Longer Or Shorter Headlines?

In my previous blog, I discussed extensively how it is important to keep things short and simple. But does the same rule apply to headlines, too? Which is better: longer headlines, or shorter headlines? One one hand, you have a quick headline that reads fast and gets to the point. But on the other hand, you have a longer headline that takes a little more time to sell your product or service…

Both types of headlines can sell remarkably well, just like both of them can do horribly. In fact, legendary copywriter David Ogilvy believes that longer headlines sell more products, while there are a plethora of researchers that claim otherwise.

We can debate about which style is better all day long. But I think we’re asking ourselves the wrong question. Instead, we should be asking which approach collects the most readership? We know without a doubt both headline approaches can clean up on sales IF written correctly. But how can you sell anything if you don’t read the sales pitch?

Scientists, psychologists and advertisers alike have asked these questions themselves. They’ve even gone as far as to do over 100 tests to see how much the average person can absorb before losing focus. They found that most cases shorter headlines can lead to more readership, which will lead to more sales and conversions.

For more about keeping things short and sweet, check out the blog: How Keeping Things Simple Makes You More Money.

Is Shorter Really Better?

Well maybe not in some – rather explicit – contexts (LOL), but in the case of headlines, yes. Shorter headlines are scientifically proven to attract higher readership. But how so? Well, according to the book Ca$hvertising, humans can read and grasp the meaning of around 5 to 6 words in a single glance. In fact, Drew Eric Whitman also writes that “the average Joe or Jane can process 5 to 9 characters in a single ‘act of attention,’” (94).

Starch Research also reports that “…As headlines grow, readership shrinks,” which is definitely something to discover when crafting a headline.

Whitman talks about a case study conducted by a researcher named Harold J.Rudolf. After studying over 2,5000 ads, this case study reveals the percentage of people who read the entire headline from shortest to longest. Below are his findings:

# of Words In Headline # of People who Read Entire Headline

1 – 3 → 87.3%

4 – 6 → 86.3%

7 – 9 → 84%

10 – 12 → 82.5%

13+ → 77.9%

According to the study, headlines with the least amount of words attracted over 87%, while SUPER long headlines (thirteen words!!) dropped their readership by almost 10%! That’s 10% of people who could have been your ideal customers who are in dire need of your product and services.cc

Make your headline really pop after reading the blog: The One Secret To Selling Your Readers With Your Headline.


All in all, it comes down to tightening up your copy in all aspects. If your writing’s got some fluff in it, you owe it to yourself to take some things out. But if your headline has everything it needs, maybe dealing with a longer headline is something you can get used to.

If you’re still confused about whether or not you should slash your headline in half, or keep it the way it is, it’s important to remember one thing: ALWAYS put your biggest benefit in your headline. At the end of the day, it’s all about grabbing your reader’s attention the fastest way possible. As long as the biggest benefit is in your headline, you can expect some great results!
Check out the JD Blog for more copywriting tips and tricks at JDCopywritingINC.com