Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Why “Good” Headlines Fail Miserably

Nick Nolan
4 min readOct 15, 2021

Insight from someone who “knows more about direct marketing than anyone in the world.”

I’ve written a bunch of headlines that I thought were great. But the statistics prove otherwise. I’ve written a long list of terrible headlines that caused a great article to flop.

I think they’re good, but no one is clicking on my article.

What gives?

I’ve gathered some wisdom from one of the best: Drayton Bird.

David Ogilvy, who I also love learning from, said this about Drayton Bird.

“Drayton Bird knows more about direct marketing than anyone in the world.”
– David Ogilvy

If the Father of Advertising gives Mr. Bird that level of praise, I’m paying attention to the advice he’s sharing.

You already know why headlines matter. If your headline fails, it doesn’t matter what the rest of your content offers. Most of the time, I simply don’t spend enough time working on my headline. The lack of effort is detrimental.

You should be spending $0.80 of every $1.00 on your headline, but you’re probably doing the opposite. If I’m honest, I usually spend $0.10 of my $1.00 writing the headline.

If your headline sucks, no one’s going to read your article.

If the first line sucks, no one’s going to click the …see more on your Facebook ad.

If the first 5 seconds suck, no one’s going to watch the rest of your YouTube video.

Your headline needs to work.

A 10/10 headline will support a 5/10 article. But a 5/10 headline can’t support a 10/10 article.

Here are two examples of ad headlines:

  1. Do you have a bright child?
  2. “Mummy, mummy, I’ve passed”

Guess which one did better?

#2 performed significantly better. Both headlines talk about a child’s intelligence, but the second creates a…

Nick Nolan

Freelance marketing consultant | Writing about Copywriting, SEO, and Social Media

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