A strong marketing headline is the single most important element on your web site.  Your headline is even more important than a photo or illustration representing your service or product because it is the first thing your visitor sees. 

Direct marketing professionals have tested numerous headlines, and even advertisements without any headline, and provided us with valuable insight on developing marketing web sites.

Shockingly, as I write this in 2003, many web sites still do not have a headline and bury the benefits of the service or product in unread text and caption-less images.

Why web sites with marketing headlines increase response rates

Imagine that tomorrow’s newspaper arrived without a headline, with no sub-headings (subheads) and no captions on the photos.  Most likely you would chuckle and “know” that the editor was going to lose their job. More importantly, you probably would not bother to struggle through the mass of text that made up page A1.  In short, no matter how persuasive the copy and the images, you would never know because by removing the headlines they placed too great a burden on the reader.  Our experience has been that the same is true for web sites.

On average, five times as many people read the headlines as read the body copy.  It follows that unless your headline sells your product, you have wasted 90 per cent of your money. - David Ogilvy, Ogilvy on Advertising The most commanding element of your web site is the headline.  And your headline deserves a disproportionate amount of your attention.  Your headline determines if your site visitor will read your copy or immediately leave, making great copy that is “one click away” meaningless because it never gets read.

What your headline should say

Your copy will *only* be read if your site visitor is first drawn in by your web site’s headline.  Given your headline is the first thing most visitors will see on your web site, it should have some personality that sets the tone for your brand. 

Experienced advertising professionals have identified three distinct headline types that produce strong results.

  1. Benefit headlines (also called self-interest headlines) – appeal to the benefits your service or product provides your site visitor.  The more specific you are to your audience, the better the results.

  2. News headlines (also called press release headlines) – present interesting and newsworthy information about your service or product in a newspaper headline or press release fashion.

  3. Curiosity headlines – while definitely not as strong as benefit or news headlines, a curiosity headline can keep your visitor reading.

  “If your headline promises your strongest and most distinct benefit, you are on your way to success.”  --  David Ogilvy

How your headline should say it

The headline should be the dominant element on your home page and should be larger than your logo, your company name or your tag line.  When the layout jumps up on the screen the headline’s job is to command the attention of the viewer.

The headline is an opportunity to focus on your site visitor by using the words “You” or “Your” instead of “me” focused words.  Your new building is only interesting to your site visitor if it is the reason their value is going up or their costs are going down.

Positive headlines offering a benefit produce better results than fear and loathing headlines offering to help someone avoid a problem.  People prefer to move towards positive thoughts instead of away from negative thoughts although both do compel action.

Longer headlines, while clearly a challenge for your web designer, are proven to increase response rates better than graphically pleasing but less compelling two or three word headlines.  For example, after testing over 60 headlines such as “Web Sites That Sell” or “Results Driven Web Sites”, we found the longer headline “Does Your Web Site Increase Your Sales” produced the largest number of inquiries. 

What your headline is not

It is also worth mentioning what your headline is not.  It is not your company tagline or your mission statement.  It is not a holistic explanation of what your company does.  It is not an opportunity to use a pun or prove how clever you are as these are proven non-starters. 

A web marketing headline is an attention grabber focused on your audience that usually explains a benefit that compels your visitor to continue reading.   In summary, the headline on your web site is the single most important element when it comes to transitioning your visitor into a buyer.

Recommended Reading:

  1. Tested Advertising Methods, Fifth Edition, John Caples, revised by Fred E. Hahn, 1997
  2. Ogilvy on Advertising, David Ogilvy, 1983
  3. Commonsense Direct Marketing, Drayton Bird, 1982
  4. My Life in Advertising, Claude Hopkins, 1923


Source: Ed Schipul






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