FREE REPORT: "7 Mistakes to Avoid in Hiring a Copywriter"

How to Evaluate the Strength of Any Headline in 5 Minutes or Less

A few weeks ago I was asked to review a promotion written by a new copywriter for an old client of mine.

The copy was strong — and it was clear in just a few minutes’ time that this writer knows what he’s doing even at such an early stage of his career.

But he made one glaring mistake that very nearly wrecked the project for him…and it was easily avoidable.

His mistake?

He was clearly tentative with his headline.

If your headline isn’t strong enough, it’s almost impossible for your promotion to be successful — no matter how strong the copy is behind it.  That’s because your prospect — if they continue reading at all — already has a negative impression of your message…all thanks to a lousy headline.

The tentativeness of the headline in this young writer’s promotion was likely a result of nervousness.  My guess is that he didn’t want to be as bold with his headline as he was with the rest of his copy because he was afraid of “looking bad” if his client felt he had missed the mark.

So my job — as the reviewer in this case — was simple.  I recommended a handful of much stronger, bolder headlines and told the client to leave the rest of the copy alone.

This whole experience reminded me of something I’d written a while ago about how to evaluate the strength of any headline…and I thought I’d share that with you today:

How to Evaluate the Strength of Any Headline in 5 Minutes or Less

The headline – it’s the most important part of any sales letter.

In fact, some writers spend 50% or more of their time working on this one key element of their promotion.

And with good reason.

With direct mail, you have – at most – three seconds to capture the reader’s attention with a good headline.

With web or e-mail copy…you have even less time.

So let’s take a look at five things every good headline MUST do…

1. Grab the reader’s attention – it’s not enough to have the reader think, “Gee, that’s nice” or “Isn’t that interesting?”  Instead…you need to forcefully grab the reader’s attention and let him know – beyond any doubt – that what he’s about to read is incredibly important.

2. Be about the reader…and NOT the writer – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen junior copywriters make the mistake of crafting a headline they hope will impress their friends or colleagues…without focusing on the reader.  Sure, a clever turn of phrase may impress a friend – but the focus of the headline should be squarely on the reader.  What’s in it for him?  Why should he care?

3. Deliver ONE complete idea – Under no circumstances should you leave anything to chance.  Never assume that the reader understands where you’re headed with your point…take him there and show him what you mean.  In fact, you should write the headline as though the reader will make his ultimate buying decision without reading any of the rest of your copy.  At the same time, make sure you’re delivering ONE complete idea in your headline – not a collection of several ideas that could confuse the reader to the point where he loses interest.

4. Move the reader along to what’s next – The best headlines are those that not only grab the reader’s interest…they actually leave the reader salivating for the next idea you’re about to deliver.  Many times as I’m writing headlines, I try and imagine the reaction I’m hoping to elicit from the reader – shock, anger, fear, greed – and in every case I want to not only get that reaction…but also keep them reading on for the next idea.

5. Directly connect your big idea to your product – This is another mistake I see young writers make on a regular basis.  In the quest for the “ultimate” headline, they sometimes lose sight of what it is they’re actually selling.  It seems like an obvious point, but…a powerful, fear-oriented headline about higher energy prices makes perfect sense if you’re selling a letter that covers natural resource stocks…but not so much sense if you’re selling a letter that focuses primarily on biotech.

Jody Madron is a results-oriented copywriter with more than 20 years of breakthrough marketing experience.  To learn how Jody can deliver results-boosting copy — ahead of your deadline — visit

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"7 Mistakes to Avoid in Hiring a Copywriter"