Write compelling ad headlines

1. Identify the single most important takeaway you want your audience to have after they see the ad.

Refer to your marketing brief, product roadmap, and customer journey for details and inspiration. For example, if your ads are part of an effort to drive traffic to a lead magnet on your website, the most important takeaway should be the lead magnet’s value proposition.

2. Reduce the takeaway to a single high-impact keyword.

Keywords are the connection between your ad and users’ search query, but can also be competitive. Generally, keywords focused on solving your audience’s problem attract attention and can be specific enough to be ownable for your brand. For example, if you want your target audience to understand how easy it is to use your service, the focus keyword might be simple or beginners. If your brand is focusing on price competitiveness, focus keywords might be budget or save.

3. Choose an action verb that prompts attention and engagement. Frame the verb as the goal your audience is trying to accomplish, rather than the action they have to take to get your product.

For example, rather than Enroll in this marketing masterclass, the headline might be Level up your marketing career. Other examples of action verbs include: Learn. Get. Save. Start. Choose. Achieve.

4. Review the customer’s psychology, needs, or motivations from your buyer personas. Use emotional triggers to prompt action.

Referring to the reader’s persona allows you to identify a benefit, trigger a worry, or inspire curiosity in the reader. A great headline is all about emotions. Play on a fear, a worry, or a desire. Viewers click on an ad because it addresses their pain points. For example, a surgeon offering cosmetic services can use the look younger, feel great trigger to play to their audience’s desire and emotions.

5. Stay within the character limit, or under 50 characters if no character limit exists.

Different character limits, including spaces, on popular digital ad platforms include: Google: up to three headlines with up to 30 characters each. Facebook: 40 characters LinkedIn: 70 characters Twitter: 70 characters Instagram: 40 characters

6. Create three headline variations to test against each other for CTR, CPC, and engagement.

While not a true A/B test, testing three headline variations allows you to add enough variety for valuable insights. For example, you can test headlines with three different action verbs, or appealing to three different basic emotions.

7. Review your headline options with internal stakeholders.

This helps to ensure your headline is both honest and believable. It also minimizes pushback in case your internal stakeholders see the ad on platforms once it’s live.

8. Proofread each headline variation for accuracy and simplicity, removing any grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors.

Tools like Grammarly and Wordtune can both check for mistakes and suggest simpler or more straightforward alternatives.

9. Perform a split test to check which of your headline variations performed best.

Facebook, Bing Ads, and Google Ads have options for split tests. For example, Facebook allows you to create three ad varieties within the same ad set, serving each to a random segment of your audience and reporting on performance variations.

10. Use the winning variation as a template for other compelling ad headlines in the future.