106 all time great advertising headlines and why they work
Tests show strong headlines increase web and link conversions by 73%
The words of your headline are the most critical words of any content you produce.
Advertising pioneer John Caples said, “If you have a good headline, you have a good ad. If you have a poor headline, you are licked before you start.” On average eight of ten people will read a headline, while only 20% will go on to read the rest of the copy.
The rate at which we consume information online underscores this reality. As marketers we have roughly three seconds to capture the reader’s attention before they decide to continue reading or move on.
To marketers who want to improve their headlines …
Over several decades Caples tested every conceivable nuance of headline writing. In his book Tested Advertising Methods he shared the principles and techniques he learned through years of repeated testing.
His published works offer the seeds of success for writing headlines that win results. Fortunately for us today, all his research of the most successful approaches can be boiled down to three classifications.
Of all headlines tested, those featuring a strong benefit had the greatest success. This is the timeless axiom “features tell-benefits sell.” It sounds simple, but it’s not always easy to execute. The best way to think about this is to remember that a feature is about your product and a benefit is about your audience. The more emotion-laden your appeal, the more powerful the motivation. Make your reader’s self-interest the focus of your headline.
Example: Get rid of money worries for good
This approach is the second-most successful. It has the appeal of storytelling and immediacy. People respond to headlines that offer news. Combined with a benefit, this type of headline has powerful engagement. News oriented headlines frequently begin with:
- Introducing …
- Announcing …
- Now …
- New …
- At last …
- Finally …
Example : Introducing the new Dodge RAM
The third-most successful type of headline employs the element of curiosity. To be effective, curiosity must be combined with self-interest or news. One of the most revered and imitated headlines in advertising history is Caple’s classic:
They laughed when I sat down at the piano.
But when I started to play!—
The headline and copy brought together the perfect combination of curiosity and storytelling to capture readers’ attention for many generations.
Example: How I raised myself from failure to success in selling
Every headline has one job. It must stop
your prospects with a believable promise.
Over the years marketers have adopted several useful headline writing formulas, including Caples’ original formula. These are helpful tools to get you started. Another formula worth sharing is courtesy of Authority Blogger, which is based on six categories:
- Getting what you want – in health, wealth, relationships, lifestyle, etc.
- Crystal ball and history – predictions, lessons, etc.
- Problems and fears
- Fact, fiction, secrets, truth, lies
- How-to tricks of the trade
- Best and worst lists
Regardless of the formula used, the key is to write headlines that appeal to people’s self-interest or that give news. Caples summed it up best: “Every headline has one job. It must stop your prospects with a believable promise. Times change but people do not change. These appeals worked 50 years ago. They work today. They will work 50 years from now.”
Here are 106 tested, top-performing headlines from John Caples.
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