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How to write a landing page headline that converts


A modest 6 to 12 words stand between you and a higher click-through rate, a lower bounce rate, and even improved conversion rates. What are these 6 to 12 words? They are the words that make up your landing page headline.  

Speak to any experienced copywriter and they will agree: the first headline your visitor sees is the most important copy you will write. Studies have shown that out of all visitors that land on your page, 80% will take time to read the headline whereas only 20% will continue on to read the body copy. There is only a small window of opportunity to get people to stick around and read your page content, so with that, you need a powerful headline.  

A landing page is the first page on your website visitors get to after clicking through from a digital location – an email, a press release, or a social media post are a few typical examples. Writing a landing page headline in 6 to 12 words is not as simple as it first appears… but there is a straightforward process you can follow to move from a poor-performing headline, to one that performs. So here are key steps you should consider following to optimise your landing page headlines. 

Do not think about copywriting as ‘writing’

It is often said that great writing should be creative; it should be grammatically correct and an expert should be able to look at it and say if it’s good or not. 

However, that’s not what copywriting is.   

The first step in this process is to put the idea of “being a good writer” entirely out of your mind. In many ways, the more confined to rules you are the harder it may be for you to write an attention-grabbing headline.

Start with a placeholder

When planning your page content, start with a placeholder headline. At this stage the job of a placeholder is to keep you on track while you work on fleshing out the page copy. 

Here is a useful method you might like to try: craft a draft headline that reads like a summary of want you want to articulate across the page content. Only you will see it and it is there for you to use as a guide while you write the copy. For example:

“Impress visitors with a preview of our latest program and give new visitors three compelling reasons to sign up for our newsletter”

Now go ahead and write the meat of your landing page. When you believe you have written copy that answers your placeholder headline you will be in a much better position to write the real headline. 

 Speak to your most valuable audience

Great copywriters know that you do not write for 100% of your audience. Think of this short statement next time you are building a landing page, If you try to make everyone happy, you will make no one happy. The key to successful copywriting is to understand who your content is aimed at and communicate to them directly. The idea is that if you can engage with your core audience first, you will attract like-minded people along the way with this sentiment. Here are a few considerations when identifying the core audiences you are aiming your headline at: 

  • They are easy to attract to your site. 
  • They regularly engage with your output of work. 
  • They find value in what you do, making them satisfied customers. 
  • They are likely to spread the word among others like them.

Think about where your visitors are coming from

An important consideration is to understand where the traffic is coming from before landing on your page. Good online marketing is largely driven by a positive user experience (UX), so being able to make a person’s journey from one channel to another as smooth, as relevant, and as hassle-free as possible is a huge benefit. With this in mind, your headline can really serve you well if you can try and hit some of these notes: 

  • Create a headline to reinforce that your visitors have landed in the right place  
  • Create a headline that has a similar topic to the referral channel or campaign 
  • Create a headline that uses a similar tone of voice to the referral channel or campaign 
  • Create a headline that provides a reason why the reader should read on

You may be wondering why Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) has not been mentioned as part of the process. The aim of this article is to help you improve the performance of a landing page, so the primary objective has been around keeping visitors on the page in order to increase the chance of a conversion as opposed to driving a higher volume of traffic. Having said that, SEO keyword tools such as SEMRush or Ahrefs can be a great source for ideas, with the added benefit that you will be able to see the expected volume of traffic that each ‘Keyword’ contains.  

Describe your point of difference

When you know who you are trying to speak to you then need to know what exactly it is about your work that is both unique to you, and highly desirable to your target audience – also known as a unique selling point (USP). Here is a technique for realising what your USPs might be

  • Create a list of your main features. 
  • Assess whether each feature is unique to you or not. 
  • Describe what problem each feature solves.
  • Identify the main benefits of a feature.
  • Rank features according to how valuable you think they are to your target audience.

When you find the one or two ‘key’ points of difference that are unique to your organisation and most desirable to your target audience, write them down on a clean sheet of paper. You will be using these statements as the basis for your landing page headline. 

Write at least 20 headline options  

Now, challenge yourself to write 20 variations and phrases you could use in a headline to describe your USP. Do not limit yourself and remember to have fun with it. Most of them will stink but write them down anyway and do not delete a single headline – understanding what does not work is how you discover what does.

Here are a few tips to reach 20 variations on a single headline:

Swap dull words for sticky ones: Type the most boring words into a thesaurus to find interesting synonyms. Do not be put off by going outside of the box. Unusual words will not only stick in people’s minds, they will also stand out in search engine results pages (SERPs).  

Create word pictures: Try to create mental images with words where possible. Similes and metaphors are a great starting point. The idea is to create a sharp visual that will commit your headline to the readers’ memory.

Incorporate behavioural economics (BE) tactics: BE is the science behind how and why people make decisions. Scarcity, social proof, loss aversion, framing, and anchoring are BE tactics commonly used by copywriters to nudge people in the desired direction. If you are not familiar with the topic, here is a good article to get you started. 

Add a touch of humour: If you have a knack for words, go for it! If you try too hard to be funny it will likely have the opposite effect.

Get playful: Use alliteration, listicle titles, think about the sound of words, think about words that would score more points in scrabble – they tend to be more unusual and fun!  

The main takeaway here is that you need to generate a lot of ideas to get to a really good one, and generally, once you start to get ideas on a page it will spur on more!  

Check your headlines in situ

At this point, you should have 5-10 stand out headlines. The next step is to take the shortlist and upload each headline to a draft page on your CMS so that you can see each headline in situ. Here are a few techniques for whittling down the list.

  • Which headlines do not grab your attention? 
  • Which headlines are difficult to understand or do not speak to the target audience?  
  • Which headlines appear too long or short in the context of the page?
  • Which headlines do not factor in the action I want my visitors to take?

Now is the time to get selective. Go through your list of 20 headlines and weed out the stinkers so that you are left with 5-10 of the most solid headlines. If available, run them past somebody outside of your organisation to get a fresh set of eyes – you will quickly learn which ones resonate and which ones do not. At the end of this step you are aiming to be left with 3 unique headlines.  

 A/B Test to find a winning headline

 This article is centred around optimising the performance of a landing page. Therefore, it would be doing a disservice to spend all this time working on launching a new page without finding out if the important headline is helping you or hurting you. A/B testing is your best opportunity to learn and make changes if necessary. Even after such a strict process of elimination outlined in this article, many assumptions will have been made that only testing will uncover, such as: 

  • Have I really understood who my target audience is?  
  • Are these the words that will resonate the most with my visitors? 
  • Does the headline support the desired call to action? 
  • Is the headline attention grabbing enough?

The only reliable way for you to prove or disprove these assumptions is to analyse your visitor’s behaviour. Not only will A/B testing validate assumptions, if elements of the page can be optimised (even the most seemingly trivial), it has the potential to make a huge difference to your overall performance. Choosing a success metric such as signing up for a newsletter or purchasing a ticket will allow you to analyse how visitors are behaving when they arrive and which visitors are the most valuable. 

So, try following these steps next time you build a landing page and feel free to share the results with the Digital Culture Network Tech Champions. We love an A/B test!  

What’s next?

The Digital Culture Network is here to support you or your organisation. Our Tech Champions can provide free 1-2-1 support to all creative and cultural individuals and organisations who are in receipt of, or eligible for, Arts Council England funding. If you need help or would like to chat with us about any of the advice we have covered above, please get in touch. Sign up to our newsletter below and follow us on Twitter @ace_dcn and LinkedIn for the latest updates.

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