Write website headlines that convert

A headline is like a handshake with a person. It shouldn't be too weak or too strong. Timid or aggressive.
It does have a role in the moment and its part of the entire experience of meeting a person.

Headline's role in the hero section

A headline is part of the "Hero" section of your website. It’s arguably the most important and sometimes only words you can convey to your visitors. Make sure these words count.

Other elements of your hero section for your website are Graphic (image, video, or illustration), sub-headline, and call to action. You'll have to mindfully orchestrate them to make your website a conversion magnet.

Here are the elements of the Hero section. Example from a product I designed and built. Next SciFi Book app

Hero Section Elements. Example from NextSFBook.com
Hero Section Elements. Example from NextSFBook.com

Headlines have to answer in a short, simple, and concrete way: What problem are you trying to solve for me? Even if I don’t know I have this problem.

Sub-headline should answer why exactly your offering is better compared to others. It answers concerns I might have as a potential customer.

Here is an example from this website

Example from Conversion Design how Headline and Sub-headline messaging interacts
Example from Conversion Design how Headline and Sub-headline messaging interacts

Notice the description in simple terms. Sub-heading mentions what is the "twist" compared to similar online magazines. I’m sure as a founder you considered many features or reasons why what you have to offer is better.

Choose the one that you consider the best for user value or generic enough for a wider audience. If you have a customer persona in mind for your niche, use the terminology they might be using.
Be careful to complicate things just because you want to include everything.

Here's an example from a product I built for young gamers. Foyl App

Example from GetFoyl.com. Targeted messaging based on personas.
Example from GetFoyl.com. Targeted messaging based on personas.

One optional exercise: asking again WHY would I care about that ”killer feature” from your target persona perspective. It elevates one layer above the "hierarchy of needs".

A popular saying in business is that people don't want a drill but a hole in their wall. A deeper WHY reveals they want a beautiful house, not a whole.  Or a nice zoom background.

Use proof and objective numbers if you can. Make sure you don't lie. If you don't have data yet about how efficient or happy people might be by using what you offer: don't add them. 
Remember to come back to change it when you do.

Example of using date to illustrate benefits of the product by Shepherd

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Flash tips

  • Get to the point
    You’ll be inspiring like Apple when you become Apple. Talk to the people you are targeting but keep it simple.
  • Hook with the problem you are solving.
    People are lazy and don’t have time, they will scroll to get the gist If they’re interested.
  • Use data
    Adults love numbers.
  • Refine it
    Until it passes the “So what?” test at least 2 times.
  • Combine it with other elements of your hero section: Image or video, sub-heading, and call to action.

🐟 Just give me the fish

For your headlines use black text or white on a dark background. Aim for a 60pt size with plenty of space around for other elements (sub-headline, CTA, graphic). Limit to 60 characters max. Use this free counter tool.

Align the headline to the left or middle with a graphic on the right or below respectively. Most people scan left to right and up to down. If in doubt on what font to use, go with Inter. It's free and very well crafted.

A note on AI tools that generate headlines

AI is still in its infancy.  Writing good headlines and designing a landing page is a complicated creative endeavor. If you want to stand out at least. Creativity is the ultimate frontier for AI. When we'll achieve it, that's the end game. But this is another story.

Take the ads of tools that substitute a good copywriter with a big grain of salt.

Practically writing a great headline

Step by step guide 

Go outside for at least 1h walk. Preferably in nature. Keep your phone in your pocket. After a while, think about all the value you offer: the benefits, the whys, your target customers, etc. Also the pains and needs you try to solve. 

Start formulating a couple of headlines in your head. When you have enough of them: brain-dump them in your favorite phone notes app. You can even use your voice with Siri or Google. Repeat this cycle at least 5 times and don't worry about the quality or absurdity of some of them. We'll think about them later.

Here are some of the examples for this website. I tried to imagine my angle compared to similar blogs and newsletters.

Brainstorming unique selling propositions for Conversion Design
Brainstorming unique selling propositions for Conversion Design

When at home in front of your computer or notepad. Choose the ones that are specific enough, simple, and trust your gut sometimes. Start refining it.
What words can be changed or even removed. Keep it simple. Use the Hemingway free app to check readability and simplicity. Remember it can only go so far, you are the ultimate tool.

Here's an example from me when refining this website.

Brainstorming headlines for Conversion Design
Refining the headline for Conversion Design

Sleep on it for at least one night and then come back and think if something can be improved. Don't worry if it sucks the next day–this is the creative process for you.

In Conclusion 

The awesome part about great headlines is that you can use them anywhere. When talking about your project on social media, communities, investors, and relatives at the holiday table. Maybe this is the ultimate simplicity test?!
In this article, I share how you can verify your hero section for your website for free using UX methods.

Note

Article illustration is an homage to the iconic Volkswagen campaign that disrupted print advertising in the 60s.

If you’re looking for a tool to build your website. Use Webflow.
It’s the best and has no constraints on design. Iterate for conversion.

— Oleg

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