May I have your attention?


In marketing, your most important job is to get noticed. Because no matter how compelling the message in your article, post, ad or other message, you won’t get any response if nobody reads or hears that message.

Just a fact, Jack.

The best way to get attention is with an effective headline.

The words at the top of your article, ad, letter, or email, the title of your book or report, are critical. If you want to sell more legal services, get more subscribers, or put more prospective clients’ butts in seats, if you want anyone to buy anything or do anything, a good headline is critical.

In the annals of marketing history, this has always been true.

David Oglivy, one of the top copywriters of his generation, said:

“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.”

The importance of the headline is even more true today when peoples’ attention spans are so short. According to one report, only 9% of all digital ads are viewed longer than one second.

Not a lot of time to tell them what you want to tell them.

You can get attention with graphics, charts, photos, and other visual elements, but a good headline is the best way because it is larger and more prominent in the article or ad, and because it can tell the reader what’s in it for them if they read the article.

Note, it’s not just the main headline that does this. People scan articles and ads before deciding if they want to read them, and so your sub-heads, bullet points, and your conclusion or P.S. are also important ways to get attention.

The context in which your article or ad or email is seen also plays a part.

If you send an email to someone who knows you, an existing client or subscriber, for example, you don’t have to work as hard to capture their attention. They’ll read your email because it is from you as much as or more than because of a great headline.

The headline for this post is a good example. It promises no benefits and perhaps made you only mildly curious, and yet here you are reading this post.

If you want to get better at writing effective headlines, and/or working with copywriters and marketing folks who do that for you, start paying attention to the headlines you see each day. Especially the ones that capture your attention and compel you to read the article or ad or listen to the audio.

Write down those headlines and ask yourself why you think you noticed it and why it convinced you to read more. Put these headlines (sub-heads, bullets, etc.) in a “swipe” file you can use (or re-write and use) in future articles and posts and ads.

Yes, this is only a first step towards writing better headlines, but it is an important step because it will help train you to notice what’s working.