5 Landing Page Headline Formulas You Can Test Today

By , January 14th, 2013 in Landing Pages | 32 comments
5 landing page headline formulas
You wouldn’t bake a chocolate soufflé for your mother-in-law’s birthday party without referring to a recipe, so why would you craft a headline that way? (Image source)

PSST! Want more landing page copywriting wisdom? Check out Joanna’s ebook, The Conversion Marketer’s Guide to Landing Page Copywriting.

Ever notice those “conversion copywriting” techniques you read about for ugly, hard-to-stomach long-form sales pages?

When you implement those techniques, you end up with lengthy, nearly impossible to believe headlines, like this one:

conversion copywriting long form

That’s great for niche info products. Great for diet pills and exercise DVDs. Great for miracle cures.

But it’s BAD for the products and services most of us are actually selling – like productivity apps, games, SaaS, consulting services, ebooks, quilts, clothes, hardware… the list goes on.

Here’s the thing: the uber-long headline above isn’t necessarily wrong for short copy. It’s filled with some great messages. The kinds of messages that could impact your conversion rate positively, like listing highly desirable outcomes (e.g., “boosting your profits”) and showing how you remove a key pain (i.e., no time for intensive marketing efforts).

So what if we were to take the best of long-form sales page copywriting… and tweak it for our 2.0 or short-copy landing pages?

We could then develop a series of headline formulas that any startup or small business could use to convert as well as long-form converts – without gettin’ ugly or lookin’ sketchy.

Sound like something you could stomach? Then let’s do it.

What Needs to Be in a Headline?

I think we can all agree that different headlines work for different page and user goals. That said, there are some basic guidelines that you should follow in your home page or landing page headlines:

  • Be specific
  • Be succinct
  • Focus on 1 thing that your prospects believe to be highly desirable (that you provide)
  • Quickly reflect the expectations of the visitor

If there’s something unique about you that you know people want, that may be the best basis for your headline. For UserTesting.com, their unique value proposition is easy testing with a clear outcome:

UserTesting landing page headline formula

If the average person arriving on your page doesn’t really know much about you – say, they’re coming from PPC ads – you should probably use your brand name in the headline and say exactly what you do.

If you can promise a great result of some kind – especially a memorable one – include it, and use the word “promise” (because explicit is good). See headline formulas B and C below for examples.

Best of all, if there is a pain you clearly eliminate or an objection that visitors may have, address it clearly. Specifically. With proof. Simply adding the phrase “without ____” to the end of your headline could move it from good to great. Unbounce does this on the home page, calling out the lack of need for IT:

Unbounce landing page headline formula

As I discussed in my last Unbounce post, the best headline copy will come from the words your customers use. When you survey your customers to find out about their pains, needs and expectations, you will be better positioned than the average person to write a high-converting headline.

Before We Talk Formulas, Let’s Talk Formatting

You won’t want to believe me on some of these formatting tips, but you should. Trust me here. I wouldn’t lead you astray – I get nothing out of screwing you over, but I get to be a hero if I give you the guidance that increases your clicks and conversions, right? Right.

  • Center your headlines
  • Make them big and dark, dark grey (or, when on a dark background, white)
  • Use “Title Case”, aka Capitalize Each Word
  • Don’t use a period at the end as such visual cues present mental stopping points for your visitors
  • Break up lengthy headlines with “eye rest” punctuation marks, such as ellipses and em-dashes
  • Consider putting quotation marks around the headline as this can draw the eye
  • Support each headline with a meaningful subhead written in sentence case, aka Capitalize the first word only

When you treat your headlines like so, something amazing will happen: your visitors will actually NOTICE them. Cool, right? After all, headlines are made to be noticed. Your visitors want to see them. Your visitors will actually read them (yay!).

So don’t hide them in the shadows or cram them into tiny spaces alongside big, meaningless stock photos. Be bold! Let your headlines shine!

Without Further Ado, Headline Formulas You Can Use or Test Today

Once you have the right meat for your headline and the ideal formatting, a headline formula comes in extremely handy and keeps you from the frustration of trying to think up a headline without any guidance.

Check these easy 2.0-style headline formulas out:

Headline Formula A: All Gain, No Pain

Get the [Rarely Seen But Relevant Adjective] Power of [What Your Product Does] Without [Pain]

For use when: Your prospects have a clear pain they’d love you to eliminate
Example: CrazyEgg Home Page

Crazyegg landing page headline formula

Headline Formula B: The Promise-Based SEO Headline

[Adjective] & [Adjective] [What You Are / SEO Keyword Phrase] That Will [Highly Desirable Promise of Results]

For use when: SEO is a major consideration for you, and you offer a highly desirable outcome
Example: AppDesignVault Home Page

AppDesignVault landing page headline formula

Headline Formula C: The Explicit Promise

We Promise You This: [Highly Desirable Promise of Results]

For use when: Your visitors will believe a promise from you (e.g., driving from email)
Example: Laura Roeder Sales Page

Laura Roeder landing page headline formula

Headline Formula D: The Comparison

[Known Competitor] [Does This Undesirable or Unimpressive Thing], and
[Your Brand Name] [Does This Highly Desirable or Impressive Thing]

For use when: You know your visitors are using or considering a key competitor
Example: KISSmetrics Home Page

KISSmetics landing page headline formula

Headline Formula E: The Value Prop

The Only [SEO Keyword Phrase] Made Exclusively to [Highly Desirable Outcome or Benefit]

For use when: You offer something that’s both unique to you and highly desirable to your visitors
Example: Copy Hackers Home Page

Copy Hackers Headline Copy

How Would These Headlines Work for a Sample Company?

Let’s see how these headline formulas might work for, say, Unbounce:

  • Get the Conversion-Boosting Power of Optimized Landing Pages… Without IT
  • Modern, Sexy Landing Page Templates That Will Bring in More Sales
  • We Promise You More Conversions When You Use Our Optimized Landing Pages
  • Your IT Team Has No Bandwidth for Marketing Initiatives, But Unbounce Gets You Set Up in Minutes with Great-Looking Landing Pages
  • The Only Landing Page Templates Made Exclusively to Boost Conversions

Not every one of ‘em works… but a few sure do, don’t they?

Now, you may find yourself saying, “Joanna, this is all fine and good… but why should I even use headline formulas?”

Good question… but let me ask you this: Would you bake a chocolate soufflé for your mother-in-law’s birthday party without referring to a recipe? Would you just throw a bunch of eggs and blocks of chocolate into a pan and chuck it in the oven?

No. Because there’s too much riding on getting it right.

Just like there’s too much riding on your headline to simply ‘wing it’.

It is not your job – whether you’re a business owner, marketer or copywriter – to work from scratch every single time you write copy. In fact, the more you write copy, the more you’ll see that the best copy doesn’t come from some magical creative writing lab in your mind. So why force yourself to write from scratch when you’ve got at least 5 “recipes” at your disposal?

Your Turn

I’m repeating the headline formulas below. Select at least 3 of them, and complete them for your own product. For best results, pull copy from customer surveys, as I showed in my last Unbounce post. Then, why not run a test? Landing page headline tests are extremely easy to run in most tools, and the results can give you the clear insights you can’t get from, say, a button-color test.

  • Get the [Rarely Seen Adjective] Power of [What Your Product Does] Without [Pain]
  • [Adjective] & [Adjective] [What You Are / SEO Keyword Phrase] That Will [Highly Desirable Promise of Results]
  • We Promise You This: [Highly Desirable Promise of Results]
  • [Known Competitor] [Does This Undesirable or Unimpressive Thing], and [Your Brand Name] [Does This Highly Desirable or Impressive Thing]
  • The Only [SEO Keyword Phrase] Made Exclusively to [Highly Desirable Outcome or Benefit]

– Joanna Weibe


About The Author

Photo of Joanna Wiebe

Joanna Wiebe is a conversion-focused copywriter and the founder of Copy Hackers, where startups learn to write copy. Sign up for her free weekly newsletter and follow her on Twitter.
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Comments

  1. […] on unbounce.com Share the Alert!Like this:LikeBe the first to like this. In marketing […]

  2. Nice!!

    You posts are always a good red – but this one includes examples and what to do next. SO MANY posts have “here’s the problem” but not enough of those posts follow with “where’s what to do about it”…ore even better “here is an example.”

    You nailed it. Giving examples is something close to my heart and my blogging/webinars (http://www.optimalecommerce.com/blog)

    Keep doing good things,
    Dustin

    • Joanna Wiebe says:

      Hey, Dustin, thanks! Glad you liked it. I’m a big fan of seeing how to apply the stuff I learn —- so, since I like reading posts that show you 1) how to apply X or 2) an example of how X has been applied, I can’t help but [try to] write posts that do that, too! :)

  3. Joanna — your clear, direct and wily voice makes this single article on headline writing better than the much-highly-touted Copyblogger series on the same subject. Just sayin’

    P.S. I bought your ebooks the other day.

  4. Josh Kellett says:

    Hi Joanna,
    Great article, lots of actionable takeaways here. I’m totally guilty of trying to churn out quality writing from scratch every time. Having a framework (for anything really) can really help you stay on track, so thanks for providing one!

  5. I love the way you write. I’m working on some surveys with my clients and can’t wait to try a few of these formulas. Your emails are wonderful and I look forward to getting them every Tuesday. My website pretty much stunk and I have been working on redoing it and your writings have helped. Thank you.

  6. I have trouble picking out what works for customers sometimes, but its very clear what works on me. The “explicit promise” is something that always catches my eye when I’m shopping for anything.

    I think the extent to which the last two generations have been completed jaded by advertising makes that the most effective style in a lot of cases.

  7. […] No need to fret over coming up with the perfect headline for your landing page. You can follow some simple formulas which will help you come with the best possible headline. You can either promise the readers something or compare your product/business with your competitors. There are five such formulas you can use which deliver results. Read more at Unbounce. […]

  8. Joanna Wiebe,

    Excellent post. I Tweeted that I recommend it, and included, of course, it’s Web address.

    Best regards,

    Wayne English
    President
    WebContentRx.biz

  9. […] on unbounce.com Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. This entry was posted in […]

  10. […] 5 Landing Page Headline Formulas You Can Test Today […]

  11. Mrinal says:

    Love this post and learn how to use headline on landing page design to boost conversion rate. Great post.

  12. Joanna this is one of the best pieces I have seen on headlines. I took away a lot from it.

  13. Diseño Web says:

    keeping the message simple and direct, also a command can let your user take an action, make a “call to action” good post

  14. Alen Bubich says:

    Hello Joanna,

    Great Post! Just wondering about Formula F: Question and Answer. For example:

    1. Wondering how many people click on your Tweets? Never miss another lead with Cityblast.
    2. Are you experiencing fatigue? Brand X is the number one solution for fatigue

    I’ve seen this Q and A format before, and I’m wondering if you had any thoughts one way or another towards it?

    Thanks!
    Alen

  15. Danilo says:

    Persuasive copywriting is one of the hardest thing in SEO. You need to be a very good writer and “seller” at the same time!

  16. Hey Joanna,

    Nice post. Although you have described the landing page in great detail with examples I think we should have at least three landing pages with same content and different titles to monitor the effectiveness. I am going to use the techniques you told on my website.

    Thanks,
    Saurabh

  17. diseño web says:

    thank you very much for this amazing article, I’ll put in practice with some of my web design clients. thank you very much, kind regards

  18. Muchas gracias por compartir estas formulas, me ha ayudado mucho al hacer un diseño web. un cordial saludo de un diseñador de granada

  19. […] 8. 5 Landing Page Headline Formulas You Can Test Today [Unbounce] […]

  20. App design says:

    Sounds great u writing so nice one also informative all one

  21. […] 5 Landing Page Headline Formulas You Can Test Today – Again, just telling people to write better headlines for their landing pages isn’t actionable; it’s vague. What is “better”? How do you do that? This post from Unbounce offers actual formulas with lots of examples to get you rolling. And notice how the title of the post sells how actionable it is! […]

  22. […] 5 Landing Page Headline Formulas You Can Test Today – Again, just telling people to write better headlines for their landing pages isn’t actionable; it’s vague. What is “better”? How do you do that? This post from Unbounce offers actual formulas with lots of examples to get you rolling. And notice how the title of the post sells how actionable it is! […]

  23. […] on a new headline to test:  From a post by Joanna Weibe, she describes five formulas for creating a powerful headline. Try […]

  24. […] because headlines are so important – and check this, this, this, this, this, this, this and this out, if you’re not sure if headlines still matter – that we recently […]

  25. […] Learn 5 more headline formulas perfect for home, product, and landing pages, and how to format them for optimal results and when to use them. […]