The Secret to Writing Powerful Headlines

How to change a few words in your ads and get 5, 10 or 20 times the response

Advertising legend David Ogilvy, said: “on average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”

This means, if you’re running ads in newspapers or magazines, the most important part of your ad is the headline. It’s the ad for the ad. And it’s the headline that decides whether your ad will be read.

So, getting the right headline can make the difference between a losing ad and one that brings you a ton of business. In fact, research has shown that just changing the headline can increase the return of an ad by up to 21 times.

I’ll say that again – the same ad, the same size, in the same publication, with the same offer, but with the first few words changed, brought in 21 times as much money!

This means, if you’re running ads, for all you know, these ads might only be bringing in 5% of the money they could bring in. If you could take your ad, change a few words and get 5, 10 or 20 times the response, what would that mean for your business?

Too many businesses just “guess” at a headline and stick with it. The true advertising pros come up with a number of headlines and test them against each other. They know that, if you have 3 headlines, one is typically going to produce a far greater return than the other two.

And they know that the cost of finding out which headline is the most effective is only a fraction of the money that would be thrown away by running the ad with a weaker "guessed at" headline.

However, before you can test headlines, you’ve got to be able to come up with some.

So, to help you, I’m going to give away the secret to getting a great headline ...

... steal them!

I don’t mean take someone else’s words and use them. What I mean is: take a great headline, understand the structure and underlying principles that make it so powerful and use this structure and those principles to create a powerful headline of your own.

So, let’s try this with a headline.

I saw the cover of a woman’s magazine recently that had the headline: “THE DIET TRICK experts don’t tell you about (but we will)”.

This is a great structure. What’s the structure? It’s “you’re losing out because no-one is willing to let you in on this secret, but now I’m going to tell you.”

This is really powerful and works well in “advisor” type professions.

So, let’s take the basic structure of this headline and apply it to some industries that have nothing to do with dieting.

For example, mortgages:

“The secrets of the mortgage game ... and why not knowing the rules could cost you £17,300”


“£2,000 of legal tax deductions the government keeps quiet (but we’ve uncovered)”

Tourist guide books:

“The hidden wonders of Paris that Parisians want to keep for themselves (we’ll tell you what they are)”

Look at the 3 examples I’ve just given and ask yourself: how do they compare to the headlines you usually see in those industries? Chances are, you’d be a lot more likely to read on if you saw my headline.

If you’re selling expertise, you may be able to use this structure in your own ads.

However, what about if this headline structure doesn’t work for your offer?

There is a large number of these “headline structures” that you can use to create the best type(s) of headlines that’ll suit your ad. You can start collecting good headlines from other people’s ads so you have a bank of headlines to draw “inspiration” from.

Alternatively, like most things, if you want something done well, find a competent professional to do it for you.

As well as writing and re-writing sales copy for clients, one of the services I offer is one-off "copy critiques", where I go through your ads, sales letters, emails, brochures or web copy and give you a written review of its strengths and weaknesses, plus suggestions for changes I think you should make (and the logic behind the changes).

So, if you’d like your copy reviewed by a professional marketer, drop me an email at with a copy of what you'd like me to review and I'll quote you a price based on how long it'll take me to do the review.

Best wishes

Steve Gibson