How to Write Headlines That Convert

Posted on: April 17, 2014 by: DedePerkins

David Ogilvy

The famous adman David Ogilvy who is known as the “Father of Advertising”  had this to say about headlines:

“Remember, you have only about five seconds to get your prospect’s attention. If you haven’t grabbed his interest by then, you’ll never get it.”


Yikes, only 5 seconds?

 In Ogilvy’s time, the world was a slower place. Today’s world is driven by sound-bites and 140 characters. What took five seconds then takes about 2 seconds now. Yup, 2 seconds or so to grab your target audience’s attention. But there’s good news, so don’t despair.

While our attention-span has decreased, “search” allows us to pretty much get whatever we want or need whenever we want or need it, and that’s terrific news for marketers and advertisers who know how to write copy that gets top rankings. In our techno-dependent, short attention-span world, headlines are still key to clicks and sales.

Great, so how do you write headlines that attract clicks and sales?

The best headlines have three commonalities: They’re all urgent, useful, and unique.


Urgent & Useful

Urgent headlines have energy. The prospect has a desire; the headline promises the solution. Right now. Click here to get what you’re looking for. Click here to solve your problem or be with like-minded people. Click here to have more friends, to be smarter, richer, prettier, trendier, healthier, happier…



Unique headlines speak to your target audience in one of many ways. Tone, price, immediacy, community: Figure out what moves your prospect and write your headline accordingly.  Easier said than done, you say? If you’re stuck, brainstorm along these lines:


 – Stir curiosity
 – Make a promise
 – Introduce a compelling idea
 – Make an offer
 – Issue a challenge


Legendary headlines

If you’re still struggling, search for “award winning headlines” or “legendary headlines” and start reading. In all likelihood, one will resonate and set you on your way.

Want to know one of my favorite headlines of all time? Here it is:

Trout Spoken Here. Also Bass. Salmon. And Bonefish.


Odd, right? Especially since I don’t fish. That said, this headline has been stuck in my head for years, and back in the day, rumor says it sold a gazillion subscriptions to the magazine Fly Fisherman.

Why was this headline successful? Because it spoke directly to fly fisherman. The headline piqued their curiosity, probably made them smile, made them feel like an insider, and clearly, enticed them to keep reading. A good day’s work for the copywriter who wrote it.

So, here’s to your next headline. May it go viral and make you rich and famous.


Dede - headshot small Dede Perkins has over 25 years of writing, branding and marketing experience with businesses and non-profit  organizations.

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