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January 2, 2010

Are there secrets to writing a great advertising headline?

Whether you are into blogging, Twitter, posting news items on LinkedIn or even posting on YouTube - you need to grab peoples attention. Even loyal followers, the 1000 fans scenario, need some encouragement sometimes. Life is pretty busy these days after all.

You need to approach every headline as if it were an advertising headline. Every headline is a chance to reinforce your stature as somebody interesting, helpful, resourceful, innovative and (above all else) scarce. 

So how is it done?

First to the technical stuff.... I am not a fan of SEO. But... if it doesn't cost me anything, and there are tools available for me to try out, then I will have a go at it. 

1) Before you write any post, any post at all, check to see what is happening on Google Search Insights. This is a really great tool that can tell you the search history and popularity for terms related to what you are planning to write about. 

Even cooler - it can also point out the search queries that are breaking through and rising rapidly. So if you pick it right, and you scatter a few similar references through the post, then  a rising tide carries all ships. (As they say)

Here is an example or two from my own test runs of this.

Like I say, not a fan of SEO. But if it's free, takes no time, and occasionally delivers results then I am happy to use it in my advertising headline.

2) If you are going to run with the hounds then at least be smart about it. Google Webmaster tools will give you an idea about how your search terms are going - and Google Analytics will help you to sharpen the edge even further.

And then to the really fun are some advertising headline techniques I have used over the years. They tend to work well for me. (And I have measured them of course)

1) Leading with a How-To headline is always good. Particularly if it is something that your audience would really benefit from knowing. (How to increase your Twitter followers by 1000 per week)

2) Ask a question your readership would really like answered. (Like the title to this post) (How do people generate 7 figure revenues using LinkedIn?)

3) Odd numbered lists on how to do something that your readers would spend time learning. (6 ways to increase your consulting revenues) (Just not 10!! 10 point lists are either padded or cut short)

4) Be authentic. Your advertising headline must be believable. Either because of what it says, or if you already have a strong brand because you said it.

We have all been spammed with emails promising to make parts of our anatomy grow to freakish proportions, but no-one ever answers then do we. Any promises you make in the headline must translate into real value.

It is easy to write an attention grabbing headline, then do a bait and switch. But instead of gaining a loyal fan you will have alienated a potential cheerleader.

5) Promise access to some long held, guarded or as yet undiscovered secret. Good technique, but you have to deliver. We have also visited our share of page long ads where they promise value but it isn't until you reach the end that you realize you have to pay something for it.

6) Every advertising headline should contain an offer or the implication of value.

7) Imply consensus. "Don't be the last person to...", "Discover the secret helping thousands to..." Implying something has already worked, if you can back this up, delivers great results.

8) Defining and then solving a problem. Getting around Gatekeepers was a good post for me in this vein.

I will revisit this again over the next week as I think there is a lot to say on this piece. But the fundamental thing that we all need to be aware of is that you cannot write a great advertising headline if you do not understand your readership.

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