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:

  1. Self-interest
  2. News
  3. Curiosity

(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.