So don’t expect your headline to do more than one job.

If you talk to enough copywriters, you’ll eventually hear that headlines are critical for your copy’s success. David Ogilvy, widely hailed as The Father of Advertising, summarizes it quite well in one of his famous quotes:

“On the average, five times as many people read the headlines as read the body copy.”

So, the headline matters; we all know this as industry professionals, and as marketers, we put a lot of stock in – and pressure on – our headlines. Over the last decade, content marketers have blogged relentlessly about how to write headlines. This has resulted in a large number of varied expectations and jobs a great headline must accomplish. Your headline must:

    Grab visitors’ attention
    Match the language on the call to action that brought them to the page
    Help you rank for a keyword phrase
    Get visitors to read the next line on the page
    Express your value proposition
    Summarize the content on the page
    Convince people to sign up or buy

That’s crazy. No headline could do all of these things. A recent article on the Unbounce blog, a leading resources in conversion rate optimization (CRO) best practices, explained that every part of your content marketing campaign has one job.

    Your headline has one job: Keep arriving visitors on the page.
    Your subhead has one job: Move visitors to the body copy.
    Your body copy has one job. Directly support the page goal.
    Your social proof has one job: Turn naysayers into believers.
    Your form headline has one job: Relieve anxiety about completing the page goal.
    Your form has one job: Get filled out.
    Your button has one job: Get clicked.

Now, each element could potentially do more work than it’s responsible for, but if you make them responsible for jobs that should be done further down the line, you set them up for failure. Every element must continue to do its individual job, while working together with other elements to lead the user down the page before ultimately converting. If one element doesn’t do its job, all elements that came before will have done their work for nothing, and all elements that follow will miss out.

What do you do if one of your elements isn’t doing its job? A/B test! This approach may feel like oversimplifying the actual work of your copy and content, but let’s face it, we’ve all tried to make our headline do six jobs and it didn’t work, did it? Try this approach instead and you’ll be on your way to mastering the science of conversion rate optimization.