Here are some ideas, which you can use to dramatically improve the results of all your written marketing.
It’s all about the marketing power of headlines.
Your headline has to capture the reader’s attention
Headlines are important. Really important.
You see, it doesn’t matter how great your message is, if too few people ever read it. That’s where your headline (or title or subject line) comes in. The headline’s primary job is to attract attention, gain interest and then motivate the reader to carry on reading.
Think about it:
- The headline is what inspires prospective clients to open your marketing email.
- It’s what motivates them to read your blog post or article, when someone shares it on a social network.
- It’s what compels them to listen to your podcast or watch your video.
- It’s also what grabs their attention and interest when they see one of your advertisements.
Advertising legend David Ogilvy was in no doubt regarding the importance of headlines. He famously said:
“When you have written your headline, you have spent 80 cents out of your dollar.”
Treat your headlines with the importance they deserve. Give yourself plenty of time to craft the best headline possible. The following tips and examples will help you get the balance right.
Your headline should accurately reflect your content
Because headlines play such a huge role in getting your content noticed, it’s tempting to over exaggerate them. (Yes, the headline of this post is a tongue in cheek example of what I mean).
Sometimes called clickbait, these attention-grabbing headlines are proven to generate traffic. The reason I strongly recommend most people reading this not to adopt that headline strategy, is this:
Your headlines make a promise, which your content needs to deliver on.
Make your headlines as compelling as you can. Use words that will compel people to read what you have to say. But make darn sure that your content backs up the promise of the headline. You may be able to fool someone once or twice with clickbait. But unless your content delivers on the promise of the headline, people will quickly learn to ignore you.
Your headline needs to be written for your target market
Your marketing message is intended to connect with a very specific group of people: Your prospective clients or customers. The headlines you use should do the same. This means speaking their language and addressing their concerns and opportunities.
Here’s why this matters:
- By focusing your headlines around the interests of your target market, you help your marketing message to attract the attention of the right people.
- Conversely, by using headlines that attract the attention of a wider group of people, you cease to be directly relevant to your target market.
In other words, use headlines that are directly relevant to your prospective clients.
Your headlines should match your medium
If you’re writing a headline that’s intended for a print magazine, newspaper or flyer, you have certain freedoms, which you don’t have when writing for the internet.
For example, if you want your internet article’s headline to be fully displayed in search results, you need to use around 60 / 65 characters or fewer. Going beyond that will see your headline cut short.
If your headline is intended for email marketing, you need to take other things into consideration. For example, if you include exclamation marks!! in your subject line, along with a number and maybe a word that’s in ALL CAPS, it’s highly likely to end up in a lot of spam filters. Email software looks for certain common factors used by spammers and if it sees them in the email headlines you use, it could wrongly treat your marketing as spam.
Here’s the thing: When it comes to headlines, you need to adapt depending on the medium you’re using.
The only 2 types of headline that matter
There is a lot of debate among marketing professionals, regarding the correct way to use headlines. They take entrenched stances, each insisting that their approach is the only strategy that’s professional or effective.
In almost every case I have seen, they totally miss the point!
When it comes to the headlines you use in your marketing, there are just 2 broad categories worthy of your attention.
- Headlines that work for you and your business goals.
- Headlines that are failing you and your business goals.
You need to find the correct balance for what you want to achieve. And it will differ depending on your brand, your industry and your business model.
For example, Upworthy (and especially BuzzFeed) have grown into very successful media businesses, using a controversial, yet powerful headline formula. Many have labelled their approach as being linkbait or clickbait. Here’s a nice piece from The Guardian that looks at Upworthy’s headlines.
Now, it’s not a strategy that would work for every business. However, it’s proven itself to be an extremely successful approach for the BuzzFeed business model. And that’s largely because the quality of the content is consistently compelling, so their readers return.
Experiment until you find what works best for you. Test and measure your headlines, titles and email subject lines. Just make sure that your content backs up the promise they make.
Get this balance right and you can dramatically and measurably improve your marketing results.