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I’m back again, after taking a week long break to study for exams.

This is my final year of college, and I’ve been working really hard on papers and tests while also copywriting full time.

It’s pretty funny, to make time for my business work and my school work, I’ve had to cut a few corners, and as a result, I’m looking a little bit like a caveman. I’d post a pic here if I had one. Definitely not something that’d make you think “now this guy’s got the seven habits of highly effective people.”

But anyway, on to the actual topic of this entry: headlines.

If you’re like me, you definitely don’t want to mirror your final exam time personal hygiene habits in your headline-writing habits. Quite the opposite, in fact: you want to be as conscientious as possible when you write a headline for any piece of writing that you intend to use to get people to take an action.

Not only do you need to spend as much time as necessary to write a truly effective headline, you also need to put a lot of thought into what *type* of headline you will use. The reason for this is that different headlines will work best for different types of copy. An urgent-seeming news headline, for example, won’t work well if you’re trying to sell a trance music CD, nor will the type of headline that will sell a trance music CD work if you’re trying to sell a stock picking guide.

With that in mind, the following are the five most effective types of headlines you can use, with some comments on when and how best to use each of them.

1. Stating your USP By Promising a Benefit

Your unique selling selling proposition (USP) is the main benefit your customer gets by buying your product. Your USP should be simultaneously enticing (e.g. “FREE” something) and unique (not offered by any of your competitors). Promising a major benefit (especially USP) in the headline is a great strategy for any “state of the art” or “top of the line” technology, or any deal that gives an incredible value to your customers. It is not a good strategy for a product whose main strength is difficult to sum up in one sentence.

2. Citing Testimonials You’ve Received

You can include a testimonial in your headline if you really want to create a sense of “buzz” or popularity for your product. This can work particularly well if your product is not already well known. Example: “Your E-book Has Made Me $100,000 In Just Two Months… Thanks Andy!”

3. Name Your Ideal Customer

One of the easiest way to start off a good headline is to simply name the customer you want to target. Of course, I’m not saying you should try to find out a typical customer name and use it in your headline. Instead, I’m saying that you should identify the demographic group you’re trying to sell to, whether it’s a profesion (doctor, teacher), interest group (gun owners, abortion activists), or social demographic. Example: “Lawyers! Increase Your Client Base By 1000% With PracticePromoter…”

4. Make A News Announcement

As mentioned in the introduction, news accouncements are good when something about your offer is new, innovative or unprecedented. Use them for headlines involving new technologies, discoveries or special deals. Example “Man Discovers Secret CURE FOR ARTHRITIS, Medical Community Shocked!”

5. Ask Your Readers A Question

One of the best ways to really engage your readers is to use a headline where you ask a question. This type of headline can be effective for pretty much any type of sales letter; however, it tends to be most effective when your product is aimed to address a major customer annoyance or inconvenience. For example, if you’re writing a headline for a new GPS device that uses satellite technology to identify and avoid traffic jams, you might use a headline like “Are You Sick And Tired Of Waiting Hours In Traffic?”

While the strategies listed above are not the be all and end all of headline writing, they do represent the most effective tactics for writing headlines that sell. There may be situations where you want to use a different type of headline, but if you’re just starting out in copywriting, you can take this list as a more or less comprehensive one.