By Andrew Neitlich

Eight Examples of Profitable Headlines Every Web Professional Must Memorize Today!

By Andrew Neitlich

In anything you write — especially the first page of your web site, but also white papers, articles, postcards, and direct mail pieces — you need a strong headline.

Stop using headlines like “Welcome” or just jumping into lengthy text.

Good headlines get your reader curious. The goal of your headline is to get them to read more.

Bad headlines cause your reader to move on, quickly.

There are a few tried and true headline patterns that you can use anytime (Note: Be able to back up any claims you make with case studies or testimonials):

One: A top 5 or top 10 list with a must-read adjective like “Fatal” (Top Five Fatal Mistakes Lawyers Make Drive Prospects to Competitive Web Sites)

Two: A secret that everyone must know (The Secret to Doubling Traffic on Your Web Site that Will Drive Your Competitors Crazy)

Three: A warning (Warning: Your Web Site is Ruining Your Professional Image)

Four: A compelling question and answer (Q: Who knows how to increase traffic on your Web site by 800%? A: Steve Smith does!)

Five: An irresistible story (“They laughed when I told them I developed my own web site….until they visited my site”) — This one is based on one of the most successful direct marketing campaigns of all time (“They laughed when I sat down to play the piano…”)

Six: A comparison or one successful and one unsuccessful person (“A Tale of Two Auto Mechanics….Both Competent, Both Smart, Both Good People, But Only One Hired XYZ Web Design….”) — this one is based on a classic Wall Street Journal ad comparing the financial success of a successful and unsuccessful businessperson (the punch line being that both are the same but only one subscribed to the WSJ).

Seven: An irresistible benefit (“Here’s how to double your online sales at half the price”)

Eight: A headline that creates urgency via a deadline or other means (“This is the last day that one of you will win a free web site today — and then this offer will expire forever”)

That’s enough examples for now. I know some of you will find these tacky or salesy but they have been time tested again and again. Why not use what works? Why reinvent the wheel?

  • Andrew, nice list! I must admit that a few of your samples have drawn me into reading more on several different occasions. I will definitely be making note of your sample for future use since writing copy for the web is not one of my best strengths, so having some samples like this at my disposal is great. Thanks again!

  • Ok, these are good ideas. David Ogilvy of Ogilvy and Mather used some of these in his acclaimed book “Ogilvy on Advertising.” I strongly suggest it to anyone interested in learning tips and tricks about how people respond to advertising.

    I have (of course) some things to add:

    One: In the list, it’s been statistically proven that using exactly SEVEN (7) items results in higher readership. For some reason, the number 7 attracts more attention.

    Two: Secrets, warnings, questions, and free stuff are good for getting attention, but they MUST contain something of extreme interest to your audience to get them to read further.

    Three: All of the above are good tips, but there’s no title “trick” more effective than a CREATIVE, WITTY, SIMPLE one-liner. This could be anything from “Lemon” to “Impact” to “Think small.” Think of the greatest one-liner ads you’ve ever seen when creating the homepage title for your site. It should be a combination of image and text and should have a significant impact on your audience. It should be nothing short of brilliant.

    You can’t really teach the art of brilliant headline creation in a blog entry (or even an entire blog). I suggest another read – “Hey Whipple: Squeeze This”. This is a MUST READ for anyone in the advertising industry (which includes web design).

  • PS: Nice touch, Andrew, in using one of your tricks in the very title of this blog entry!

  • Very, very handy list Andrew.

    The great thing is this stuff can apply to anything from email subject lines to article titles, book covers, blog entries, printed materials and more. Sure in their rawest form they sound salesy, but with polish and the right presentation, they’re gold.

  • Rutger

    I wouldn’t use it for email subjects though, it probably won’t pass the spam filters anymore these days.

  • Many thanks for these ideas Andrew.
    I am to embark upon a local marketing campaign, and so could use these ideas in my attention seeking tactics.
    Would these work in leaflets and link to a webpage for more details – does this work, or do people want all details in front of them first ???

    Thanks again

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  • Anon

    Lord these are awful. Does anyone still really think this horrible direct marketing stuff still works?

  • Charlie

    I am going to have to agree with the last poster, I really thought I had in some way misunderstood the article or something. I thought they were explaining what NOT to do. The top 5 or top 10 I can say is a good one, I guess, it’s good because it seems like there will be facts or REASONS to why something is good. But…

    The secret line… How many times have I seen this in cheap advertising campaigns, like for scams and weird impossible ways to make money?

    A warning… Again I turn to what every internet-er HATES… Your computer is infected with a virus, click here to clean… or some other stupid warning you get in soooo many pop ups. Unusable

    I’m not even going to discuss Q&A, unless you wana sell something people really need or want, like anti-acne cream, and you cite the opinion of an expert or a celebrity (proactiv is a good example)… FORGET IT and by the way, 800% then anyone except for a 70 year old man who has no knowledge of internet scams would close the site.

    The whole story thing, I truly believe that alot of people (including myself) think the whole failure to success stroy is getting lame. Everyone started with being laughed at and thrown out on their butt, and now they’re great and succesful, it get’s old, especially in the new “ever-changing” public u see today.

    I think the comparing can be good, I don’t think it’s great and you should always remember it or anything, but it works, or could work.

    Irresistible, sure you want to be irresistible, but don’t act (even if it is so) like it’s a miracle product, people have become fairly cynical and we don’t believe in miracles anymore. Unless your selling cosmetic products, since we are obsessed with our looks and will do anything to be “beautiful”.

    This is the last day I can get something? Well too damn bad, I ain’t buying anything out of haste, are we all used car salesmans? CLICK IN THE FOLLOWING TEN MINUTES TO GET A FREE PC… yeah right…

    I have to say, unless ur selling a used car, cosmetic products, something on QBC, or the home shopping channel, I can’t really see these methods working. They could be great for products that have a sudden hyped period, in which alot of people buy and it’s not important to maintin sales for a long time. And I definitely think they don’t work for web sites at ALL. You have to build up trsut with the reader, and blasting me with miracles and things that sound to good to be true, won’t work.

    No amount of quick tips can make a good advertising campaign, but I think these can do more bad than good.

    As an up and coming consumer, these lines wouldn’t make me want a product, and they would make me close the web page in an INSTANT!

    What I would say is something that makes ME want to keep reading.

    A little easier on the gimmicks people, consumers are smart nowadays, alot smarter than 10 years ago. Or they like to FEEL smart, and these lines don’t make you feel smart at all. They make you feel as if you are being duped.

  • Marw

    Agree with Charlie and Anon and in my opinion the headlines are too long. For exampel the headline to this article could be “Eight Examples of Profitable Headlines”.

  • Rob

    I think the last few posts kind of missed the point here. You read the article, didn’t you? I would say that fact in and of itself proves that the headline served it’s purpose; and as transio pointed out, Andrew did use one of the items on the list (actually two if you count “Must Memorize Today!”). A lot of these things are not meant to be taken at face value, and probably do sound cheesy if you use them wrong, but the whole idea of a headline is to grab the consumer’s attention and keep them reading.

    Let’s face it, not all of these things would be appropriate to every single business, but that doesn’t mean that any of these technniques are outdated or useless – for example, regardless of how skeptical a consumer may or may not be, “WARNING!!” will catch your attention no matter what.

    I work for a hotel company so it would be kind of hard for me to utilize numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, or 6. But the others, we can and do use all the time in our marketing campaigns. Creating a sense of urgency doesn’t necessarily mean “Click within the next 10 minutes or it’s gone forever!”, but mentioning a limited-time discount or offering free breakfasts for the first “x” number of on-line bookings for next year are fantastic attention-getters. The point is, all of these items work and have been proven successful over the years, even though they might not be appropriate for everyone in every situation. THANK YOU, Andrew – job well done.

  • Fletch

    Interesting arguments for or against. I found myself agreeing with parts of everyone’s argument. I think you could summarise by saying that these can be effective but must be used wisely and not too blatantly if you want to maintain a clean, intelligent image.

    I get a newsletter where the guy uses these “secrets” and “you have to read this” stuff and I must admit it drew me in at the start but after a while I lost respect for him – it’s hard to write content that’s so good that all your readers genuinely “must” read. In the end I felt kind of “manipulated” and I started to consider him a bit “cheap”.

    Perhaps a lot depends on how long-term you want your relationship with the users to be.

    For the people criticising this post, I think you have valid points but you have to tone down the criticism slightly unless you can clearly suggest good alternative ideas and headline writing models.

  • Fletch

    I might add that the headline used for this article is too blatant and slightly “sickening” – I read the article because I was directly referred here by a site for which I have very high trust.

  • Stephen

    …the headline made me read it

  • Katie

    I enjoyed this advice, but I would hardly call trying new ideas “reinventing the wheel” at this point, as the internet is still a relatively new medium. More than likely, the “wheel” for online advertising hasn’t been invented yet. Don’t discourage people from expansion. You can’t really call any internet technique “tried and true.” Let’s not be naive.

  • anukul4all


    Andrew ..I don’t think these ideas work now-a-days. :(

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