Redeveloping the Headline – How to Generate and Narrow Down Headline Ideas

By | June 30, 2015

Ever wondered how professional copywriters, ad agency creatives, and
online marketers arrive at killer headlines that draw readers in and
have them pulling out their wallets like nobody’s business? Wonder no
more, because today, we’ll be taking a look at exactly how many of those
headlines come to be.

The Process

One of the things that too many people don’t understand about headline
writing is that it is a process. Just like anything else worth doing
for your business, proper headline writing takes up time and concerted
effort. The misconception that time spent on headlines should be
relatively smaller compared to, say, the time spent to write a sales
letter, is probably rooted in the fact that the final product where
headlines are concerned is fairly small.

A small final product doesn’t mean a small effort, however. The next
time you’re writing a headline for your email, sales letter, or even
just your next blog post, try this:

Sit and write 25 to 50 headlines. Don’t stop until you’re there. How
do you come up with so many ideas? Go bigger than you think you can, go
more ridiculous than you think you can. In this initial phase, we’re
too often already wearing blinders and filtering out ideas that could be
developed later on if we gave them a chance.

Even if any idea seems too risque, “out there,” or bold, jot it down to
get the juices flowing. A big mistake many people make when trying to
write their own headline copy is that they don’t actually write ideas
down unless they think they’re “good enough.” Most people aren’t able
to visualize in our heads as well as we can do on a piece of paper, and
you’re doing yourself a disservice by not letting the process take its
course out in the open.

Once you’ve got your ideas on paper, go through the list one by one and
ask yourself if there are other directions you can go with it
(variations, slight changes, etc.), or if the idea just wasn’t up to
snuff and needs to be eliminated. In this stage, you’ll drop out the
weaklings while simultaneously developing your stronger ideas.

When working on variations and trying to pick out your top contenders,
here are a couple of things to keep in mind:

– People generally buy on emotion: things like love & acceptance, the
want for wealth and popularity, etc. are almost always elements of a
successful headline. Don’t hesitate to push a bit with your headline,
oftentimes a (not-too-misleading) shock means that people will stop and

– The age-old trick about including numbers of tips, tricks, and
steps into a headline holds true. People like things that sound
logical, specific, and easy, so “3 easy steps to eliminating acne at
home” is likely to perform better than “Here’s how to eliminate acne at

Finally, your overall champion of a headline, once you’ve narrowed it
down to 2-5, will probably not be able to be determined by intuition
alone, especially not without experience, so get ready to split test,
split test some more, and then split test again.

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