategy, and for our purposes, it can also be the basis of all your headlines and sales copy from now on.

Here’s how it works, letter by letter:

To win customers, you must first capture their attention. How? Begin your research like the pros do, by asking a few important questions of your target readers. Ideally, you will pose these questions directly, via mini personal interviews, readership surveys, social media, etc.

Your goal is to listen, not to project - to hear their answers, in their own words, so that you can use those exact words in your headline. By reflecting your readers’ own language back to them, you’ll make them feel like you’re already inside their head.

And we are always paying attention to the words in our own heads.

Here are some great questions to start with:

“What are their pains and problems?” Find out how your ideal customers describe the problem your product solves. 

These are the words they’ll use when discussing their problems with family, friends, and experts. 

These are the terms they’ll type into a search engine when they’re looking online for answers. 

These are the exact words you want to incorporate into your headlines.

“Are they looking for solutions?” Up to 96% of website visitors are not ready to buy, which means your headline serves as a critical bridge between where your prospects are now and where they say they want to be. 

If you get the headline right, more of them will cross that bridge into the rest of your sales copy, and be one step closer to a solution.

“What does their life/business look like once the problem is solved?” Wrap your mini interviews on a positive note. 

Allow your respondents the space to imagine what opportunities will open up for them once their problem is solved, and use that language in your headline so they know you know what they want. 

Quick Tip

They don’t want your solution - they want the result it will give them.

Once you have your readers’ attention, know this: only a small percentage of them will already be interested in the thing you’re selling. Don’t get too discouraged.

The thing to keep in mind is that by writing a good headline, you can educate interest. That is, you can encourage initially distracted or ambivalent visitors to read a little further if your headline is interesting enough.

Here are three ways to educate interest:

Say It Differently

Writer Will Durant once said, “There is nothing new except arrangement.” If that’s true, your work in this step is already half completed by others. 

Your task is to find the headlines they’ve used to sell something similar to what you have to offer, and then to adapt those headlines to work for your audience. (Wondering if their headlines are good? See how they hold up against the A.I.D.A. framework.)

If you use the answers that your audience gave you in the previous step, “saying it differently” can be as easy as swapping out a few words.

Flip Expectations

You can pique visitors’ curiosity by saying the exact opposite of what they expect.

From Levi’s “Guaranteed to Shrink, Wrinkle, and Fade” to VW’s “Lemon,” a headline that surprises us is undeniably interesting.

Open A Loop

This is a concept borrowed from psychology. For our purposes, to open a loop is to write an incomplete headline, something that demands your readers’ participation to bring it full circle.

The brain cannot abide an open loop - readers are compelled to seek closure by offering their own endings, which transforms them into co-creators of the headline and thereby more invested in your overall message.

When you invite your readers to complete the headline, you bump them out of their inertia and into a state of taking action. 

If you can keep up the momentum, you’ll have a sale before you know it.

You can open a loop in your headlines by asking a question, leaving a thought to a trail, or simply not finishing your sentence. Here are a few examples:

“Have you monetized your blog yet?”
“Ever wondered how your friends can afford to buy a new car every year?”
“They told me it wasn’t possible to retire at 35 and travel the world…”
“From 0 to 100k readers in how many months?”

After you educate interest in your product or service, your next step is to make your customers want it. 

This is a sensitive area of marketing because if you do it poorly, your headline looks sleazy, salesy, and slimy. 

You’ll look like you’re trying to sell something you don’t care for to people who don’t want it.

On the other hand, encouraging desire comes naturally when you truly believe in the thing you’re offering. 

If you built this product because you wish it had existed for you, or because you’ve helped countless people with this problem in the past, it’s normal and generous to want to share that with as many people as possible so they can experience the benefits, too.

In this step, you’ll aim to inject emotional impact into your headline. We don’t mean you should get sappy or sentimental - we mean use words that incite energy and action.

Look again at the examples above. Words and phrases like 'monetized', 'your friends', and 'wasn’t possible' to make readers feel something. 

And when people feel something, they want to do something about it.

That’s where the final step comes in.

You’ve captured attention, educated interest, and encouraged desire. 

At this point, your headline is pretty strong, and the final component - action - gives both marketer and customer what they want: a sale.

Inspiring action isn’t easy, but it’s also not as difficult as you may think. The other three elements of A.I.D.A. have been leading to this, which means your readers will be expecting an opportunity to act. In a headline, this often looks like adding a sense of urgency.

Take a final look at the examples above. Words and phrases like yet, every year, at 35, and months make it clear that timing is important, and that acting now means a faster path toward getting the result they want.

Putting It All Together

As we mentioned earlier, A.I.D.A. is not just for headlines. It is a comprehensive marketing strategy that you can use to convert website traffic into customers, so it will work as a framework to write your entire sales page. 

The headline should be a sneak preview of all the copy that follows.

Take Your Headlines To The Next Level With Animations

Once you’ve got a handle on the four elements of A.I.D.A., you may find yourself confronted with a new challenge: how to fit it all in. 

What’s a marketer to do if your customers have multiple pain points and your solution has multiple features and benefits?

In the past, marketers often made their headlines quite long to accommodate everything that needed to be said within the A.I.D.A framework. 

We’re not against a long headline from time to time, but we’re also really grateful that not every headline we come across requires a lunch break.

Have you seen examples like these?

Fortunately, with the aid of new powerful tools and services, webmasters and marketers have found a way to cover the entire A.I.D.A. framework easily, without taking up excess space in the valuable headline real estate.

Animated headlines can result in a number of benefits:

Increased Engagement.
Increased Sales.
More Sustained Traffic.
A Better User Experience

Here are some other resources for headline inspiration:

Want to post some of your headline examples below?

Please comment below and tell us your headlines you plan to use on your own landing pages and get some feedback from other.

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