Writing headlines is a vital skill for any
business writer. Luckily, there’s a tried and tested copywriting formula you can use
to make your headlines more compelling: the four U’s.
Let’s take a look at them. The first of the four U’s is that your headline
should offer something useful to the reader. In other words, it should offer a benefit
or promise to solve a problem. A great example of a headline that offers value is a ‘how
to’ headline, such as “how to write headlines that sell”.
It’s even better if you can make your headline unique – in other words, you don’t just
offer something useful, you offer something that no one else is offering your reader.
This is where you need to get creative with your word choice.
So avoid corporate cliches about ‘innovative solutions’, ‘delivering success’ or ‘driving growth’.
Instead, use powerful, emotive and unusual words.
For example, two of the most successful posts of all time on my blog were titled:
“Ten ways to stop that verbose exec from mangling your copy”
And a follow-up post “Six more sneaky ways to make them say it your
way” And one reason for these headlines’ success
is the use of unusual words like ‘verbose’, ‘mangling’ and ‘sneaky’. They’re also useful
because they offer the target reader – in this case, a harried copywriter – clever ways
to get get buy in for her work. Notice, too, how both those headlines used
numbers in them? This also makes them ultra-specific. The reader knows exactly what they’re going
to get from reading on. Another way to make your headline ultra-specific
is to make it clear who your target reader is. For example, in the headline ‘Seven
mistakes every new dad makes in the first year’, you’re actually naming who your
target reader is. And understanding your target audience and creating content and headlines
that that appeals to them is really important –
And finally, make your headline urgent. This is about compelling your reader to read on
sooner rather than later. One way to do that is to offer something of
such value that your reader can’t ignore it. All these headlines have some degree of
urgency. If you’re a new dad, you’re going to want to know right away what those mistakes
you’re making are. If you’re a frustrated copywriter who’s sick of clients rewriting
their work, you’ll want to put those tips into practice right away. And if you’re
insecure about your ability to write a willing headline, you’re going to want to click
on that ‘how to’. Other ways you can up the urgency factor is
to make them deadline driven. For example, “Offer ends midnight tonight”. In all likelihood, not every headline you
write will include all four U’s. But if you can try to work in at least two
of them – useful, unique, ultra-specific and urgent – into any headline, you’ll be doing