When they first started appearing a year or so ago, it was like a revolution had taken place. It felt as though all we’d painstakingly learned and practiced on writing headlines was now invalid, and a new kid on the block had arrived that made classically trained copywriters look stale and old.
What am I talking about? The current craze whipping through social media of using curiosity gap headlines as click bait, such as ‘This couple were told they could never have kids. The solution they found will amaze you’ or ‘Jennifer was about to be eaten by a shark. But then she did this’.
For a while, these headlines were incredibly powerful at arousing people’s curiosity and building intrigue. They also generated serious pots of cash for the site owners who popularised them.
But as with any new trick that challenges the time proven rules, the cracks are beginning to emerge. The problem with these headlines is that they are merciless focused on generating clicks, with the resolution typically less than satisfying, even if you’re willing to sit through the ads preceding it.
The result is that rather than trigger curiosity, these headlines are generating cynicism. The game is up and falling click through rates are following suit after Facebook’s click bait curtailing algorithm change last August.
Classic headline rules rule
Ever since David Ogilvy first suggested it, the rule has been that 80% of people will read the headline but only 20% will read that body copy. It follows that getting the headline right is the single most powerful way to increase readership and conversions.
Tricking people with false claims or exaggeration in the headline is a shortsighted tactic that will only cause resentment when the rest of your copy fails to live up to the promise. Instead, the headline should focus on giving people a reason to read your sales letter, advertisement or web page by stating the benefit of doing so. This could be ‘Five simple techniques to improve your golf swing’ or ‘How to reduce cholesterol and live 10 years longer without sharing the same diet as your pet rabbit’.
Build intrigue. Don’t exaggerate
Building intrigue is also a powerful way of building curiosity and interest in your copy, but don’t go overboard. Overpromising on what readers will find will only lose them as soon as they uncover your ruse. What’s worse, it will create a sense of resentment that will be aroused whenever they read any copy bearing your logo.
So if you want to create advertising and sales copy with lasting appeal, don’t chase the latest fads. Stick to the time proven rules of copywriting that have stood steadfast for decades and will continue to do so for many decades more.