The ridiculously simple secret to writing killer headlines


As the godfather of advertising, David Ogilvy, once wrote, “5 times as many people will read our headlines as will read our body copy, so once we’ve written our headlines we have spent 80 cents of our dollar.” David Ogilvy said that decades ago but I don’t think anything has changed. I thin the ability to create compelling and clickable headlines is among our most important tools as marketers.

Of course there are various rules to writing great headlines. There’s the ability to achieve what we call the curiosity gap so we hold back that information to spark an element of intrigue and mystery. There’s using lists which help frame expectations in the minds of users and reassure them that the content will be displayed in a scalable and digestible way. There’s ensuring we never engage in clickbait, so yes we can be a little sensationalist in our methods but we must always deliver on our promises.

However, I think that the rule that overshadows them all is the insistence upon a minimum number of headline options. This is something that the likes of Buzzfeed and Upworthy have become famous for, but I think it’s something that every organisation that publishes content online should insist upon. You might insist on 10 or 20 o3 30 but the point it that it’s an uncomfortable amount, because it’s only when we’re running out of ideas that we’ll start to approach it from a different angle and come up with something that’s truly creative and different and compelling. So yes, it takes a bit of extra time, but if David Ogilvy was correct and we have indeed spent 80 cents of our dollar when we’ve written our headline, then sure it’s worth a bit of extra effort.

See you next time!

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