There is a mountain of content online and in books by copywriters on how to use the many headline formulas that actually convert. These headline formulas and techniques are based on countless samples, A/B tests, and cover direct mail, newspapers, magazines and many other so-called ‘old school’ media. Many of the techniques are over 80 years old.

Yet, copywriters today try to be too clever and waste time trying to discover what makes a good headline because they seem to think that old equates with ‘doesn’t work’ in the age of Twitter and blogs.

They are wrong.

Here’s why.

Readers love tips and knowing ‘how to’

Human nature hasn’t changed just because we are using computers and mobiles. We crave new information. We like feeling that we have the necessary ‘know how’.

Take a quick glance at your favourite blog’s list of ‘popular posts’ and you’ll notice a definite pattern:

X ways to _____
Top X tips for ______
How to _______ to get more _____

If you’re on Twitter or Facebook, you’ll see the same trend in the links that your contacts share with you:

4 ways to get more retweets
5 tips for a better _____
16 ways to use Facebook for networking

And so on.

Both the ‘how to’ and the ‘X blankety blanks’ are ‘how to’ style headlines, with the number specifying just how many tips the reader will get (and need to remember).

This technique works because people love gathering information and learning. Not too much, though. Just enough that they can satisfy their curiosity and get enough skill to tackle a pressing problem.

We all want to ‘succeed’ in the eyes of others

No one wants to make mistakes. This is a strong human desire that copywriters have always tapped into.

You’ve seen headlines that questions our abilities and sets our curiosity soaring. Often they appear in the form of a question:

Are you doing these ______ when you _______?
Are you NOT doing _________ when you ________?

This post itself makes use the of the technique in the headline ‘Are you using tested headline formulas that work?’

The technique works because of our desire to succeed and our need for confirmation that what we’re doing is ‘the right way’ of doing things.

When you ask a reader if they are or are not doing something that appears ‘common knowledge’ their innate fear of appearing wrong takes over: “What if I am not doing those things?”

It works equally well as a statement:

Make sure you don’t do this when you ______
Do these X things to ____ him ____ in bed

Study the headline copywriting masters. The next time you’re in the supermarket checkout, grab a copy of the magazines on the rack and read through the headlines.

Notice anything?

Yep, they are using those two techniques I outlined above. There are many others to learn and master as a copywriter.

Study. Learn how the headline formulas work – and more importantly, learn why they work.

 

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