80 Cents of Your Dollar Should Be Spent on Writing Headlines

A Deeper Look at the Famous David Ogilvy Quote and How it Applies to Us Today

David Ogilvy - Famous Ad Copywriting RevolutionaryHeadlines are crucial to your content. The famous advertising revolutionary, David Ogilvy, knew that headlines are the most important element of your copy. His famous quote is as follows:

“On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”

What Mr. Ogilvy is saying is that you should spend extra time and thought considering your headlines. Let’s not forget the importance of having a headline at all.

A more recent study shows that headlines are still supremely important. In fact, the MarketingSherpa 2011 Landing Page Optimization Benchmark Report states that headline copy is one of the top 5 most impactful elements for lead generation.

How to Write a Good Headline – 5 Tips to a Perfect Headline

It’s not good enough to just include headlines in your content. You’ll want to write good headlines that draws in readers. Here are 5 tips to write super-awesome-fantastic headlines that WORK:

1) Make your headline value-centric. Being value-centric means that the central message of the headline is about the benefit/value your reader will get by reading more. Be straight-forward and upfront about what the viewer will get by reading more or performing an action. Speaking of actions though, you want to avoid an action-centric headline. That’s where you make the headline about an action you want the reader to take.

Here’s an example of a good value-centric headline: “Get 20% Off Your Purchase from Fun Store.”

Here’s an example of a bad action-centric headline: “Sign-Up Today for My Newsletter.”

2) Be specific. Do 9.5 out of 10 dentists actually recommend your product? Then say it with that specificity. Don’t just say “dentist recommended” when you know the details. Avoid using vague words like “world-leader” or “best in town.” First of all, your readers “lie gauge” is going off the chart. Second of all, they really have no idea what you actually mean. By being specific about your accomplishments, people can begin to trust your statements. It’s just more credible to know that 95% of consumers agree your product is above average.

3) The headline should summarize the content to follow. This should be a given. The headline must indicate what the following body copy will be about. It doesn’t make sense to tell someone that you’ve got prices that are on average 20% lower than your competition… Then continue on to talk about how pretty your widgets are. Expand on your original statement.

4) Be compelling. We’ve all seen headlines that say something like “About Us” and that’s it. While that may describe accurately what the page is about, it’s not very compelling. Give the reader something to get curious about. For example “About John’s Hardware – Where We Started and Where We’re Headed.” That headline might not win any rewards, but at least there’s an element of interest (the reader would be asking “where are they going?”).

One thing you should understand is that “compelling” isn’t the same as “clever.” Don’t be clever. Using puns, alliteration, metaphors or off-putting language has been shown to hurt more than help. So many supposedly clever headlines fall flat. So just avoid it.

5) Use sub-headlines. Surprisingly enough, this is one tip that is rarely communicated or implemented. Use a sub-headline to bring more detail, clarity, and purpose to your original headline. Especially at the beginning of your content. It’s also effective to use 3rd and 4th level headlines throughout the rest of your content. You can use headlines to break up the thought segments and concepts. You can see, even on this blog article, there’s a: main headline, sub-headline, and another sub-sub-headline further down the page. This is designed to help you read the document and naturally section readable pieces.

More from David Ogilvy

David Ogilvy was incredibly good at copywriting and we have him to thank for many concepts we still use today. He was a famous advertising man whose career spanned mostly between 1938 – 1973. He has published several highly popular books on advertising and what his years of success showed him. You can learn more about David Ogilvy on Wikipedia.

Here are a 5 more David Ogilvy quotes that we like at devEdge Internet Marketing. Let us know if they cause you to think, and what they might mean to you.

Never stop testing, and your advertising will never stop improving.

Don’t bunt. Aim out of the ball park. Aim for the company of immortals.

Good copy can’t be written with tongue in cheek, written just for a living. You’ve got to believe in the product.

I don’t know the rules of grammar… If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think. We try to write in the vernacular.

The consumer isn’t a moron; she is your wife.

Kevin Clark
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