Back in the Mad Men days, adman David Ogilvy (who started in door-to-door sales and retired to a castle in the south of France) created an ad for Rolls Royce headlined At 60 miles per hour the loudest sound in the new Rolls Royce comes from the electric clock. The ad wasn’t only clever — it was effective. In his book “Confessions of an Advertising Man,” Ogilvy said that 80% of your print advertising investment was in the headline, because 80% of your readers never read beyond it. There’s a reason Ogilvy and his writers often spent weeks getting the words in a headline just right: they had to fight the indifference of the majority of readers.
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.
So where are the great headline writers now? They’re still fighting indifference, but some have chosen to do it in online media and web content. An online publication like Business Insider, which was reportedly sold for $300+ million, employs some of the best writers in the business, and their article titles are likely part of the reason the site has become so successful. Two examples:
9 sneaky psychology tricks companies use to get you to buy stuff
17 science-backed ways men can appear more attractive to women
These kinds of titles can make many people almost feverish to click. Thing is, compelling titles can work the same way for online content, drawing the audience in. It could be that the 80% rule — or some other impressively large percentage — also applies to web content. Once people start reading text, of course, it’s essential that the text be useful — it has to solve a problem or fulfill a consumer desire if the content marketing is to be effective. But your audience may never see that solution if they’re not drawn into the text by a strong title.
- Article titles are like best-selling book titles. Writing them is (or should be) a bit of a project.
- Since most people won’t read beyond the title, it’s one of the most important parts of your article.