Opinions may vary about precisely how long you have to make an impression on a potential reader once they have seen your headline, but most seem to agree it’s less than five seconds. Most also agree that if your headline doesn’t pique curiosity, stir some emotion or promise a benefit, the headline will be the only thing the reader sees.

However you choose to look at it, the headline is critical to whatever you are writing, and if you don’t create a good one, everything else you’ve written is just a bunch of letters.

Here are three headline-writing tips that will help you draw the reader into the copy and continue reading. 

1.  No One Cares About You

This may sound a little harsh, but it makes perfect sense when you read many of the headlines out there. What it means is that people aren’t looking for information or clicking on your link to find out how great your company is or how much experience you have. They are reading because they want to know what’s in it for them.

When you litter your headlines with “We” and “Our” instead of “You” and “Your” it instantly turns people off, because they are looking to solve one of their own problems.  You may end up getting to that later in the copy, but talking about yourself in the headline will ensure only a small percentage of readers get that far. Think of why a prospective customer or client is reading and take it from there.

2.  Remember the Four U’s

The Four U’s tip has been around for a while, but that’s because it is effective and worth mentioning here. Keeping the reader in mind and leaving your own ego on the side is great for headlines, but following the Four U’s will help you craft the actual words that will get the results you want.

The Four U’s refer to the following:

  • Usefulness
  • Urgency
  • Uniqueness
  • Ultra-specificity

Basically, if you can create a headline that seems useful, urgent, unique and ultra-specific, you will have a winner almost every time. It’s usually not possible to include all of the U’s in every headline, but three or sometimes even two will do the trick.

3.  Take Your Time!

Many of the top copywriters throughout history, both pre- and post-Internet, claim that they spend a lot if not most of their writing time on the headline. You have a lot of ways to try to grab that reader’s attention and utilize the Four U’s, so it makes sense to take it slow. Remember, if they don’t get past the headline, the rest is good for nothing.

Some of the headline styles to consider include: the how-to headline, the news-style headline, a direct headline, a question, the testimonial-style headline, the reason why, facts and figures and the command. Now, take a deep breath and get started!