I’ve seen it over and over, a writer working overtime to come up with snazzy taglines. They’ll make multiple versions, explore word play opportunities and look for inspiration by browsing online ads and Google images. The goal is to find something clever and unforgettable, and sometimes that goal distracts from the real purpose of copywriting –story telling.

Don’t get me wrong, clever taglines are great, but they aren’t the most important aspect of any piece of advertising. Taglines don’t build your brand and they aren’t responsible for conversions. Even the best of them serve only to get attention, everything else relies on factors such as content, design, brand awareness and offer.

It’s our jobs, as professional wordsmiths, to understand when they matter and when they are icing.

Display ads – Taglines are more important in small formats such as display ads because you have less time to make an impression. Display ads also tend to be in noisy settings, so you have to stand out. Whenever possible, however, tags for display ads should do double duty, by supporting the brand or reflecting the offer.

H1 – Taglines don’t really matter in your H1 copy, in fact they can be detrimental to a page’s performance. This is because search engines are watching this spot for indexing purposes. So save your slick lines for elsewhere and make sure the H1 speaks to the page and has the right keywords.

H2 – You’ll read many opinions about the best way to treat headers once you get past the all mighty H1 spot. While H2 copy supports SEO performance, it also serves to make a page scannable for readers. Let’s face it, people scan more than they read. So I typically I use keywords mixed with attention-getting phrases when possible.

Print Pieces – From billboards and buses to print ads in magazines, print pieces tend to perform better when you give them something to remember. Great taglines can make a print ad shine. Just remember, keep it smart, keep it relevant and look for ways to support the design and offer, not distract from it.

Last but not least, your email subject lines are the last place you need to use taglines. While you want to catch attention, you have more pressing concerns, like inboxing and staying out of the spam folder. Since this is an increasingly difficult task, never risk it with anything that can potentially send up red flags.

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Stories over taglines
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