Are your headlines costing you money? For many website owners, the simple answer is YES!! Far too many websites have poor headlines, which unfortunately lead to lost business opportunities.
Why Headlines are so Important
A headline is the first point of visitor engagement. On entering a website, (and each page within it) a website visitor will make snap judgments on whether to continue reading or not. The look and feel of the page will influence this for sure – hence the reason for a professional design.
But, it’s content that really creates engagement, and the first part anyone sees is – the headline!
A headline’s job is to get the visitor to read that page’s content. This process needs to be repeated on each page throughout the site.
Headlines Specifically for Websites
There’s a need to construct your headlines for two completely separate audiences:
For Your Target Audience
Newspaper and magazine headlines tend to be dramatic as their purpose is to sell the publication. They have to stand out on the shelf amongst all the competition.
A website is different – you enter a website because you’ve made a choice to go there; directly through the URL because you’ve typed a search query into a search engine or you’ve followed a link from another site.
In all these cases, when you arrive at the site, the competition is not on display. Admittedly, they may only be a click away, but at that point, the only headline available is yours, so it doesn’t need to be as dramatic as with written publications.
However, it does need to address the reason the visitor has come to the site. If they have used a search term, the headline must immediately show the visitor that the information on the page relates to what they were searching for. The same goes for someone entering from a link. So, if you are looking to buy an OKC Thunder Jersey, a headline such as ‘Buy your OKC Thunder Jersey Here!” is perfect. A headline with no mention of the OKC Thunder or jerseys would likely struggle.
As well as your readers, there is also a need to structure headlines for Google (and the other search engines). When someone uses Google they enter their search term. Google then tries to present those web pages that contain information directly relating to that search term. The first thing it looks at is the page title tag, (part of the meta tags). The next thing it looks at is the actual page headline as this should reflect the content on the page. If both of these have used the actual search term, then Google has a fairly good indication that this page has information about the searcher’s search term.
So, each page should be separately focused on a key search term your clients typically search for. Each page’s headline should then try to include that term, whilst ensuring it still reads well for your visitor with whom you are hoping to engage.
Types of Headline
Broadly speaking there are 7 main headline types. Bearing in mind the need to write headlines for Google too, each example below is focused on a single search term, in this case, the word “website”:
- Direct – e.g. “A Novel Process to Website Design”. This should be a bold and direct statement.
- Commanding. The first word here should be a strong verb like “Join, Subscribe, Come along” etc. Example – “Become Proficient at Website Marketing Now!”
- How to…! This can be very engaging. Again, providing it is something the intended audience wants to know about. For example – “Web Design Proof Demonstrates How Best to Improve Your Website’s Performance through Better Headlines!”
- The Question – to intrigue the reader. For example “Can Gordon Ramsay Teach Us Anything About Website Promotion?” This works very well as at first glance there is no connection between Gordon Ramsay and website marketing!
- Announcement. The trick here is that it has to be newsworthy, to your intended audience at least! Keeping to the theme – “New Easy to Use Website Content Management System just launched!”
- The Explanation. For example – “The Top Reasons a Web Design Proof Designed Website Will Work for You is…” The rest of the content provides a detailed reason why.
- Testimonial. For example “We chose Web Design Proof to build our Website and its been hugely instrumental in our business growth!”
When composing a headline, try and imagine the reaction of your primary target audience. If you can picture them thinking – “So what?” then your headline is bound to fail. If you can imagine them nodding in agreement, or even scratching their head wondering, then you are probably on the right track.
Different Headlines for Different Personality Types
No matter how tightly defined a target audience, within it there will still be a mix of personality types. In regards to website usage, these can broadly be categorized into 4 main types:
- Status. Someone who is self-interested and keen to be seen as important/wealthy by others. This type of person wants information quickly and is not driven by price.
- Trendsetter. They are driven by all things new. Again they are not price-sensitive and are keen on succinct information. Both types tend not to delve too deep into all areas of your site, their primary area of interest being the product itself and what it will say about them.
- Social. They easily take a more holistic approach and are more likely to read all the information on the site, including about you as a company, your values, etc.
- Price. This type of person will want to examine features and benefits, but also the pluses and minuses of the product against the competition, the long term value for money, details about the company, level of support, handling warranties or product returns, etc.
Each has a need for different areas of information. The status and trendsetter are unlikely to delve into the lower areas of the site, concentrating mainly on the pages relating directly to your products. So on these pages, use headlines such as the ‘direct’ and ‘announcement’ to appeal to them. These will also work for the other personality types too. It’s not that they don’t want this information, it’s just that they also want a lot more on top!
On supporting pages, ‘explanation, testimonial’ and ‘question’ headlines might be the best fit. Typically these pages are not visited by the first two personality types but are by the second two. For example, instead of a mundane (but often used) headline such as “About us” why not try instead, “Why We are Your Team.”
But this is the truth: If your content is poor, It will not matter how great your headline is, without good content, your website will struggle. However, even brilliant content will not shine without well-crafted headlines as unfortunately, with nothing to entice the reader in, it will largely go unread. For a successful website, it’s important that you have all content working as hard as it can.