June 20, 2010 in Copywriting For The Web, Misc

Copywriting for the web: How to Write Winning Web Copy Headlines

headline2It takes a lot to tick me off nowadays. I guess I’ve mellowed with age. There was a time when the slightest thing would push me over the edge. People who chop the crust off their sandwiches, boy bands, mountain climbers and frosted windows – the most inane things ruffled my feathers. Some might say red was my favourite colour.

These days I see things differently. When devilish apparitions spring to mind I quickly replace them with visions of sugarplums and dancing fairies.

There is, however, one thing that still gets under my skin; one thing that makes me shudder more violently than an Eskimo in a heat wave. And that, my dear readers, is poor headline writing.

‘Man eats microwave’: a tasty headline…

Putting a cat in the oven doesn’t make it a bun. By the same extension, cobbling a few words together to sit atop your web copy does not constitute an effective headline.

Headlines are integral to the process of web copy.

Let me explain: headlines, in essence, entice your reader into the story you are about to tell them. If the headline doesn’t sing, the reader is likely to pack their bags and take the first bus out of town.

So don’t torment them. Hit the nail on the head and let the reader know what to expect.

Reading on the internet is such a particular beast. When consumers purchase a magazine, for example, they do so with the intent of reading it.

No such agreement resides between the reader and your web copy. So where possible tempt them with an enthralling headline and make a big splash.

The headline is, after all, a springboard to your body copy.

Web copy headline hints and tips…

Effective web copy headlines come in all shapes and sizes. Even so, every headline is tasked with describing the story they represent.

Here are number of approaches worth bearing in mind when engineering a headline:

1) DIRECT HEADLINES: Get straight to the heart of the matter and bypass complexity in favour of simplicity. Adopt a ‘does what it says on the tin’ mentality and inject an air of transparency into your opening message. In a world of spin, direct headlines often generate a favourable response.

2) INDIRECT HEADLINES: Spark curiosity in the mind of the reader. A degree of mystery will capture their attention and make them want to read on.

3) NEWS HEADLINES: News headlines call attention to the ‘scoop’ of the story, the central thrust. Generate interest with a catchy headline and instil a ‘read all about it’ mentality on the part of your audience.

4) THE ‘HOW TO’ HEADLINE: This headline device is capable of instilling a sense of value to the content the reader is about to devour. Prefixing your opening salvo with ‘how to’ indicates that they are about to get some useful information for free.

5) PUN HEADLINES: Puns are often used in headline writing – most notably in tabloid news media. Wordplay translates well to web copy and witty twists on familiar phrases can hook your reader in faster than a cat at a fish market.

When it comes to web copy, no headline should be incidental. Everything happens for a reason; at least that’s what I’m told.  So also optimise your page for better search engine placement by building keywords and phrases into the titles.

Headline copy, the final curtain…

A close friend imparted a string of wise words to me this morning. Musing over his coffee he turned and said: “If you’re going to make an omelette, you’ve got to break a few eggs”.

At first I was baffled. It wasn’t until later in the day when I realised what this most incisive of individuals was trying to say:

The most effective headlines are usually produced once the body copy has been finalised. At that point you’ll be perfectly placed to tailor your headline to fit the content.

Brilliant advice!

He also told me to “hit it when it’s hot”. On that, I’m less clear.

About Anthony

Anthony Brewitt is Design Bit, has been for years - he's an experienced WordPress Designer, and Muggle-born Marketing Philosopher. Let’s talk about your website; your marketing, blog design, and that cool new mobile web thingy. Contact Anthony

6 Responses to Copywriting for the web: How to Write Winning Web Copy Headlines

  1. Thanks for the headline info! The title follows the book, not the other way around.

  2. A nice article.
    Seems traditional journalism would help here with headline creation.
    Alliteration also works well – hungry housewife hurries home……..

  3. Headlines can definitely get your attention and make you want to read on or turn the page. Great blog piece.

  4. a great article. im not much of a writer myself but these tips help!

  5. brilliant resource, think you’ve nailed the different types of headlines, very helpful thanks.

  6. This is a good little rant, very useful. Headings can indeed be the deciding factor as to whether or not people continue reading.

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