How your headline could be messing with your sales (keeping you broke as a joke)

Writing a good headline can be the most challenging part of your sales page. Your headline is the first thing people see when they land on your sales page, so it’s got a pretty important job. Sometimes, we forget that and think any ol’ headline will do. But that’s a mistake because your headline could be messing with your sales. Check out this blog post to learn more! #copywritingtips #salespage

“Bugs flying around with wings are flying bugs”

“A-Rod goes deep, Wang hurt”

“Woman in sumo wrestler suit assaulted her ex-girlfriend in gay pub after she waves at man dressed as a Snickers bar”

“Think of a headline 56 pt bold headline”

“Students cook and serve grandparents”

Nope, not another listicle of the worst headlines ever (although I totally used some of those listicles to compile this brief listicle of some headlines I found amusing). Just a PSA of sorts for what the wrong headline can do – make us laugh, cringe, scratch our heads in confusion…

It can also royally mess up your sales, my friend.

Thankfully, the fine folks at these newspapers don’t depend on their headlines for their livelihood. Well, the writers kind of do because if they aren’t writing good headlines, what the hell are they doing? And, you know what, headlines tend to sell newspapers, so…that’s kind of a problem.

But you, as a business owner, really, really, really depend on your headlines to make sales. And a lot of the time you can’t point to an overburdened editor making piss poor decisions mere minutes before the printing deadline.

The headline on your sales page is the first thing people see when they land there. The page doesn’t load in the middle where you’ve gone into detail about all the amazing benefits of your offer. It’s a top-down kind of thing, and that makes what’s at the top important.

A lot of people don’t give much thought to their headline. They throw up the name of the offer or product, wipe all the proverbial dust off their hands, kick up their feet, and call it a day.

Problem: The wrong headline could be keeping that much-needed cash money far, far away from your hungry wallet. 

Let’s take a gander at five ways your headline could be messing with your sales.

It’s too clever (so people don’t understand what the eff you’re selling).

You know how people are always telling you to be clever, that clever writing sells, that you can’t be a business owner unless you’re clever AF? (I made that last one up, but the other two are legit.)

Sometimes cleverness comes with a lesser known side effect: confusion. And you don’t want confusion lurking around your sales page. 

Too often, you put clever before clear (much like you’d put the cart before the horse), and your client is left trying to decipher that riddle of a headline you just left dangling there.  

Here’s the thing: Your headline should be clear before clever gets anywhere near the equation.

If people have no idea what the hell you’re selling as soon as they land on your sales page, they aren’t going to waste too much time trying to figure it out. 

A super quick way around this? Make your headline clear but make your subheading or tagline clever. Or…make the first part of your headline clear and put something clever in parentheses at the end.

Look, you can have your gluten-free paleo cheesecake and eat it, too!

It’s too boring (so it doesn’t catch their attention).

On the flip of too clever, you’ve got the dreaded boring headline. (Anyone else just get involuntary shivers?)

You know what a boring headline does? Nothing. It just stands there, looking all boring, wearing its boring button-down white shirt and its boring pleated khaki pants with its boring, sensible shoes it can walk 500 miles in. 

That kind of headline doesn’t grab anybody’s attention. So it serves no purpose.

Your headline’s job is to catch your client’s attention. To make them stop and think, “YES!” To throw up a real-life praise hands emoji (I think the back-in-the-day equivalent would be raising the roof…).

Just slapping up something random or feeling like opting for the “name of thing as headline” approach will do won’t do. Not when you’re looking to make some bank and book some clients.

Don’t make your headline a middle-aged man’s office wardrobe. Give it some flair. Swap that common word for a phrase with a little more personality…something, anything to jazz it up a little bit.

It’s too vague (so people have no idea what they’re getting).

Let’s say an email with this subject line lands in your inbox (how it got past the spam filters no one will know…):

“Oh man, have I got something for you!”

Are you gonna click on that? 

Uhhh, unless you like viruses and spam bots and hundreds more unsolicited emails, no, probably not.

This kind of headline immediately makes you skeptical. You’re thinking, “Oh, really? What might that be? I can think of a million things you might have for me.”

Just like its cousin, the clever headline, the vague headline leaves people wondering what you’re selling. It could literally be anything – nail polish, pre-made smoothies, socks with pictures of pre-made smoothies applied with nail polish…

You might confuse mystery with vague. It happens. But mystery makes people interested. It gives them a little bit, just a little bit, something that piques their interest and makes them curious to learn more.

Vague, on the other hand, is fuzzy. Ambiguous. General. Perplexing in the wrong way.

Now, if that subject line said something more like, “Have I got the best thing to keep your toes warm while you’re drinking your smoothie mid-winter” (wordy, but let’s go with it just for funsies), that’s a little more mysterious. 

That makes you think about how, why yes, your toes do get cold when you’re drinking your subzero smoothie (with ice, thank you very much) in the middle of February, right after good ol’
Punxatawney Phil predicted six more weeks of the deepest darkest winter you’ve ever seen, and you’re curious what new-fangled contraption could possibly solve this age-old problem.

You see the difference, yes?

Mysterious catches your attention; vague makes you yawn. 

It’s not using your client’s language (so people don’t think they need it).

I want to say I talk ad nauseam about using your client’s language, but I’m pretty sure I could never actually prattle on about this too much. 

It’s simple: If you aren’t using the words your client is using to describe their problem, they aren’t going to identify and they aren’t going to buy because they don’t think they need what you’re selling.

If you’re talking about “healthy smoothies” and they just want a “quick breakfast” even if you’re talking about the same thing and you’re thinking, “BUT SMOOTHIES ARE A QUICK BREAKFAST!” you’re on two different wavelengths.

They don’t want a healthy smoothie. They want a quick breakfast. And you can shoot daggers at them all you want…but in their mind it’s not the same thing. 

Your headline has to have words your client is actually using so they immediately respond and think, “This is exactly what I’ve been looking for!”

(There were a lot of quotes in this section. I don’t know what happened. I’ll try to cut down on the quotes in the next one…)

It’s completely missing (so people don’t even know what page they landed on).

I was tempted to start this section with a quote, despite what I promised you just two sentences ago.

Instead, I’ll say this: Your sales page needs a headline. 

Is yours missing one? Has it gone MIA? Did you start working on one and get tired of trying to wrangle it into submission so you thought no one would notice if you just…left it out?

Bad idea. 

Here’s why: If your sales page doesn’t have a headline, people won’t know what they just landed on. You don’t want to sneak attack them. You want them to know this is a sales page. You want to prime them for the sale.

Without a headline, they won’t know it’s a sales page, they won’t know you’re selling something (that they totally need), they’ll think it’s just another page of content.

Think about it…Every page on your website has some sort of headline or title, right? Your home page has one, your about page has one, your blog and every single blog post has one…what makes your sales page any different?

If you’re tempted to completely skip a headline, at least throw up the name of your program until you think of something else. And don’t just fill the empty space with a staid stock photo thinking your client’s going to go, “Oh, I see now, that could be me!”

(Whoops, there’s a quote…I tried.)

I won’t end this post with a quote. I don’t even know why I’m harping on the quotes now. All I know is that I’m about to sum up everything in one quick sentence. Ready?

Your headline should be clear and compelling, and always use your client’s words.

I’m not one for shoulds even though that last sentence had a one and even though I’m about to should a little bit more…Now you should head on over to your sales page and check out your headline. Ask yourself if it’s clear, if it’s compelling, if your client would really (honestly) say that. Make sure it’s not boring or vague…and, please, make sure you’ve got one!

Once you feel like you’ve got a kick-ass headline (or at least one that you think, “Yeah, I’d keep reading if I saw that…), you should ask for some feedback on it. Whether it’s your target clients, your biz besties, or a snazzy copywriter waiting in the wings to swoop in (oh, hi, that would be me and Sales Page Second Look), it’s always a good idea to get a second opinion to make sure your headline is hitting the mark. Or else…you could end up in the next world’s worst headlines listicle. 

Tracie Kendziorawriting, editing