Busy people keep their lives manageable by deciding almost instantly whether something is worth their time. It’s the headline’s job to entice them, engage them and capture their attention so that they ignore all other distractions to read to find out more. It’s frightening, but this process takes just a second or two and it’s brutal.

The headline is your client’s first and sometimes only chance. The reader’s eye will scan the headline and an instant decision will be made. Does it interest them, intrigue them or amuse them or can it be ignored? There’s no second chance. No appeal. Just one chance. There is no going back and the rest of your client’s ad, brilliant, amusing and informative though it may be will never be read.

There are five golden rules of headline writing that every successful headline must follow.

  1. It must be clear – The headline is not the place to be confusing or circumspect. It has to be clear what the headline is saying and what the rest of the ad is about.
  2. It must be relevant – The headline must be relevant to the target audience, otherwise it will lose the reader as soon as they see any discrepancy.
  3. Focus the headline – If the headline focuses on one specific group then they will love it and hang onto every word. This will also help it be more relevant.
  4. It must be lean – A waffle-filled wordy headline will not be read. Keep the headline short and to the point.
  5. It must be exciting – Don’t bore the reader – excite them, amuse them, make them curious…

Finally, test the headline. Does it read out loud well? Can any of the words be improved? Does it produce a feeling in the reader? Would it make you want to read more?