The Most Important Words You'll Ever Write

by Derek Gehl — Aug 24, 2007

Do you want to know the secret to selling things successfully online? It's finding the RIGHT WORDS for the job.

Consider this: Most visitors take 10 seconds or less to decide whether to stick around or move on to the next site. Just 10 seconds -- that's all the time you have to convince them YOUR site is where they want to be. It doesn't matter how well-designed your site is, how high your search engine ranking is, or how amazing your product is. If your words don't grab your visitors and keep them glued to your site, they're going to leave and probably never return. Of all the words on your site, the most important are the ones in your HEADLINE (heading tags <h1>, <h2>, etc.).

Your headline is the first thing your visitors see. It needs to capture their attention -- spark their curiousity-- and compel them to read further. And it has to do it fast.

To guarantee YOUR headlines jump off the page and pull potential buyers deeper into your site, always follow these Top 5 "Unbreakable" Headline Rules:

  1. Relate a problem: Most visitors, when they come to your site, are looking for information -- probably in relation to a problem they want to solve. Maybe they're curious about local flight schools in their area. Maybe they're searching for molded chrome fenders to put on a 1953 Chevy Bel-Air. Or maybe they're trying to figure out how to "unshrink" wool clothes that accidentally ended up in the dryer. Whatever their problem is, relate to it. Show them YOU know what it's all about. Demonstrate a clear and genuine understanding of their wants and needs -- and they'll be far more willing to buy from you.
  2. Present a solution: You've described a problem. Now you've got to solve it -- in a way that creates a powerful image in the mind of your visitors. Tell your visitors they're about to discover how to get the most qualified flight instructors at the lowest price in town. Describe how their new chrome fenders will help them outshine the competition at the next state-wide car show. Promise them their wife or girlfriend will NEVER know her favorite sweater once shrank small enough to fit a chihuahua. Get them to see the end result -- and you're more than halfway to making the sale. (NOTE: "How to..." and "Discover..." headlines are good at getting people to imagine the end result.)
  3. Focus on benefits - not features: People aren't so interested in what your product or service is. They want to know what it does. Specifically, they want to know what it'll do for THEM. Tell them they'll get the real "inside scoop" on the flight school scene -- because they'll be learning it from someone who's been a pilot in the area for more than 30 years. (Provided that's true, of course.) Have them imagine the honks, smiles, and admiring glances their car will get every time they drive it down the road. Describe the relief they'll feel when they know they're back in their wife or girlfriend's good books. Remember the most important question that's on all of your visitors minds -- "What's in it for ME?" -- and make sure you answer it.
  4. Speak directly to your visitors: Write your headlines as if you were talking to your favorite customer -- someone you know very well. Make that person the focus of everything you say. Don't tell them how great your product is... Get them to picture how great their lives will be after they've used it. Just make sure your words are genuine... and use the same kind of language your potential buyers use. (For example, if your business is designing sew-on patches for leather biker jackets, you're NOT going to speak to your customers in the same way as someone who sells quilting supplies!) It's like this: If your customers say "dude," you say "dude." But if they're the kind of people who say "folks," then don't say dude -- or you're dead.
  5. Make your headlines "POP": When it comes to writing headlines, it's not just what you write - it's how you format it. If you clump all the words together into a dense paragraph, like this one, for example, in which I'm going to go on and on and use lots of commas and incredibly unnecessary adverbs and adjectives and pile one idea upon the next (and even include a parenthetical comment) until you can't even remember how the sentence even started - your most important ideas will end up lost in the visual clutter. BUT: if you limit yourself to just one important idea per line And use simple formatting tricks Such as bolding and italics and ALL CAPS ... Then your readers can get your meaning in a single glance!

So those are the "Top 5 Unbreakable Headline Rules"... keep them in mind when it's time to craft your next headline. Just remember: Your headline can have a massive impact on your sales, so you'll want to spend lots of time on it. We spend HOURS writing our headlines, and we often test four or five of them before we settle on one that works. But that time is always well spent. In fact, we once made one tiny tweak to one of our headlines... ... And overnight our revenues jumped by 714%!

Once you've written a few different headlines, TEST THEM. Run them for a couple of weeks, then compare the results against other headlines. Then, tweak them and test them again! You may have to do this a few times before you hit on one that pulls consistently... but it's definitely worth the effort.

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