Never stop testing, and your advertising will never stop improving. – David Ogilvy

I have seen this saying quoted many times, but it’s rarely understood. It doesn’t mean: just run countless tests with little research — or run large multivariate tests that rarely achieve statistical significance.

It means continue to test as you discover more findings about your audience. It can take 3 weeks to finally write an amazing headline. Let’s examine exactly how to start and test your headline.

What You Must Know Before Learning the Most Important Step

You can form three types of effective headlines:

1) Benefit or self-interest
2) News
3) Arouse curiosity

Then each of these types can get deeper. For example, a news headline can have story appeal. Story appeal is very effective at pulling at our emotions. People are most interested in what they perceive is similar to them. Here’s a drastic example of a headline that would persuade you to read an entire article:

Wanted Serial Killer Murdered 6 People With the Last Name [Insert Your Last Name Here] So Far in Local County

You really want to make your headline that similar to your audience. Do you know why people root for the underdog? It’s because the story is compelling and almost everyone sees themselves as a type of underdog. Not many admit that their success has come from inheritance.

Here are examples of the three types of headlines:

1) How pay bills quickly, easily
2) At last! A remarkable breakthrough for arthritis pain: Aspercreme
3) The amazing story of a Zippo that worked after being taken from the belly of a fish

Then, you may also combine the above types (self-interest and news) to form another appeal: “Revolutionary new kind of drain opener invented: Unclogs drains in 1 second”

Most Importantly: Form Your Research Question

Your first question should be:

Which of these headline appeals will persuade the highest percentage of my audience to read my advertisement?

For example, news does not work for everyone. The example arthritis headline may not appeal to people that want something that is tried and tested–safe and has worked for many years.

Find your appeal. This is the first step to writing a headline. Then, you are able to continually narrow down on the best type of headline and generate more sales.

A blind pig can sometimes find truffles, but it helps to know that they are found in oak forests.

It’s a never-ending, testing process.

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2 thoughts on “Are You Forgetting This Most Important Step in Writing a Headline?

  1. Great post.

    I’ve had a lot of success with wording changes that follow this example. Basically using wording that is similar to the thoughts and emotions of how a person feels about the subject; making it more relatable.

    Example:
    “Save money on wireless phone service”
    “lower your phone bill”

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