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3 Headline Secrets That Could Be Costing You Massive Conversions

  • Leigh HankinLeigh Hankin


You’ve already read a lot about them, no doubt. But they are extremely important, hence why they get and deserve so much attention. Headlines creep into everything you do whether you run an online or offline business.

Here is just some of the following where headlines are necessary:

  • Websites
  • Direct mail sales letters
  • Landing pages
  • Brochures
  • Print ads
  • Online sales pages

And the list goes on and on.

We know that a headline that grabs a reader’s attention and gets them to read your marketing message is super important. After all, that’s the whole point of any headline, isn’t it?

Without a decent, attention-grabbing headline your marketing message is going to end up being one of the thousands lost in a sea of noise.

However, easier said than done. Headlines that achieve the job successfully are often harder to create than it seems.

Essentially, there is one thing so many often overlook when writing headlines, and it can make a massive difference on your conversion rates.

That one thing is the market itself, the market’s level of sophistication, specifically.

As a diligent copywriter, I first heard about this concept of market sophistication from Eugene Schwartz.

But surprisingly, I don’t often see other copywriters or bloggers talking about it regarding headlines.

Market sophistication can be divided into three key areas.

  • Knowing what your audience wants.
  • How much do they know about products/services like yours.
  • How exposed have they been to products/services like yours.

Knowing What Your Audience Wants

This point is probably one that many of you are already quite familiar with in terms of marketing concepts, so I will keep it as brief as possible.

[tweet_box design=”default”]You need to know your target audience’s deepest desire before you begin brainstorming headlines.[/tweet_box]

If you don’t know what their deepest desire is then it’s going to be impossible for you to know what to include in your headline.

Let’s look at a common niche like weight loss and dieting.

Obviously some of the big desires here are losing weight, burning fat, feeling healthy, feeling confident about your body, feeling energetic, etc.

Once you know what the biggest desire of your target audience is, what it is they REALLY WANT, you can latch that desire on to your headline.

The core benefit of your product or service will be the one thing that gives your prospects what they really want. Simply state the benefit in your headline to let the reader know what your product or service will do for them.

For example, a headline touting the amazing power of starting an exercise program isn’t going to grab your target customer who has already been working out consistently.

While both fall under the weight loss and dieting niche, perhaps a better fit for your target audience is breaking out of a workout plateau.

That is, essentially, all you need to know for the first step of this process.

How Much Does Your Target Audience Know About Your Product/Service

You need to give some consideration to how much your audience already knows about the products and/or services in your industry.

Let’s go back to our weight loss niche again for some examples.

If you are writing a headline for a product or service your target audience has never heard of before and knows absolutely nothing about, you can actually keep it pretty simple.

You could simply be direct and write:

Lose Weight Today!

And that headline would have been convincing enough back in the day. But today, we know it certainly doesn’t have the same attention grabbing effect as it once did.

Why? Because today, people have a certain level of awareness about weight loss products and services so the effectiveness of a headline like that is severely diminished.

Another example:

Internet Marketing Secrets Revealed!

Again, today no one would give two hoots about a headline like that because we know there aren’t any internet marketing secrets left (at least not that I’m aware of). But 10 years ago, a headline like this would have been quite effective.

At this point your customer has heard these kinds of marketing messages many, many times. Therefore they are aware of them, and they care less and less.

If you want your prospect to notice your headline, you need to come up with something that invokes their desire and interest again.

A way you do that is by focusing on the DEVICE that actually achieves the result for your target audience. Let’s look at what I mean by that using the weight loss headline example from earlier.

Take “Lose weight today!” again.

As we know this won’t be as effective because your audience has a high level of awareness about it. So you need to focus on the DEVICE that causes weight loss so as to arouse their curiosity and desire again.

Here is what you could do with the above headline to stress the device.

Lose weight with this scientifically formulated diet pill


Burn fat out of your body with this fat busting cardio workout

By adding the device, a scientifically formulated pill or fat busting cardio workout, you add believability to it and invoke interest and curiosity from your target audience who have tired of all the previous claims.

Just by making this very important tweak in your headline, you drastically improve your conversions.

Now let’s get onto the third and final, often overlooked, headlines secret.

How Exposed Is Your Target Audience to Products/Services Like Yours

How many products or services has your target audience been exposed to previously?

The more exposed a market has become to your product, the more sophisticated they become to the same old marketing messages. Effectively, they stop giving a hoot about what you’re saying.

The claims end up losing their believability even when the device has been introduced.

The way you deal with this is by focusing purely on the device. So you stress how the device that gives your prospect their desired result is different or better than everyone else’s.

There are many ways that you can improve upon this as well.

Make yours better by indicating how your method overcomes certain limitations. Or how it does a better job of solving the problem. Basically focus on how it achieves a different and better benefit than your competitors.

Essentially, just target the device that achieves the core benefit, and make it better than your competitors.

So two examples of this could be:

Burn 3 lbs per week using this fat busting cardio workout you can do at home in 30 minutes a day


A dieting pill that helps you shred pounds without that nauseous feeling

In both of these examples, you can see that the device is what is focused on.

If you look at the second example, see how I addressed a potential objection from a diet pill – the nauseous feeling and stressed how this is what makes this diet pill better.

There are many marketplaces that are full of marketing messages with headlines like this. They are always super specific, include the DEVICE, and specific results.

You always need to keep looking for little tweaks you can make that have the potential to make a massive difference for your headline and your conversion rate.

Be Like the Greats

As you can see headline writing is much more complex than at first glance.

With so much to think about when writing a headline, you can understand why copywriting greats like David Ogilvy, Gary Halbert, and the rest would spend hours and hours just on creating winning headlines.

To quickly recap, when writing your headlines there are three things you need to think about:

  1. Desire of your target audience.
  2. How much they already know about your product or service.
  3. How exposed they have been to similar products or services.

And here is what you can do when writing your headlines as pertaining to the three levels of sophistication above.

  1. Put your core benefit in the headline. Tell them how you’ll help them.
  2. Mention the device that achieves the core benefit.
  3. Expand upon how your device is better than your competitions, overcomes limitations, etc, etc.

And above all, test your headlines.

Split test them and see which ones work the best because this is the only real way to know what headlines are the most effective.

If you take into consideration these three factors when writing your headlines then you should come up with some gold.

If you enjoyed the post then please share on your favorite social media platform and post your comments below. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

16 thoughts on 3 Headline Secrets That Could Be Costing You Massive Conversions

Richard Lacey

Excellent advice. It synthesizes a lot of insight into what makes a headline work. A famous copywriter was speaking about a topic I can’t recall, but I do remember one thing he said in passing: “I was working on my twentieth draft of a headline, when . . . ”

I was new to copywriting, and I thought Twenty drafts!!! Wow! What a perfectionist he must be. Now I understand the point made in this article — why twenty drafts of a headline may be typical among the great copywriters, and why they may spend hours and hours on a headline

Leigh Hankin

Absolutely. At first glance it seems like it almost requires little work when you look at the finished headline but when you dive into it, it’s so much more than that. It really is the most important part of the copywriting process. I’m glad you enjoyed the post 🙂

A. Lynn Jesus

Great tips!! This process makes sure not only are you creating an awesome headline, but it also helps to ensure your message aligns with your mission. Thanks for the post!

Leigh Hankin

No problem. I’m glad you enjoyed it and I hope you can use these tips successfully in your own biz 🙂

Gary Greenfield

Build Your Audience Exponentially…3 Simple but Powerful Tips to Audience Grabbing Headlines
What do you think, Leigh? Would this headline incorporate the tips you include in this outstanding article?
Thank you for some great work.

Leigh Hankin

Hey Gary

Thanks for the question. It sounds like you are combining two different products in your headline – one for audience building and one for writing great headlines. I don’t know the full story behind this headline but if that is the case I would recommend sticking to the one product you are selling and a headline communicating a clear message using the tips above.

Come up with as many headlines as possible as well 🙂

Gary Greenfield

Hey Leigh,
The idea behind that headline was to re-write the headline for your post as an experiment in trying to incorporate your three points.
I appreciate your feedback and on reflection I see exactly what you mean.
Hmmm…this headline writing thing is hard, isn’t it! ☺

Leigh Hankin

Haha it can certainly be a complicated beast!

Theodore Nwangene

Hello Leigh,
A very interesting post you’ve got here. I really enjoyed it. Indeed, the benefits of creating winning and attractive headlines for your copy, landing pages, blog posts, etc can never be over emphasized.

All is required for you to be creative. Today, its really difficult to gain peoples attention on the internet and that is because the competition is very high but, the only way you can draw people to yourself is via your headlines. Your headlines will make them to overlook all the shiny objects out there and follow you.

Thanks for sharing.

Leigh Hankin

Hello Theodore

Thank you for your comment. And yes, there is so much noise and competition today that your headlines need to be better than ever to capture your prospects attention. You can never put too much effort into writing headlines in my opinion.


Yes, you got to take your prospect from where he is to where you want him to be. The believability factor being the clincher, really.

My problem is that I have a patented product that has no competitors, is so unique that it looks totally unlike anything else in its market segment and has 9 features that each relates to one significant benefit. Without investing in huge market research, how do I find THE one to focus on?

Leigh Hankin

You don’t focus on the features, you focus on the benefit and it’s mass desire so your problem is already solved unless I’m missing something? Can you tell me more about your product?

Sorry, my writing – there are 9 features and 5 benefits – health, taste, economy, convenience, environmental (funky, trendy, conversation starter).
Working out which of the 5 to focus on is not easy. I have used each one as a headline, but the responses are not varied enough to get some concrete guidance.


Love the article Leigh! It really helps to explain the “formula” behind crafting a great headline into three easy and useful actionable steps. Thanks!


Great tips!! This process makes sure not only are you creating an awesome headline, but it also helps to ensure your message aligns with your mission. Thanks for the post!

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