OK, be honest… How do these grab you?
(from the TNR Boring Headline Challenge ™)
“Chemist Doubts Hair-Straightener With Formaldehyde-Free Formula.”
Oh gosh, I hope I haven’t bored you with these blog titles before we get to the juicy stuff… (Yawn…) But really, the question begs to be asked… Why do we even bother to write a piece of content if the headline is already dead in the water?
Headliners or Blog Titles: What’s the Difference?
The difference, of course, is whether you’re just going through the motions or you think you have something worth shouting about. If you’re going through the effort to write hoping to be read, my goodness friends, your title is the only way to get readers on your page. HELLO?
I’ll say it again. A blog title is just a blog title, but writing great headliners is the hands-down best way to attract readers. In fact, any good journalist (or blogger) wanting to make their mark knows; it’s the “do it right or die trying” adage at stake here. If your headline is dry and stale, no matter how great the content inside, it simply won’t get read.
Headliners: Gated and Locked or an Open Door
On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest. This is the secret to the power of the headline, and why it so highly determines the effectiveness of the entire piece.
It takes a matter of seconds for a potential reader to consider a headline and decide whether or not they’ll stop in and stay for a spell – or pass on by. In those vital seconds, It’s the headline that compels and captures readers attention to click the link and read what you’ve got to say. Like a storefront on a busy street, either you’re drawing your customer in with a welcoming and open door that sports bells and whistles and promises to satisfy their need, or you’re open for business with bars and chains on the door cuz your message is fragmented and cold. Which brings me to the next dilemma many of us face. What do you have to write about?
Grab your Keywords and Make Your Headliners Drive
If you’re at a loss for what to write about in the first place, a great place to start is to consider the keywords your readers are using to search for the solutions you provide and then set the intention of your message (both in the headline and the content below). Use these to craft a compelling message that 1) includes your keyword(s), and 2) elicits an emotional response in some way. This means you’ll want to identify what you want your reader to FEEL as they read the headline and, what ACTION you want them to take. Either get your readers to chuckle, nod their head, spark a curiosity or insight a panic (ok, that might be a little strong). But this is it: If you can reach out and touch them, however, and wherever it feels good (or hurts), you’ll likely get the response you’re after. How does this work?
A good headline attracts because it answers the most common questions that go through every reader’s mind:
- What will I learn?
- Is it worth my time?
- What’s in it for me?
- Is this written for people like me?
You can also create urgency by addressing concerns that brought them to search out what you have to in the first place. For example, if you just visited your doctor who said he’s got the only treatment for your ailment, and you decide to do a little research and come across a headliner that reads: YOUR DOCTOR JUST LIED TO YOU: 5 ALTERNATIVE TREATMENTS FOR (…your ailment) THAT REALLY WORK. My guess is you’d be clicking on that with some ferocious curiosity. By planting seeds of doubt regarding an area of concern or a sense of urgency, chances are pretty good you’ll generate some traffic (Of course, make sure whatever it is you’re claiming is valid and not hype).
After you’ve set your intention and crafted your “breaking news” headliner, you’ll know exactly how to drive your content to validate your claim.
In a recent issue of the Early to Rise e-zine, copywriter Clayton Makepeace encourages asking yourself six questions before you start to write your headline:
- Does your headline offer the reader a reward for reading?
- What specifics could you add to make your headline more intriguing and believable?
- Does your headline trigger a strong, actionable emotion the reader already has about the subject at hand?
- Does your headline present a proposition that will instantly get your prospect nodding his or her head?
- Could your headline benefit from the inclusion of a proposed transaction?
- Could you add an element of intrigue to drive the prospect into your opening copy?
These are all great questions to get the juices flowing. In the end, of course, crafting compelling headliners and content takes time and effort, but if you’re willing, the time you spend will reap a harvest of readers that will keep them coming back for more and I’d say – that’s a mighty good return on investment.