Whether it’s an ad for a new listing, a blog post, or a description on your website, the headline you select can make or break the success of your efforts.

What are the secrets to writing a great real estate headline? We’re currently in the midst of planning a new website, blog and marketing campaign for my husband’s new e-book. We were considering whether to hire a professional copywriter to write the text for the website.

When I discovered that entry-level prices for professional copywriting quickly runs into the thousands, it seemed smart to see if I could figure out a way to do at least part of this myself.

While researching copywriting tips, I came across the Advanced Marketing Institute’s headline analyzer — an automated tool that helps you to evaluate "the emotional marketing value of your headlines." The analyzer estimates how effective your headlines are based upon three dimensions.

The first category is "intellectual." This category pertains primarily to products and sales, and hence, is important for Realtors. The "emotional" category is also important because buying a home is an emotional decision. The third category is "spiritual," which has the strongest potential to appeal to people at a deep emotional level.

In terms of scoring using the headlines analyzer, well-written headlines from professional copywriters can run in the 25-50 percent range, and really talented copywriters can score in the 50-75 percent range, according to the institute. Of course, an automated tool is just that, and it’s no guarantee of search-engine optimization (SEO) success.

To see how good your headline savvy is, rate each set of headlines listed below. Can you spot the ones that are the strongest?

1. "Use these money-saving tips to get the best price on your first home."

2. "Seven ways first-time buyers can save on their first home purchase."

3. "Seven ways you can save money on your next home purchase"

The second headline is the weakest, according to the tool, with a score of 8.33 percent. The best-rated headline is the first one, with a score of 35.71. The third headline scored 27.27. What makes the first and third headlines so much stronger than the second headline?

Whether you are writing a headline or any other type of client information, a key rule to follow is to use the word "you" or "your" whenever possible. The first and third headlines are stronger because they both use the word "your."

In contrast, the second headline uses the word "their." Consequently, to write better headlines, always remember to make them about your reader by using "you" or "your."

Here’s the second set. Can you spot which headline is better?

1. How to avoid the five most costly mistakes most sellers make.

2. Use these five proven steps to make more money on your next real estate deal.

Although the first headline is more concise, it has a score of only 27.27. The second headline scores much better at 53.33.

What makes these two headlines different? One of the key things to note is that the second headline is a command. Commands are much more powerful than merely explaining "how to avoid" something.

Another headline tip from the book, "Web Copy that Sells," is to use the word "these." "How to avoid mistakes" is not as powerful as "Use these proven steps."

A third point to note is that headlines that use an odd number ("5" vs. "4") are generally more powerful than those that have even number or no numbers at all.

Here’s the last set of headlines. Which would you pick as being the strongest?

1. "Five easy ways to stop your foreclosure now."

2. "Use these five proven strategies to stop your foreclosure."

3. "Use these five proven secrets to stop your foreclosure now."

Although the first headline has a very good score (50), it is the weakest of these three headlines. The second headline is the strongest with a score of 77.78 followed by the third headline with a score of 70.

"Strategies" and "secrets" are both equally powerful words to use your headlines. What’s interesting is that the addition of the word "now" at the end of the third example actually lowers the score on the headline analyzer.

On the other hand, what the headline analyzer does not account for is the strength of the embedded command in the last statement.

The term "embedded command" comes from neurolinguistic programming (NLP) and references a direct command contained within a larger sentence. Can you spot the embedded commands in the three examples above?

The embedded command in each case is, "Stop your foreclosure." NLP practitioners believe that adding the word "now" strengthens the command. In other words, it’s better to say "Stop your foreclosure now," since the statement encourages the person to take action immediately.

I’ve been playing with the headlines analyzer for several weeks. (The headline chosen for today’s column received a 71.4 percent rating.) The best headline I’ve been able to write is this: "Use these 10 proven secrets to increase your profitability." This scored a whopping 88.89 percent.

You can improve your ability to write great headlines if you practice and monitor your efforts. Even more importantly, powerful headlines allow you to maximize the results from your marketing budget while preventing you from throwing valuable advertising dollars down the drain.

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