Subheadlines: Why They’re Important and How to Make Them Work!

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

I write a lot about headlines, but recently I came across a quote by Victor Schwab in his book, “How to Write a Good Advertisement”—it reminded me that I neglect the headline’s “less popular” cousin, the subheadline.

As Schwab put it,  “Subheads are like ladder rungs which make it easier and more inviting for the reader to keep going down through more of the body matter of an advertisement.”

He goes on to explain that the weaker the rungs—the more likely your prospect’s interest will drop and you’ll lose him, as he will abandon your copy.

Ways to Make Your Subheadlines Work

Here are 4 subheadline tips to help make your copy stronger and keep your prospect engaged longer so you can persuade him to take action.

1) Use subheadlines to make your body copy appear more inviting

Too much text bunched up into long paragraphs can be unappealing to the eye and make your copy too overwhelming to read.  Use good subheadlines to break up the text so the prospect will want to continue to read your message.

According to Schwab,  a good rule of thumb is two short opening paragraphs and then your first subhead.

2) Use subheadlines to give your prospect a sneak peek of what’s about to follow in the next paragraph

Many times a prospect will just scan the subheadlines to figure out if he wants to continue into the next paragraph/s or use them to select what parts of the copy he wants to read.

You can write a subheadline that acts as a “teaser” for the copy to follow.
(hint: insert a benefit!)

3) Ask your prospect a question in your subheadlines to gain curiosity

Preferably ask a question that he would like the answer to immediately…(of course you need to answer it in the following paragraph)

4) Make your subheadlines stand out physically on the page

You can make your subheadlines grab your prospect’s attention more easily by making the font slightly larger and/or bold.

If your subheadlines are crafted just right—these little guys can be really powerful elements that keep your reader engaged.

Use subheadlines to walk your prospect through your copy step by step—and ultimately to get him to take the action you want him to take!



Angeline Marie,

I enjoyed reading your recent work on subheads, particularly your take on Victor Schwab’s view and your four tips.

I’d like to propose a fifth tip to go along with the excellent four you already provided.

There is a way you can profit in light of what we know of reader behavior when reading an ad and the tendency of the group who are skimmers and scan the copy.

To take full advantage of this information we know about our readers with your subheads, you must make your subheads “tell the whole story”.

This simply means even if your reader only reads the subheads while they scan, (and nothing else!) you will have given them enough information in the subheads to make the sale.

This can dramatically increase your sales and equip you with much stronger copy so it should be used every opportunity you get! 🙂


Doug: Excellent point! Thanks for taking the time to weigh in on this. I picture Victor’s example of taking the prospect step by step through the copy to the end.

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