David Ogilvy famously wrote, “On the average, five times as many people read the headlines as read the body copy.”
He wrote that in 1983 and was referring to print advertising. Ogilvy loosely attributed the statement to various research entities, tests and his own observation.
I’m not saying he was wrong, but I continue to wonder why writers today quote Ogilvy as if the 5:1 ratio still holds true. You could change the 5 to 50 and you still wouldn’t even be close. Unscientifically, I’d guess 500 to 5,000 as many people read the headlines as read the body copy.
I mean, c’mon, you choose NOT TO read thousands of things each day.
Print advertising is a small blip on our media radar and, for most, it gets smaller each day. We have an overwhelming barrage of media—branded or otherwise—bombarding our senses from every angle, all day, every day.
However, whether we’re talking about the print ads you probably see far less of now or the seemingly non-stop email previews you see far more of, search, social, or whatever, the important thing to take take-away is…
They come in many forms but always provide the most important catalyst when the reader makes a simple “to read or not to read” decision.
Marketing studies continue to reveal downward trends in social engagement… a widening gap between the have’s and have-not’s of search… the diminishing results of online display ads… and so on.
Tossing in the towel is obviously not an option for ambitious marketers. What can you do? You can keep working to sharpen every arrow in your quiver. Headlines, of course, must be chief among them.
I’ve written approximately a million headlines in my time and oh how I love a cool and concise list. So, here and now, I present to you “The A-to-Z Guide to Writing Headlines for Online Content.” If just one of the 26 tips here gives you a good idea for improving your pulling power with headlines, I’ll consider my efforts worthwhile.