How to Write the Perfect Headline For a Hero Section

How to Write the Perfect Headline For a Hero Section

The first impression people get from your website can be the difference between someone immediately closing out the window or becoming a superfan and—are I say—a repeat customer. That means crafting the perfect headline to catch your prospect’s attention and motivate them to stay on your site is not optional. In fact, in my opinion, the headline is the most important part of the ‘“hero section” on your website.

What’s the hero section and why does it matter? It’s the first section of your site your prospect sees before they decide to click away or keep scrolling. 

And as the first thing your reader sees, your headline is absolutely vital. That’s why when I’m writing website copy for clients I spend a disproportionate amount of time writing headlines compared with the rest of the copy.

So how do you write a hero headline that grabs your audience by the horns? Let’s dive in.

About that Hero section

First though, let’s talk about what a hero section is and why the heck it’s so important. I take a deeper dive on the Hero Section here, which I highly suggest you read to give your site its best chance at getting noticed.

But here’s the tl;dr if you don’t want to click: The “hero” in hero section comes from Donald Miller’s book, “Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen” in which he uses storytelling elements to write copy. To paraphrase and shorten significantly, every story you’ll ever read or watch has some common elements.

When I teach website copy and present my work to clients, I often give an abbreviated version of his approach to explain how this works. It’s so simple and absolutely mind-blowing how it’s changed everything about how I write copy.

The cliff’s notes are here.

You have three main characters:

A hero who is going along living their life until they encounter a problem.

A villain who stops the hero from living their best life.

A wise guide who steps up to help the hero beat the villain and ride off into the proverbial sunset.

With this in mind, your customer acts as the hero in the journey, and you as their guide to solve the problem (aka the villain) using your products or services. 

And your job in writing a most excellent hero headline is two-fold:

First, it captures people’s attention so they keep reading your copy. When you understand what motivates your audience, you can craft a headline that shows them how you can help them achieve that goal. 

It’s why so often, when I’m writing headlines I dive DEEP into the customer journey to figure out what it is that they want, where they were headed on their journey, so I can future pace them to show them that not only do I understand what they want, I can help them get there. (Or when I’m writing for clients, I show how my client understands them and can help.)

Second, it sets your client up as the hero and you up as the wise guide. Let’s get something straight. You and I are merely characters in our clients’ stories. So we need to set ourselves up as authorities when it comes to solving their problems.

Why your hero needs a good headline

I toughced on this briefly, but to be hyper clear: your hero headline is the first thing your audience sees when they land on your site, and that makes it one of the most important aspects of not just your home page, but your website as a whole.

Why?

You don’t want to waste your audience’s time by including redundant or irrelevant information. 

Generally speaking, you don’t want to include your company’s name since chances are it appears elsewhere on your site—usually including your logo which is often in the header. 

And you also want to avoid using something simple like “welcome,” since your audience likely assumes that you want them there (which if you have a site, you do…otherwise, what’s the point?).

Neither one of these two headlines tell your audience anything about what you can do for them:

“Hi, we’re Acme Chimney Sweeps”

“Welcome to Acme Chimney Sweeps”

Instead think about headlines like:

“Make sure Santa’s favorite chimney is yours.”

“Your BCFF: Best Chimney Friend Forever.”

Okay so maybe neither of those are the ones you might use as Acme Chimney Sweeps. I came up with them quickly and off the cuff. But they’re fun, engaging, and show people the future state of choosing you.

Understand your audience 

Before you start writing any headlines, take some time to think about what your prospects could be looking for when they visit your website. Remember, they should be the hero in this story, and the headline should center them as such. Ask yourself a few questions like:

  • What kind of product or service do you offer?
  • Who do you serve?
  • What problems do your customers have that your product/service can solve?

You want to make sure you can clearly identify your target’s pain points. What problem are they facing that they think you might be able to solve for them.

Write down as many of these pain points and the various ways you can address them. Once you have a lengthy list, you’ll have a good starting point for what your hero headline can include. 

When I do this for clients, it doesn’t happen in a vaccuum. It starts with a brand strategy call where we dive deep into your business and your clients’ minds so we can define who you want to be and how you want to show up.

Then (and only then) can we decide on the right story for YOUR site, and what we’re leading people towards. And no, when you work with me on website copy, brand strategy and messaging isn’t optional.

Empathize with your audience 

Once you’ve identified your target’s pain points, take a good look at the kind of language they are using to voice that problem. Not sure where to find this information? It can come from a variety of places, including product and service reviews, forums, and conversations with your audience. As you’re looking through them consider answering these questions:

  • How are they expressing their problem? 
  • How do they describe their experiences with previous attempts to fix? 
  • What have they tried before? Why didn’t it work?
  • What did they love about working with you? 

You can use that same language in your headlines (as well as the rest of your copy) so they resonate with your audience on a deeper level.

Your prospects should read your headline and immediately understand how your business can help them solve their problem. A great way to empathize with your customer is to sell them on the benefits of your product or service and not just the features. Answer the age-old WIIFM question—what’s in it for me? Don’t make your customers wonder why it matters to them.

Keep in mind, there are times when a customer will specifically seek out the features, but for the most part, the benefit should speak to them on a deeper level and make them feel like you understand what they’re going through. 

Hypothetical headlines

Imagine you’re looking for a plumber because one of the pipes in your home burst and you suddenly have water gushing onto your wooden floors. One of the plumber websites you find features a hero headline that reads “Our plumbers are the best in the industry.” It sounds confident, but it isn’t specific and doesn’t tell you how they’re going to solve your problem. 

Incidentally, there’s a time and a place for this — but it shouldn’t be you saying your plumbers are the best. Sprinkle in a few reviews that do this for you.

Going back to best practices for writing a hero headline, consider what might happen if the sign reads “24 hour emergency plumbing services with no appointment needed.” This headline tells you these plumbers are available at a moment’s notice, which is what you need for a randomly burst pipe. And pipes rarely burst and boilers rarely go out during business hours…not that I know personally or anything.

Real-life hero headline swaps

And this is a case where I’m my own best case study. My course is called Whomp Whomp to Wow, and I played with several different iterations. When I changed my hero headline from “Start and finish your website copy in 28 days” to “Stop apologizing for your website,” people immediately started commenting things like:

  • “I feel so seen.”
  • “You nailed it. I need your course.”
  • “Wow! this is exactly me.”

Hero headline length and format

Headlines in general are concise, but should still give the reader all the information they need to understand what they’re getting into. Your headline will typically appear in the largest font on the page, meaning you’ll have to keep it short and sweet so it doesn’t take up the entire hero section. 

A concise headline that grabs your audience’s attention can be tricky to write, so refer back to your target’s pain points and determine what your audience needs to see to keep their attention. When you get a visitor on your site, they may not consciously know it, but they’re trying to find answers to questions like, “What’s in it for me?” So put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself what your clients get out of working with you. And the answer to that should be the solution that goes on your site. 

Rule #1: Aim for clear headlines over clever

When you first start writing your headlines, you might be tempted to come up with something clever and catchy since some of the most memorable headlines typically are earworms. However, don’t get so caught up in writing something cool that your message starts to get lost. Focus on writing something clear and concise.

The more headlines you write down, the faster the ones you love are likely to surface. Say you write 100 headlines, the first 20 may not be your best, but once you get past the ‘low-hanging fruit,’ you’ll start to write better headlines that resonate with your audience.

If you’re a copywriter, 100 headlines may be an easy number to reach, but if you’re writing your website on your own, don’t worry about the number of headlines. You can write as many or as few as you want. The idea is to jot down ideas freeflow and without judgment until you get to a place you’re happy.

Maybe the end result is clever, maybe not. If it speaks to your audience, that’s all that matters.

Side note: Clear over clever is important for all copy, not just headlines. In my own experience, when my CTA was Get Snackin’ no one knew what it meant. When I changed it to “Book a call,” my calendar filled up.

Rule #2: Just start writing

Now, the hardest part of writing can sometimes be getting started. It’s true even for copywriters. To prevent staring at a blank page for hours, try using your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) as a base for your hero headline. 

Identify the one thing that makes you stand out from the competition. Is it something you do better than someone else? Or maybe you’re the first to do something in your field? Show your audience why they’re better off hiring you for the job over someone else.

Rule #3: Look at reviews for inspiration

Not sure what to say? Head on over to your reviews for inspiration. I also love combing through competitor reviews to see what people say about how another brand got them from point a to point b.

It’s easy to find some real gems that make what you do so clear that the headline virtually writes itself. Well, maybe not that simple, but I’ve found some incredible nuggets in reviews that make it easy to speak to the future state or the value prop in language that speaks DIRECTLY to your audience.

Rule #4: When in doubt use a headline formula

If you’re still having trouble coming up with a headline for your hero section, templatizing your process can reduce some of that mental block. You can use the following exercise to write out a few headlines that will give your audience exactly what they need. Write out a few headlines using each template and see which one fits your audience best. If you like a few of them, you can always repurpose them elsewhere on your site.

Think about: What is the end result of working with you? What does the client get? What is it they actually want on their journey?

Once you have some of those ideas, try using these formulas to develop some headline ideas:

  • CREATE (this really good thing) WITHOUT THE HASSLE OF (this really bad thing)
  • GET RID OF (this really bad thing), AND GET (this really good thing)
  • ENGAGE (this awesome group of people) WITH (easy action)
  • You CAN do/have/be/get (ideal result) EVEN IF (thing that’s stopping them)

FYI, This headline exercise comes straight out of my Whomp Whomp to Wow course that transforms your website in 4 to 8 weeks, whichever track best suits your business. Writing headlines is only one aspect of writing effective website copy. I cover so much more ground in the course. So if your website doesn’t have that ‘oomf’ factor you’re looking for or you’re tired of apologizing for your website and spinning your wheels not actually writing your copy, join the self-paced version now and take your website from Whomp Whomp to Wow!

Hero headlines aren’t the ONLY headlines, but they’re the most important

Now that you have a good understanding of hero headlines, how they affect your audience while on your site, and how you can craft the right one, you’ll start to see an improvement on your conversion rate.

You typically don’t have to change your headline often. However, if you’re a smaller business whose products or services change occasionally, I recommend you revisit headlines and website copy a few times a year.

First, it’s important to be sure your words still communicate the message you want to send to your audience.

Second, even though most pivots are minor shifts, if you make enough of them, your headline may no longer reflect your business. 

If your product or service offerings change at any point, that might be a good time to re-evaluate your headlines— and for that matter, the rest of your copy. If you’ve nailed your hero headline, now would be a great time to tackle the rest of your hero section, which you can learn more about here.  

And, if you’ve decided you want to phone a friend a la “Who Wants to be a Millionaire,” schedule a consult with me. We can discuss the best option for you, whether that means full-scale brand messaging and copy or a VIP Day to give your copy a facelift.

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