Have you ever seen the Disney musical classic, “Newsies”? If you haven’t, stop what you’re doing immediately and rent it, or better yet, buy it! You must have Newsies in your life. You must.
And while we’re on the subject, if you’re not happy with your blog traffic (and who is these days?) it might be about time to start listening to the sage advice of one Jack Kelly — the ringleader of the movie’s gang of paper-peddlers, played by the incomparable Christian Bale.
Side note: Don’t get me wrong, I love the potatoes out of my husband, but my little pre-teen heart will always beat for Jack Kelly. He is the very studliest of all stud muffin-dom. *Sigh*
But really, despite the fact that I wrote a post about this subject on my blog recently, I still want to shout it from the rooftops because it seems like bloggers everywhere are not getting the message:
Bloggers don’t sell blog posts. Headlines sell blog posts.
Okay, this isn’t exactly how the line goes in Newsies. In Newsies, the famous line is “Headlines don’t sell papes. Newsies sell papes.”
So wait… have I confused you yet? Which one is it? At first glance, this could seem like your typical “chicken or the egg” debate that has no real right answer… but it’s not. There most certainly is a right answer.
This is the right answer:
Bloggers create the headlines that sell their posts. Smart bloggers create smart headlines, and that’s why they get better results.
It’s simple. It’s SO simple. So why, I beg you, do I keep seeing boring headlines? Why am I only reading posts written by pro bloggers about blogging and marketing, when I have an interest in so many other subjects?
Because the pro marketers are the only ones writing headlines that I find interesting!
Think of the tabloids, or at the very least the slightly less salacious magazine covers you see in the checkout line at the grocery store. What do those headlines have in common?
Sizzle, that’s what!
If you want your headlines to sizzle, you have to capture your inner Jack Kelly.
Baby born with three heads!
Jack knew that if the news was boring, you could still sell it if you packaged it with sizzle. So what if you promise a little more than your article gives (although you hopefully won’t) but the truth is… people will still perceive your post as being better when your headline is better.
So where does the “sizzle” come from? It’s all about emotional impact. According to the Advanced Marketing Institute, when choosing the words that make up your headlines you’ll want to shoot for those that have either Intellectual, Empathetic or Spiritual weight to them.
Essentially, (as far as I could gather from the Advanced Marketing Institute website) this means that you want your headline to connect with your potential reader on an intellectual, emotional and/or spiritual level. They had a pretty table to illustrate these different levels, but to be honest the table didn’t make all that much sense to me so I decided to leave it out.
If you want to put your headline to the test, give the AMI’s fun headline analysis tool a try and you can get an idea for how you’re doing so far.
Is all that a little too fancy for you?
I get it. Me too. Let me un-fancy it a bit for you. Here’s my take on the whole “good headline” thing. I’ll break it down for you.
Reasons Why I Won’t Read Your Article
1. It doesn’t tell me what I’m going to get.
This is the one I see most frequently on most “mommy blogs” I know and (almost) love. A title like “Thursday Musings” gives me absolutely no clue what I’m going to read if I click whatever link might take me there. If I see this when I’m browsing through the titles on my Feedly subscription list, there’s just no way I’m clicking through. I don’t have time for mystery. I want to know what your post is about.
2. It contains improper spelling or grammar.
If a headline is poorly written, that’s a good indication that the article will be as well. Maybe it’s my writing degree and related grammatical snobbery at work, maybe not… but I want to be honest. You have to show a good command of the English language to capture my attention.
3. It’s not benefits-driven
So, a title like “Lessons Learned in My Minivan” is pretty descriptive… but it gives me no idea what I’ll learn or how I might benefit from the things I’ll read in your article. Unless you’re able to capture my attention with something a little suspenseful or exciting, I’m going to need to get a feel for the potential benefit of reading your post.
4. It’s not exciting or interesting
Sure, if I’m looking for an explanation of “How to Screw In a Lightbulb” (hey, it’s possible that I’ve made it 31 years without doing that, right?) then that headline might have some appeal to me… but the chances of writing something that generic and piquing lots of people’s interest are slim. There are SO MANY articles on every subject under the sun that you really have to figure out how to make yours stand out if you want to get much attention.
How do you make your headline stand out? It’s simple. Use adjectives with some intensity.
“Awesome.” “Ridiculous.” “Mind-Blowing.” “Fascinating.”
You get the idea?
I’ve read some pretty stellar articles about headlines recently, one of them at Blogging Tips 101 and one at Successful Blogging. Each one has some really great ideas to help get you started if you’re interesting in taking your headlines to the next level.
If you spend extra time on any piece of your blog posts, spend that time on your headline. I can’t stress this enough. Most of the time, the headline is the only piece of your post that people will read. A good headline will almost always make the difference between a potential reader’s choice to click or to ignore what you’ve labored diligently to write.
Don’t let them ignore your brilliant blog posts by being casual with your headlines. Make sure all of your efforts aren’t wasted. Save your headlines and save your blog. After all, bloggers don’t sell blog posts… headlines sell blog posts.
Over to You
Do you feel good about the headlines you’ve been writing lately? What’s your process for creating them? I’d love to hear any tips you have to share.
Flickr Creative Commons Images via Ingrid Richter.