A genius headline formula used by legendary copywriters

Ask copywriters what's the one thing that can insanely improve the copy? And even before you could finish, they'll scream in unison — "Headlines".

Think about it.

How many times have you read a blog, clicked an ad, played a podcast, or scrolled to the bottom of the website just because the headline lured you?

Correct. Quite often.

Since the headline is the first thing your readers see, it should grab attention. It must be like an oasis in the desert. A chandelier in the hallway. A Victoria's Secret billboard at a signal. You got the point.

So how to write such headlines?

Well, use this time-tested 4 U's formula.

The 4 U's stands for urgent, unique, ultra-specific, and useful. This is a simple and effective technique used by copywriters for decades. And in the next few minutes, you'll learn it too.

Shall we begin?

The 4 U's headline formula

1. Urgent

Urgency is among the most used marketing techniques in copywriting.

The idea here is to make the readers act NOW. Be it clicking your ad, reading your blog, or placing the order.

Marketers often create a sense of urgency to drive sales with limited-time deals, such as discounts valid for a few hours or a limited number of products. Here urgency is created using scarcity.

This technique is equally effective when writing headlines — drawing the reader in to read the rest of the copy or article.

Another way to create urgency in your headlines is by adding a time element.

For instance: "How to grow business with blogs?" vs "How to grow business with blogs within 60 days?"

2. Unique

Say something unique or say something usual in a new way. This will make your headline cut through the clutter and convey to the readers that your offer is something unique.

Your headline is fighting for attention amidst the hundreds of other content. You gotta stand out to cut through the clutter and you can do it by saying something unique.

Look at this headline. It's considered as the most famous automobile ad ever written.

“At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in the New Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock”

See how the feature of the car is communicated in a unique way. The headline could have been something like: "The new Rolls-Royce is super silent". But, it won't have been that effective. So, offer something unique in your headlines or say the usual in a different way.

3. Ultra Specific

Your readers have questions. If your headline can answer them and feed their curiosity, you can persuade them to read.

And being specific...(scratch that) being ultra-specific helps you do that.

Read this headline:

‘How to tour the U.S.A. for £35 a week’

This headline by David Ogilvy is a part of the American tourism campaign. And it made the U.S Travel Services offices work overtime to handle the inquiries.

The headline worked because it addressed the Europeans exaggerated impression about traveling the U.S.A. They thought it was too expensive. And the ad headline directly attacked their notion with a very specific figure of £35 a week.

This is way more effective than saying, "Touring the U.S.A is cheaper than you think".

4. Useful

“The best headlines appeal to people’s self-interest, or give news.”

— John Caples.

When you offer something useful that benefits and appeals to the reader's interest they are more likely to read it. Useful can be anything that provides value to the readers or solves their problem.

A classic example of a useful headline is "How to Win Friends and Influence People", the title of the book by Dale Carnegie. It's simple but works because it promises you'll be able to make friends and persuade people — appealing to a common human interest.

Applying this formula

Next time you write the headlines consider these 4 guidelines. Ask yourself if your headline creates a sense of urgency, is it unique, ultra-specific, and useful. You can evaluate how strong your headline is by ranking it on a scale of 1 to 4 (1 being weak and 4 being strong). Your headlines might not score 3 or 4 on all U's but if it does on any 3 U's, it is indeed a strong headline.

By Goldy Benedict