By Brian Edmondson
"A Request from the CEO of Elance."
Those were the words that made me stop and look at an email a little more closely. Before I saw that particular subject line I had already sent 20 or so emails into the gmail archives - without ever opening them or giving them a second thought.
But I kept looking at that particular email when I was done sorting through the junk. Why?
It's all about the headline. It made me curious. Why on earth would the CEO of Elance be sending me a message? I do business there, but nothing to warrant that kind of attention.
And they don't send emails like that every day. So I opened it.
That's the power of a good headline.
Whether you are writing subject lines for emails, titles for articles, or headlines for salesletters, the principles always remain the same. A good headline will make people read what you wrote. A bad one will cause people to trash your emails and click off your articles and sales letters.
Here are 10 shortcuts to writing killer headlines every time. I use each one of these at least once a week when I'm writing. These techniques help me increase my open rates, give my websites better engagement, and help me sell more products.
They can do the same for you.
1. Steal the headline
Most writers start with the headline. Sometimes I can work that way, but a lot of times I write my headline last and steal it from my copy.
When I first heard about this method, I didn't think it would work at all. But it's so simple. Time and time again I find a killer headline buried in the middle of a paragraph, just waiting for me to take it out and put it in the spotlight.
It even happened here. I had originally titled this section, "write the headline last", but after writing about how to do it, I realized "steal the headline" was much stronger.
Try stealing your next headline from your copy. I think you'll be amazed.
2. Use this simple formula
Using a number of tips to start out your headline is a great way to develop headlines for articles and special reports. People love tips and they'll read them all day long.
But... make sure your tips are good. Keep it interesting and moving along quickly.
BTW... did you notice that I used this method for the title of the article you're reading right now?
When someone listens to you - really listens - how do you feel?
You feel good. And you want to listen to whatever they have to say. But you can't listen to someone in a piece of writing. So instead you need to empathize.
To do this well, you have to understand your reader and really be able to relate to them.
So hop on forums and read what people are saying. Talk to real people about your subject. Read articles about your subject. But whatever you do, get to know the people you are writing to. This will let you figure out what makes them tick.
Once you know that, writing headlines becomes much, much easier.
4. Tap Their Inner Voyeur
People love gossip. They love to read personal stories, and the gory details of people's personal lives. Just take a look at the kinds of magazines that are sold in the grocery store. Half of the ones at the check-out are gossip rags and nothing more.
These people know what sells. So try starting a headline with a personal story (a negative one usually works best). Something like... "My Weight Loss Disaster" or "My Love Life Drama" will often pull super well for you, and it's easy to write stories like that as well.
5. Split test
No matter how well you think you know your audience, you should always, always, always split test headlines. You create two headlines and test to decide which one works the best. Visual Website Optimizer is a great tool for doing this quickly and effectively.
A lot of times when you test, you find that the headline you thought would win actually loses. If you want the very best results from your writing, split test.
This is a quick and easy form of split-testing. If you want to know what kind of messaging that customers respond to and you need to know quickly, you can set up an adwords campaign with the two headlines you are considering and see which one gets a better click through rate.
You don't even need a website to test this approach. You just need a budget of about $50. Simply send any traffic that you get to a third party site. The object is not the headline. It's knowing what works.
Alliteration is simply creating a title where two or more of the words have similar sounds at the beginning. An example would be, "Friday's Five Fab Tips".
Alliteration makes your title more repeatable and means that it may get shared more often. It's also a fun way to write.
8. Rhythm and rhyme
Melts in your mouth, not in your hand.
That's the famous tagline of M&Ms candy and it shows how powerful rhythm can be in your writing. Rhyme can also work much the same way. If you make your title easy to repeat by using rhythm, rhyme and alliteration, then your article or email is much more likely to be shared.
9. Condense and then condense again
It's super easy to get too wordy with a title. You want to express your idea as succinctly as possible. More words don't necessarily make a title better. Yesterday I was working on a headline and I reduced it at least 10 times before I was happy with it.
Use as few words as possible to clearly express your idea.
10. Use Yahoo Answers
Yahoo Answers is a go to place in my secret bag of tricks. If I'm absolutely stuck for a good title idea I search my subject at Yahoo Answers and look for common themes. If it's getting asked a lot, then it will likely make a solid title for your writing.
Do you have any tricks you use to develop great titles for your work? Let me know what they are! Leave a comment below.
About this Author:
Brian Edmondson is an author, speaker, and Internet entrepreneur who helps website owners get more traffic, subscribers, and sales.
After leaving his "Wall Street" job in 2001, Brian found true success and independence through the power of the Internet. He has launched several websites, including one that grossed over $50,000 in sales in the first week and has masterminded many multi-million dollar Internet businesses. He now works full time online from his home outside of Philadelphia, PA (or anywhere there is an internet connection).
Download your free copy of his Internet Profit Report at http://internetincomecoach.com/