Testing Advertising Methods by John Caples is one of 9 books of essential reading for any copywriter (as claimed by Gary Halbert).
I’m halfway through it, and I agree. It’s gold.
In it, John spends a lot of time on headlines. He introduces them at Chapter 2: The Most Important Part of an Advertisement.
To make a good headline, start by understanding the three elements that constantly crop up in those that succeed:
(In order from most important to least.)
In fact, beware of using pure-curiosity headlines. If you do, ensure the benefit is clear in some other way, such as the image or the company logo/slogan.
All things being equal, self-interest beats curiosity.
Curiosity: HERE’S ONE QUESTION YOU SHOULDN’T ASK YOUR WIFE [ABC Life Insurance Company]
Self-Interest: YOU CAN LAUGH AT MONEY WORRIES IF YOU FOLLOW THIS SIMPLE PLAN [ABC Life Insurance Company]
Combine For Added Pulling-Power
Of course, though self-interest beats curiosity, a self-interest headline that also stimulates a little curiosity could do even better.
Self-Interest: HOW I BECAME A STAR SALESMAN
Self-Interest + Curiosity: HOW A FOOLISH STUNT MADE ME A STAR SALESMAN
Now, combine News as well to make a kamakazi of appeal:
Self-Interest + Curiosity + News: REVEALED: THE HIDDEN, IDIOTIC MOVE THAT MADE ME A STAR SALESMAN IN A WEEK
This last headline is not from the book. It’s my own, untested, in-the-moment idea. As such it might fall flat, but probably only on believability issues. That can be fixed by softening the language. If only I had a product to test this headline on…
I’m enjoying this book. Gary’s whole reading list is sizeable, considering the thickness of the books, but I would agree with him. All copywriters (and all entrepreneurs) would be greatly better off having read them all several times over.