Figuring out how to write headlines that sell (or subheadlines) for a homepage isn’t the easiest of tasks: I mean, I may or may not have walked away from my computer last night to grab a shower and glass of wine when I was stuck on subheadline deck copy for a wedding photographer’s website copy.
And I do this every day!
Your headline’s gotta be an engaging snippet that shakes that hand of your target reader, and tells them to pull up a chair and sit a spell … while telling your non-ideal reader not to waste their time.no pressure, right?
No pressure, right?
And while I’ve made your eyes grow wide, I’ll give you ONE more little tid-bit: 4 out of 5 readers will read your headline, according to famed advertiser David Ogilvy (maybe the most overused stat in online marketing, but whatever, ha. It’s true, and someone out there needed to hear it!).
“Even the greatest writer can’t save an ad with a poor headline,” John Caples said, and it’s truth serum: no matter HOW studly the rest of your homepage’s copy, if your headline didn’t interest me, I’ve bounced.Even the greatest writer can't save an ad with a poor headline. -John Caples Click To Tweet
Ok, now that you’re feeling the heat about that homepage headline (sorry about that!), let’s chat about what to do to fix it!
Today, I’m going to tell you:
- Why this matters
- The 6 questions your headline must answer
- How to use 3 tools to generate headline ideas
Why Writing Headlines that Sell on Your Homepage Matters
Dad used to ask me how many chances I get to make a first impression when I was little. “One!” I’d gleefully exclaim and beam after nailing his trick question.
More than two decades later, nothing’s changed for me—or you. You still get ONE chance to hit that first point of true connection with your potential client.
This is the pivot point where they either feel 150% welcome—or where they feel awkward, out-of-place, or maybe even rejected.*
*It’s worth saying that there’s something to attracting/repelling, and you may want them to mosey on along because they’re not a fit … and that’s ok!
Client spots still wide open for the coming quarter? Go look at your packages page headline.
Last Facebook ad campaign didn’t hit your goals? Time to check out your ad and landing page headlines.
No one can figure out what you do, and you’re tired of fielding questions? Time to clean up your homepage headline.
No, it’s not a cure-all, but as a creative entrepreneur, you’ll usually do well to get in the weeds a bit and at least see if your headline can be part of the solution.
So, for every page of your website and especially for your homepage, what.is.your.headline??? <– VIP question
Six Questions Every Headline Must Answer
No intro here, I’m just gonna hop to it so you can get on your way in figuring out how to write headlines that sell.
1. Does it message-match?
You know when you’re thumbing through Instagram on the couch with Southern Charm (I know, I know. I’m allowed a trashy Bravo show!) on in the background, you click a free download or webinar ad, and next thing you know, you’re on some landing page that doesn’t sound anything like the headline you’d clicked through?
Yeah. That’s called a lack of message matching.
As a copywriter for your creative business, you need to know your readers and ideal clients well enough to know what words they’re typing in Google to find you, or the words that will get them to click a button.
For example, I’ve run ads for a webinar about “standing out in a saturated market” before as the headline, because if I mentioned copywriting, there’s a huge chunk of my target audience that I’ll miss. Why? Because I know enough about my audience to know that they don’t quite use the word copywriting yet … it’s still a relatively new concept in the creative entrepreneurial and wedding space, and terms like branding and marketing resonate a bit more.
Homework? Start matching your Facebook ad headlines, your blog headlines, and your landing page headlines to whatever it is your user clicked on to get there, so they land and know their expectations are about to be met!
If people know your name as your brand, I want to see it when I land on your homepage.
If you are a Charlotte-based wedding designer, I want to know where you’re based quickly on your homepage.
Whatever it is that’s pushing me to head to your website, I want to be affirmed in it the moment I land.
2. Is it eye-catching?
No, you don’t want to feel like People or US Weekly …
Remember that good marketing pulls—doesn’t push—and weave in some tantalizing words.Think “new,” “discover,” “introducing,” “announcing,” “it’s here,” “at last,” “how to,” “quick,” “last chance,” “proven,” or “just in.” (Oh yeah—beyond just your homepage, “free” is a good headline word too, because everyone loves free stuff! Use that when you can in your Facebook ads or content upgrade landing page headline copy).
For your homepage, you could try starting with a question (ex. “Who else wants XYZ?”) or your unique selling proposition (my students call it your “onlyness factor”): The Only [SEO keyword phrase] that [most desirable outcome]. Or maybe you want to tell them how to do something desirable in an unexpected way, like “Turn around your editing time faster with presets that actually work for you.”
For your work with me or sales/services page, think “new,” “discover,” “introducing,” “announcing,” “it’s here,” “at last,” “how to,” “quick,” “last chance,” “proven,” or “just in.” (Oh yeah—”free” is a good headline word too, because everyone loves free stuff! Use that when you can in your Facebook ads or content upgrade landing page headline copy).
Oh, and don’t stay away from these words just because someone else may be using them. These words pop up in copy because they work. Don’t focus so much on originality here that you miss the sale!
3. Is it clear?
Clarity trumps cleverness … or cutsiness! Make sure the headlines on your homepage, about page, and beyond are around a 6th grade reading level–seriously! Nix the jargon, wordplay, puns, and cutesy copy. Make sure you answer your reader, sitting there wondering, “ok, but what’s in this for me?”
“Instead of clarifying speech or helping people communicate in a more efficient way, jargon just does the opposite.”
4. Does it get to the point?
The key here? Your point IS NOT always your reader’s point … for example, your point is getting someone signed up for an essential oil starter kit, and their point is feeling comfortable with a two-year old crawling around near the chemicals under the sink.Remember two little secrets here: first, people are selfish and secondly, readers are busy.
Remember two little secrets here: first, people are selfish and secondly, readers are busy.Now remember, it doesn’t have to be super duper short, or under 7 words.
5. Does it highlight the benefit?
We decide with our emotions first, and our rationale secondly (listen to this great podcast from Think Creative Collective where my friend and sweet client Natalie Franke explains how our brains work in this regard!).
So, message in the benefit that your reader wants … why does this even matter to them?
6. Does it draw them to the next line?
Finally, your headline has ONE job to do, and one job only: to get your reader to read the NEXT line of copy.
Which should make them read the next line …
And so on and so forth.
4 Go-to Headline Analyzers and Tools
Bookmark these headline tools so when figuring out how to write headlines that sell, you can move past blinking-cursor stage a bit faster.
CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer: Scores your SEO value, overall quality, and traffic expectations.
BlogAbout: Creates a fill-in-the-blank template on any topic you enter, so you can just refresh as many times as it takes to get a good one!
Portent’s Content Idea Generator: Similar to BlogAbout, but helps tell you the reasons why you should switch up certain headline ideas. I feel like this and BlogAbout are (obviously) best for blogs and not homepages, but still can be helpful!
CrazyEgg: My favorite heatmap tool (though Sumo is great, too!) so you can see what headlines capture your reader’s attention, and what make them scratch their head.
Okay, I know those four links are really suited for better blog headlines, but they’re great for how to write homepages that sell, too!
So, to get you really rolling with headline copy, here’s a formula cheatsheet for you: Grab these 13 homepage headline ideas so you can write better copy!