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9 Techniques for Writing Headlines that Convert – Part 4 of 9

This is part 4 of 9 in our series: 9 Proven Techniques for Writing Headlines that Convert.

This is a technique adopted from the book Steal Like An Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative. If you haven’t seen this book, it’s a must read.

The idea is that, when you look around, great headlines are everywhere. In many cases, it’s best to draw inspiration from what already exists and adapt it to fit your needs. The cost is lower (you don’t have to spend 8 hours thinking of headlines) and you get something that’s already been tested in the market.

Real-World Examples

One of the most successful examples is when The Wall Street Journal re-purposed Bruce Barton’s “Two Men Who Fought In The Civil War” headline as their exclusive “The Story of Two Men” ad.

In the ad, two people are depicted: one who subscribes to their publication and becomes the president of a company while another (who doesn’t subscribe) becomes a mere low level manager. The ad was a control for 20+ years and brought in over $1 billion in subscription revenue.

So, why did it work? The execution was simple and effective – they didn’t sit in a conference room and think of 100+ headlines. Instead, they looked at what worked and made it relevant to their ad. The ad itself has broad emotional appeal: everyone wants to land a great job and, if something promises to help, it’s worth a try.

Let’s look at another example. The creator of Six Pack Shortcuts successfully re-purposed the Pimsleur language course headline: “Language Professors Hate Him” (for trivializing their profession by teaching an easier language learning method).

The result? The Six Pack Shortcuts chose the headline: “Personal Trainers Hate Him…”, built a YouTube video around the idea, and it outperformed everything they tested. A big part of human psyche is wondering “why?” when we hear something clever or unknown; this headline plays to our innate curiosity.

Language Professors Hate Him

In the marketing space, an analogous headline for Mouseflow would be “High-Priced Agencies Hate This Tool…”(alluding to the fact that you don’t need an expensive firm to optimize your site). A companion ad could focus on how anyone can optimize their site with session replay and heatmaps.

How to Apply This to Your Market

So, how do you get started? My recommendation is to go to Google Images and search “magazine covers”. As you look through, notice the headlines in use on the front page: “10 Days to [Blank] Without Even Trying”“What the Experts Know About [Blank] That’s Hiding in Plain Sight”, or “3 Ways to Increase [Blank] and Have Customers Beg for More”.

As you search, take note of your favorites and try to substitute relevant keywords/content into the headlines. When you get a decent list (8-10 headlines), it’s time to start testing!

We’d love to see what headlines you come up with. Please leave a comment below.

This post is by Jasper Kuria at the Conversion Wizards. Got a question? Please write a comment below or email (we are also knowledgeable on the following subjects: Web Analytics, Tagging, PPC, SEM, Email Marketing.

And, stay tuned for the next posts in this series on crafting powerful headlines. You won’t want to miss it.