How to Write Emotional Headlines That Grab Your Audience's Attention

by 
Eden Bidan

These days, you’re not just competing with your competitors. 

You’re also competing with the hundreds of distractions that plague customers each day - from a ringing cell phone to rush hour traffic.

Eden Bidani of Green Light Copy is a skilled conversion copywriter with over 10 years’ experience.

She joined us on Wynter Games to talk all about the magic of emotion-driven headlines.

Writing emotional headlines helps you to cut through distractions 

With so much information at our fingertips, we are busier and more distracted than ever before. For marketing, this complicates things. 

“Even if someone clicks on your social ad and touches down on your landing page, or is actively searching for a solution like yours in Google and clicks through to your website, you're not just competing with your competitors for their attention. You're competing with everything else that's happening in their lives,” said Eden.

According to TIME Magazine, we only have 8-15 seconds to grab our reader’s attention and convince them to keep reading.

The key to winning that attention lies in tapping the power of an emotion-infused headline that will stay with visitors even after they click away. 

Your headline is not a summary 

A common misconception is that a good headline must summarize everything that follows. 

In reality, a it does not need to encapsulate your whole message. A strong headline has a three-fold purpose.

You want it to:

  1. Make the reader stop
  2. Make the reader think
  3. Make the reader want more

Even if you only stop the reader for several seconds, your goal for those seconds is to capture their complete attention.

Next, you want to motivate the reader to feel something (an emotion) that makes the message stick in their mind.

Finally, you want to encourage the reader to be curious - to keep reading until they consume more of your message. 

A 1-minute lesson

Advertising legend David Ogilvy once summed up headlines in a famous quote: 

On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent 80 cents out of your dollar.

This quote drives home just how important your headline is. 

“No matter what you're writing, an ad, a newspaper article, or especially a web landing page, you need to spend the most of the time you headline because it's the first thing your audience sees when they land there,” Eden said.

The real lesson is that you shouldn’t get headline-paralysis.

Instead, think of your headline as the start of a slippery slide. Once they start, you don’t want readers to stop. 

Yes, it has to be compelling - but only compelling enough to make them want to read the lead that comes after it. 

And the lead only needs to be compelling enough to make them want to start scrolling below the fold.

“This just takes the pressure off writing this fancy six-word headline that summarizes everything, and helps you to stay focused on writing one that achieves these three things that we mentioned: make them stop, make them think, and make them read more,” said Eden. 

How to infuse your headline with emotion

Now for the fun part: infusing emotion into your headlines. For this to work well, you can utilize three things:

  1. Voice of customer data
  2. Headline formulas
  3. Customer Context

Using Voice of Customer data

To use emotion effectively, you first need to determine which emotions relate to your target audience.

Types of Voice of Customer data

You can seek out VOC data by looking at things like:

  • Customer satisfaction surveys
  • Customer interview transcripts
  • Testimonials and reviews 
  • Email threads from sales/customer support

Once you get your hands on these materials, you can use search tools, word clouds, or a spreadsheet to see which emotions or phrases are appearing the most often.

Types of emotions and phrases

The types of emotions and phrases you want to zero in on will depend on where your audience is coming from, both literally in terms of where they clicked from, and in terms of the buyer journey. 

Elements to look for include: 

  1. The Before: what life was like for them before they started using the solution?
  2. The Pain/Problem: what pain they were looking to solve? 
  3. The Transformation: how did they move from pain/problem to happiness/solution? 
  4. The Honeymoon: how much better is life now that they have the product/solution?

For example, Hotjar is a behavior analytics company that analyzes website heatmaps. They realized that the common pain point customers had was a feeling of drowning in numbers. 

They used that knowledge to craft a new headline: Understand how users are really experiencing your site without drowning in numbers. 

“Drowning in numbers is something that a lot of people struggle with. They struggle with this, we have all this data, but this is something that it feels overwhelming,” said Eden. 

“Hotjar is implying that they take away that overwhelm. And so that they actually make it easy for them without saying, you know, ‘easy heatmap software.’”

Hotjar didn’t have to be explicit and summarize their entire service; instead, they locked onto a #1 customer issue and made it incredibly memorable and enticing.

Using headline formulas

There are many formulas available online which can aid you in your quest for the perfect headline. 

Do you really need formula tools? No. 

“The real beauty of using voice of customer research to help inspire your headlines is that you don't need to use a formula,” Eden said. 

“You can rely on one if you're feeling stuck where you don't know how to get started, but usually the voice of customer data is enough to help you get inspired to write it by yourself.”

Here, we’ll share Eden’s top three tips for writing emotional headlines.

  1. Use action words - energize the passive act of reading by injecting active tense and verbs to help drive conversions
  2. Use the word “you” - take the focus off your product and put it on your customer by using “you,” one of the highest-converting words in copy 
  3. Don’t be afraid of length - the copy can be as short or long as it needs to be to get the point across, while remaining concise overall

Using customer context

The final element to turn your attention to is context.

First, think about their literal context. “Where were they? Where did they see your social ad? Was it on LinkedIn? Were they searching for it in Google, were they on Facebook?” Eden said.

Next, consider any clues to their psychological context.

Where are they as a customer in terms of stages of awareness about your product? Have they seen other messages, and was the message consistent between multiple encounters?

“Consistency between ad to the landing page, or the email to the landing page is also crucial,” said Eden.

“What messages you have there will need to resonate with the messaging that you have on the page. Otherwise, it's a huge disconnect for readers.”

Knowing where visitors have already been will help inform what type of information should be included in the headline you’re currently writing.

3 examples of emotional headlines

Curious to see more examples of what killer emotion-infused copy looks like in the wild?

Eden shared three headlines and explained exactly what made them so effective.

Ahrefs 


The headline: With Ahrefs, you don't have to be an SEO pro to rank higher and get more traffic.

Why it works: 

  • It aligns with the audience's end goal: to rank higher and get more traffic
  • It references a commonly held belief and smashes it
  • The structure makes you curious to read more - it doesn’t tell you how Ahrefs works, just the outcome you will have 

Xero


The headline: Accounting software to do your to-do. 

Why it works: 

  • It makes clever use of alliteration and repetition
  • It is easy to read, say, and remember 
  • It fully explains what the product is: accounting software
  • It shows how the product fits into the reader’s life without going into granular detail

Typeform



The headline: Make people smile. Get more useful data. 

Why it works: 

  • It taps into companies’ desire to have more people respond to forms
  • It references an enjoyable, positive user experience
  • It implies a smart and attractive form design 
  • It alludes to data collection, the valued end goal

In summary, you are only a few steps away from being able to create catchy, emotional headlines that convert.

All you need to do is get your hands on some Voice of Customer data, apply some formulas or best practices, and put it all into context. 

Watch Eden talk about the topic here.

B2B panels

Individually vetted, high-quality B2B panels:

  • Senior marketers
  • Marketing managers
  • Product managers
  • Founders
  • Copywriters
See B2B panels

Consumer panels

20+ vetted, high-quality consumer panels:

  • Homeowners
  • Parents
  • Target by gender, age & more
  • Custom combinations available
  • US only
See Consumer panels