eCommerce Insiders

Headlines And Content: Are Yours Playing Well Together?

You’ve read plenty of online article (or blog post) headlines that have made all sorts of claims and promises.

Many of these headlines seem to promise key answers to questions that you (on a personal level) or your marketing team has been searching for, possibly for a long time.

That’s why it’s so annoying (and sometimes, disappointing) when you click on the headline link, read the article, and you find that the content fails to give you the information you’ve hoped for and have been searching for.

Now imagine how your content readers feel when you do the same to them.

Yet you or your marketing team might be one of the countless guilty parties who are producing headlines that will cause your current post to be ignored. And worse–these are the type of headlines that will kill your brand’s credibility in the long run!

The Consequences Of Horrible Headlines

Erik Deckers wrote one of the best articles on the topic that I’ve read in recent years. He admonishes against writing headlines for the sake of clicks:

Don’t lie in your headlines. Don’t promise one thing only to fail on the followthrough. A common complaint of those “Five Secrets Your Doctor Doesn’t Want You to Know” or “X Versus Y Smackdown: Who’s Better?” headlines is that they often don’t deliver on their promise. The secrets are so basic there that even the most remote Amazonian tribes knew them.

Or, the author weenied out and never actually picked a winner in their so-called smackdown. Instead, it ended with “It’s hard to pick, because both solutions have their advantages and disadvantages,” which is about as meaningful as a participation trophy.

If you overinflate your headlines often enough, you’ll soon be known as the marketer who cried wolf, and people will quit paying attention. If you have to trick people into reading your stuff, then it must not have been very good to begin with. So make sure the content matches the headline.

Jenny Chang made a very astute observation via Ben’s Smith’s article on the BuzzFeed blog:

Jon Stewart was asked about BuzzFeed and Vice the other day, and had this to say: “I scroll around, but when I look at the internet, I feel the same as when I’m walking through Coney Island,” Stewart told New York magazine. “It’s like carnival barkers, and they all sit out there and go, ‘Come on in here and see a three-legged man!’ So you walk in and it’s a guy with a crutch.”

That may be the best definition I’ve ever heard of what’s referred to as “clickbait.” But it suggests that Stewart, like many people in the media industry, confuses what we do with true clickbait. We have admittedly (and at times deliberately) not done a great job of explaining why we have always avoided clickbait at BuzzFeed.

In fact — and here is a trade secret I’d decided a few years ago we’d be better off not revealing — clickbait stopped working around 2009.

And Copyblogger skillfully states what it all comes down to, with regards to creating and publishing content that delivers on the promise of your tricked-up headline:

Your headline is a promise to readers. Its job is to clearly communicate the benefit you’ll deliver to the reader in exchange for their valuable time.

Promises tend to be made before being fulfilled. Writing your content first puts you in the position of having to reverse-engineer your promise. Turn it around the other way and you have the benefit of expressly fulfilling the compelling promise you made with the headline, which ultimately helps to keep your content crisp and well-structured.

Trying to fulfill a promise you haven’t made yet is tough, and often leads to a marginal headline. And a poorly-crafted headline allows good deeds to go unnoticed. You know, like your content

The Numerical And Financial Consequences Are Clear

Now if after reading all of this, you still don’t understand why producing the right type of article or blog post headlines are so important to your content marketing strategy, then understand this:

Numbers don’t lie!

And speaking of numbers, one of the top content marketing authority platforms, Copyblogger states that 8 out of 10 people will read the headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest! 

To quote marketing legend David Oglivy: “When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.

That means that every time a bait-and-switch, clickbait headline is produced and published that fails to render results (while annoying your readers and tarnishing your company’s brand), you might as well take a dollar bill and burn 80 percent of it!

But the great news is, you can learn how to make every penny of your content marketing budget work as hard as you’re working to generate new brand loyalists and spread your marketing message!

Make Every Character Of Text Count

Content authority site, The Content Marketing Institute offers a comprehensive slideshow called How To Cook Up A Killer Content Marketing Headline. You can read it on the site, but here’s a few tips you’d do well to implement:

1. Focus on human readers and not SEO bots. At the end of the day, all of your marketing efforts are to impress the humans–they are the ones who generate revenue for your company.

2. Create headlines with credibility. Remember that the longevity of your company comes down to developing long-term trust.

3. Don’t insult your reader’s intelligence. They can always tell when this is the case.

Headlines might seem like a few words that gets eyeballs on your marketing content, but if you get this aspect wrong, then your content doesn’t matter!

Terri Scott

Terri is a content marketing storyteller and strategist. She teaches marketing and entrepreneurship through stories for marketers of all stripes. Her specialty is creating narrative and she writes essays and memoir in her spare time.

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