How to Write a Headline that Sells Art Online.

Headlines that sell more art, what they look like and how important they are, and a number of different tips/hacks to improve yours.

What does your website look like?

If you want to start selling more art online you are going to have to connect with your ideal clients.

It takes more than simply slapping up a beautiful brochure site with pretty images and calling it a day.

In addition to building a beautiful and functional website, there’s also creating a tagline, figuring out your target audience, creating an emotionally resonate marketing message, figuring out your unique selling proposition, coming up with a lead magnet to start building your email list, and creating effective calls-to-action in your web copy so that your web visitors buy, contact you or sign up for your email.

Yes, there’s a lot to do, but as a smart artist who’s eager to make sales directly from your website, you’re up for the challenge.

So today let me share another copywriting tip for improving your website, making it more compelling to your target audience, and more effective at guiding them to take the actions you want them to take.

Headlines

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What is a headline?

You read them every day, in newspapers (even if you do all your news reading online) and magazines. You see them on websites. They introduce blog posts and articles.

For our purposes here, though, we’re talking about your artist website and the marketing channels related to your website, such as your email newsletter and your blog.

It’s important to create winning headlines for all three of these channels if you want to be successful online.

For your website, a headline is a line of copy at the top of each of your web pages that tells your web visitors what that page is about, or piques their curiosity in a way that makes them eager to read the rest of the page.

For your blog, the headline is simply the title of the blog post or article, and for the emails you send out to your newsletter list, the email subject line functions like a headline.

How Important Are Headlines?

Successful copywriters argue that at least half the time you spend writing content for your business and website should be spent on the headline; it’s that important.

The oft-repeated statistic is that 8 out of 10 people will read the headline, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest of the copy.

The headline is there to get them to read the rest of that copy – that’s its sole purpose, in fact – so if it’s not compelling, the rest of the blog post or article or sales page or website page you’ve written, will, unfortunately, be ignored.

Headline Formulas

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Now, if you do a search online for “how to write headlines,” you’ll actually find lots of very good information.

The problem when applying that information to artist websites, newsletters, and blogs is that many of the headline tips and formulas you’ll find are geared more to service businesses, software, and other standard products and services, not to an inherently creative and subjective offering like art.

Let’s review a few headline formulas so you’ll have an idea of what I mean.

Now, if you can find a way to adapt the headlines on your artist website, blog, and newsletter using the formulas below, kudos to you. It won’t be easy, but it’s important to at least understand a few of these formulas so you can get to know the principles of a good headline.

Keep in mind, the formulas below are a very tiny sample of the many, many headline formulas and templates out there.

Promising a Benefit

Two of the most effective ways to approach writing headlines is to promise a benefit or arouse curiosity.

Here are two examples of benefit-driven headlines from my blog:

:: The Dreadful Client-Repelling Mistake That Will Keep You Broke (and how to fix it)

{Benefit: how to fix a mistake that repels clients}

:: What a Personal Development Book from 1959 Can Teach You About Writing Web Copy That Sells

{Benefit: write web copy that sells}

Using Curiosity in Headlines

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If you want to arouse curiosity, one way to do it is to ask a question your audience/readers/potential customers want the answer to.

If you pose a question that’s aligned with your audience’s needs and desires, they’ll want to read on to find the answer.

Here are two examples of headlines that evoke curiosity from my blog:

:: What Can Chocolate Cake and Donuts Teach You About Selling More?

:: Creatives: Are You Making These 3 Web Marketing Mistakes?

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Fill-in-the-Blank Headline Formulas from Well-Known Copywriter, Brilliant Marketer and Expert Business Strategist Dan Kennedy

Here are a few of Dan Kennedy’s fill-in-the-blank headline formulas along with his examples of how to apply them:

#1 – Who Else Wants ___________?

Examples:

:: Who Else Wants a Hollywood Actress’ Figure?

:: Who Else Needs an Extra Hour Every Day?

#2 – How ___________ Made Me ___________

Examples:

:: How a “Fool Stunt” Made Me a Star Salesman

:: How Relocation to Tennessee Saved Our Company $1 Million a Year

#3 – ___________ Ways to ___________

Examples:

:: 101 Ways to Increase New Patient Flow

:: 17 Ways to Slash Your Equipment Maintenance Costs

Instant Clarity Headline Formula

Then there’s the tried-and-true instant clarity headline formula.

The instant clarity headline looks like this:

End Result Customer Wants + Specific Period of Time + Address Objections

To be able to make this formula work, you need to have a deep understanding of your collectors and clients and their needs, wants and desires with respect to your offering.

I first learned this formula from a fellow called Dane Maxwell, and the example he uses to demonstrate the formula is this, from the real estate niche:

Recruit 2 Top Producing Agents Each Week Without Cold Calling Or Rejection

He goes on to share that using only the first item (end result) or the first and second together (end result + time frame) can also be effective, but using all three elements at once is the most powerful and persuasive.

The reason this formula works well is because it instantly telegraphs the benefits and results the reader can achieve from reading the content or buying the product or service. It’s all about what important to the reader, client or customer.

I once used this formula to write a series of blog post headlines for an interior designer client. She ended up using the following headline as the title of an e-book she planned to give away to build her email list:

:: From Chaos to Calm: 7 Simple Steps for Transforming Your Busy Young Family’s Home into an Oasis of Practical Luxury in 30 Days or Less

Headline Writing for Sensitive Creatives

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The headline formulas discussed above are time-tested and work well, which is why they’re used and shared so frequently. But sometimes the headlines that result can feel over the top for us sensitive creative types.

So one of the handy little tips I often share with my clients when it comes to both generating ideas for blog posts and newsletter topics, AND brainstorming great headline ideas at the same time, is the magazine headline method and the book chapter title method.

Magazine Headlines

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One of the best ways to practice writing headlines (and to generate content ideas for your blog and newsletter) is to grab a bunch of magazines in your niche and read through the headlines.

Magazine publishers do exhaustive research and spend thousands of dollars to figure out which stories will generate the strongest response among their readers, so why not piggyback on that expensive research?

And you don’t even have to go to the bookstore, just sign onto Amazon online and go to the magazine section.

Once there, search for magazines in your niche and read through headlines of 5-10 magazines.

(Caveat: Don’t copy these headlines/ideas verbatim; instead, put your own creative spin on them, geared specifically to your business, your medium, your style, and your audience.)

I did this for my interior design client a couple years back and came up with the following headline ideas:

:: How to Create the Perfect Beach House Décor on a Budget

:: How To Do Rustic Right

:: How to Create Big Style in a Small Space

:: Your Luxe Living Room: 12 Small Changes You Can Make Today for Big Impact

:: DIY Weekend Project: Create the Perfect Outdoor Retreat

Book Chapter Titles

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You can use the same method to gather book chapter titles to use as headline templates.

Here’s what you want to do here:

Search on your topic in the books category on Amazon; choose a few books in your niche from the returned results.

Once you get to the list of books you want to check out, click on books with the “Look Inside!” option on the book cover image so you can see what’s inside.

Once “inside” the book, look through the Table of Contents, specifically Chapter Titles, and let the brainstorming begin!

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(Again, you don’t want to copy these headlines/ideas verbatim; you want to use them to craft headlines that are geared specifically to your offerings and your audience.)

These are headline ideas I generated for my interior design client using this process:

:: How to Decorate Like a Pro, Even If You’re Design-Challenged

:: 3 Investment Pieces Everyone Should Own: Which Pieces to Spend the Big Bucks On and Why

:: Home Design Basics: What You Need to Know Before You Get Started on Your Next DIY Project

:: The Ultimate Guide to the Best Decorating Resources Online

:: How to Build a Room Around a Signature Piece

By spending just half an hour looking through Amazon, I came up with dozens of headline ideas, as well as plenty of ideas for blog and newsletter content.

You Have to Be Resourceful

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Of course, I understand that these headline writing formulas aren’t as simple for fine artists and photographers to use as, say, for interior designers and other kinds of creative businesses. But if you’re resourceful, you can find a way to make at least some of them work.

And keep in mind, the headline at the top of each of your web pages simply needs to get people interested enough to read and explore the rest of that page. The headline’s job is not to “sell” anything.

One thing I often do when I write headlines for artist websites, particularly for the Home page of the site, is use a quote at the top of the page instead of a headline. The quote functions like a headline in that it gets attention, and compels the right people to read/explore the rest of the page.

For example, here’s a quote I used on the website Home page in place of a headline for an artist who does fine art equine photography of the American and Canadian West:

One cannot be pessimistic about the West. This is the native home of hope.

Wallace Stegner, The Sound of Mountain Water

And here’s a quote I used at the top of a website About page for a fine art landscape photographer:

Photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth which can make them come back again.

Henri Cartier­Bresson

You can see how the quote-in-place-of-a-headline does its job as a headline – it gets the web visitor’s attention, and makes them want to stay on the page and explore. Whereas if you have no headline at all, or if you simply have “Home Page” at the top of your Home Page, and “About Page” at the top of your About Page, web visitors aren’t going to be compelled to read what’s on the rest of the page.

When it comes to writing the headline for your Home page, which is arguably the most visited page on your website, you can also simply describe what you do (much like a tagline, but with more specificity with respect to the rest of the Home page copy).

For example, here’s a headline I wrote for a fine art wedding photographer’s Home page (which we ended up using for a tagline when it was all said and done):

Wedding Photography at the Intersection of Love, Beauty and Art

And here’s the headline I wrote for that same photographers About page:

Your radiance, revealed. Your love, beautifully rendered. Your singular story as a couple, artfully captured.

For the fine art equine photographer mentioned above, I wrote this About page headline, which poetically describes the kind of work he does:

A few miles off the highway, a million miles from ordinary.

So you can see that I didn’t use the straight-up headline formulas discussed here to write these particular headlines, I had to get resourceful and figure out a different approach. But I have used the headline formulas above to write many headlines for my own copywriting business, and for artists, photographers, and other creative service providers over the years.

So there you have it. If you play around with the headline ideas and templates here, I know you’ll be able to come up with at least a few good headlines for your website pages, blog posts, and newsletter content.


ASF-KimberlyHouston

Kimberly Houston is an AWAI (American Writers & Artists, Inc.) trained copywriter who specializes in helping creative pros rise above the online fray with personality-driven web copy and web marketing.

For more on her services, check out her website.