For a piece of content to be effective, it needs to do five basic things:
1. grab attention
2. present a meaningful point
3. explain why + how the point matters
4. make people believe your point
5. give your call-to-action
It’s a simple formula that must be followed, in order, for your writing to get readers to act.
And because grabbing attention is the first one on that list, it’s the most important (kind of by default.)
You can have the most incredible argument.
You can have a killer call-to-action.
You can have sizzling proof points.
But if you don’t grab attention first — if you don’t make someone stop and notice what you’re saying — then it’s all a waste.
And when it comes to copywriting, the way to grab attention is with your headline.
Headlines are notoriously tricky. But I created a concept called the 2x2 Formula to make it easy.
When you boil it down, a headline has two goals that it must accomplish, and there are two ways it can accomplish them. (Hence…2 x 2.)
Follow the formula for a simple way to craft a clickable headline, every time.
Part 1: The Two Things a Good Headline MUST Do
Imagine you’re at a big party, and it’s loud and crazy and there are tons of distractions around.
Now imagine I scream out your name from across the room. You’re going to look over, aren’t you?
For a split-second, you’re disconnected from the world and totally focused on me.
But that’s not enough to keep your attention. There are other conversations you want to be a part of, there are other people you want to hang out with.
And let’s be honest, I’m not that much fun at huge parties. I’m more of a bonfire-and-chill kind of girl.
So simply calling your name isn’t enough to make you actually come over to my side of the room.
If I pull out a tray of French macarons from behind my back, now we’re talkin’! That gives you a compelling reason to come over and hang out with me.
A good headline does two things: it catches attention and it makes readers want to keep going.
Your ultimate goal with your headline is this: you want to make the risk of not reading your article greater than the risk of reading your article.
You want to make it so compelling that people will feel like they’re missing out if they don’t click.
So don’t just aim for something that grabs readers’ attention for a split-second. Shock tactics aren’t effective. You’ve also got to make the headline meaningful to your readers if you want them to keep reading.
Part 2: The Two Types of Headlines
The second part of the 2X2 Formula refers to the two types of headlines to get and keep attention: positive and negative.
Positive headlines tell you how you can gain or accomplish something that you want. They help you get more of the good stuff.
An example of a positive headline is: Get Your Children to Eat More Greens with These 3 Kid-Approved Recipes.
In this headline, you’re adding something good — more nutrient-filled children — into your life. “Get your children to eat more greens” catches your attention and “with these 3 kid-approved recipes” gives you a compelling reason to stick around.
There’s an objective reason to read the article because those recipes will help you have healthier kids.
If your positive headline hints at how to get more of the good stuff, or how to get it more quickly and easily, readers will read on to learn the secrets.
Negative headlines are the exact opposite. They tell your reader how to prevent something negative, or at least have less of it.
An example of a negative headline is: 5 Relationship-Killers to Avoid in Your Email Autoresponder Sequence
(It also just so happens to be the title of my upcoming webinar! Learn more.)
This headline promises to tell you what NOT to do to avoid the unpleasantry of killing your customer relationships. Anyone who doesn’t want to ruin those relationships will be curious to learn the mistakes they could be making.
Negative headlines can be even more compelling than positive ones. As humans, we’re more prone to avoid pain than we are to seek pleasure. We’re more likely to buy aspirin to relieve headaches than magnesium supplements to prevent them.
I don’t like to be a negative Nelly, but some topics simply lend themselves better to avoiding a painful event than pursuing a positive one. Try writing both a positive and a negative headline for your next blog post and see which feels more compelling.
The bottom line
The real secret to writing compelling headlines doesn’t lie in the 2x2 Formula. (Although it helps keep it simple!)
It’s in understanding your audience.
To write meaningful headlines, you need to be very keyed in to what they’re looking for and what they’re afraid of. What they want and what they want to avoid. What they need more of and what they want to get rid of.
Play around with the 2x2 Formula by rewriting some of your existing headlines. How can you better grab attention? What will make your audience keep reading? Will a positive or negative headline work best?
Give it a try and see how you do!
Want to dive deeper into headlines?
I’ll be going into more detail about compelling headlines during my free webinar on 6/29.
I’ll share tips to make your email subject lines more click-worthy and give you a way to test the effectiveness of your headlines before you send them out to your list.
Commenting Made Easy
– What’s your biggest challenge when writing headlines?
– Which type of headlines do you naturally write more: positive or negative?
– What method do you follow to write your headlines? Do you have a process or is it more freestyle?
– What food (besides macarons) would stop you dead in your tracks at a big party?
Satisfy your tweet tooth
The simple 2x2 formula for utterly irresistible headlines [Tweet this!]
Getting attention is only part 1. Learn the 2x2 headline formula that gets readers to CLICK. [Tweet this!]
A good headline is the best weapon in your copywriting arsenal. How to write a great one. [Tweet this!]