Stella sat at her kitchen table hunched over her laptop. She adjusted her screen to ward off the glare of the early morning sun streaming through her window. Reaching for the cup of coffee at her side, she took one large swallow and grimaced bitterly.
“When did I pour you?”
She stood and dumped the cold, acrid sludge that had been her morning coffee down the drain. She returned to her computer and stared with vacant inattention at the screen. Ryan entered the room and poured himself a cup of coffee. She startled as he slid in beside her and peered over her shoulder at the screen.
“How long have you been up?”
“How are we doing?”
“How do you think?” She pushed the laptop over to him and his brow furrowed as he examined it.
“Still no response to the newsletter?”
“Three opens from the last mailing. Three, Ryan.”
“Don’t worry. We’ll figure it out.”
“When? When we’re out of money and you need to beg for your job back? Or when we need to go to Mom and Dad for another loan? My job is barely paying for the bills, let alone the business.”
“That’s going to change. I’ll go online and do some reading. See if I can figure something out. Don’t give up.”
Does this seem familiar to you? It does to me. It can be hard to get your newsletter and email content read these days. People are too distracted. They have too many demands on their time and too many people competing for it. Studies have shown that 8 out of 10 people will glance at a headline, but only 2 out of 10 will click through. And that’s with a good headline from a source that they already trust.
It’s hard to make a headline stand out. It’s not like the good old days when a fresh eyed public accepted everything that came down the pike at them. People have changed. They’ve grown. They’ve been used and abused and now they are more cynical. It makes getting your message to people who need it a lot more difficult.
But there are some things you can do to get a leg up on the competition. It’s not that hard, you just need to use a little forethought and planning.
This is an entire subject unto itself. Entire books have been written on the topic of headlines. If you want to know more, I have a series of articles that delve into the issue of headlines in much greater detail. Click here [LINK] to get immediate access.
But for now, here are 4 quick tips to improve your headlines and clickthrough rates.
#1. “KISS” your viewers
No, don’t ask them on a date. KISS is an acronym that means “Keep It Simple, Stupid.”
It’s tempting try and play the bard with your headlines. Don’t think that a clever pun or a witty entendre is the key to getting a stellar clickthrough. Nothing could be further from the truth. Keep it short and focus on benefits. Studies show that benefit rich headlines have more impact than wordy ones.
Make every word count and try to keep your headline 50 characters or less. Choose every syllable with as much care as the disciples of Christ. Remember, you have 50 characters at your disposal, but that doesn’t mean you need to use all 50. If you can get away with 40, then great. If you can do with 30, even better. Let there be no wasted words in your headline.
I’ve prepared another article to teach you the best way to craft a short, benefit rich headline. Click here [LINK] to open in a new window.
Always remember, cleverness and wit are for your copy, not your headlines.
#2. Write the headline first
Your headline is more than a snappy hook to snag your reader. It’s a promise. A promise to solve a problem for your audience. You need to understand what that promise is and keep it in your mind or you risk going off topic. Writing your headline first will help with that.
And if you find yourself wanting to go off on tangents anyway, that’s fine. Make a note of each tangent that occurs to you and set it aside. It can be another article later.
This advice comes from another article I wrote on the 5 P’s of content marketing. I would recommend you check it out. Click here [LINK] to learn more.
But for now, stay on point and fulfill the promise you made to your reader in the headline.
#3. Borrow headlines from others
Before we blow a gasket, this is not cheating. We are borrowing inspiration from people who might be more experienced than us in the field. That’s all. There’s nothing proprietary about any one headline, unless it contains a company’s logo or slogan.
I would not, for example, use “Just Do It” as my headline. Besides getting the shirt sued off my back, my audience might become confused. If they click on my link expecting a deal on Nikes I had better give them a deal on Nikes. Not an article on how to improve your golf swing.
But we can take some inspiration from the work of others. That’s fair game. A good place to start is magazine headlines. Magazines have massive marketing departments. They spend more money than most people will ever earn to craft the perfect headline to draw attention. We can piggyback on this and reverse engineer a well written headline for our uses.
I would recommend browsing the magazine covers on Magazines.com. Pay attention to magazines in your niche and how they structure their headlines. Also pay attention to publications that may not be in your niche, like Cosmopolitan. They are experts at drawing attention with a tasty hook.
You should also remember a pitfall of this strategy. Don’t become too dependant on the work of others. If you do then you will always be a lesser student of greater masters. Let them inspire you. Dissect them. Learn what makes them tick. Before long you won’t need to copy the masters. You will be the innovator providing inspiration to another generation of young hopefuls.
#4. Keep a “swipe file”
A swipe file is a collection of headlines that have worked well for you in the past. Nothing more, nothing less.
Over time you will learn what works and what doesn’t. Learn from what doesn’t work and keep what does work in a file to reference later. When you are in a pinch and need inspiration, pull out your swipe file and review what has worked for you. When you find something you like adapt it to your needs.
Time to step up!
Now you’re primed. There is still much to learn, but you know the basics to capture the attention of a distracted internet audience.
There is more room to grow in this area if you want to write stellar headlines. Subscribe to my Crafting Killer Headlines series before you do anything else. It’s free and you can read the first article here [LINK].
Never forget that you can do this. Content marketing can be a steep hill to climb, but with perseverance and grit you will succeed. And the rewards at the top are greater than you could have ever imagined.
Stella sat upright at her kitchen table. The latest data from her autoresponder displayed on her screen. She reached for the cup of coffee at her side, took a large sip and winced.
“Cool down already, would you.”
She cupped the hot coffee in her hands and blew, sending wafts of steam curling away from it. Ryan slid into the chair beside her. She leaned into him as he gave her a peck on the cheek.
“How long have you been up?”
“Let myself sleep in a bit. I’m going over the numbers.”
“How are we doing?”
“See for yourself.” She slid the computer over to him and he studied it with interest.
“53 opens. Nice.”
“53 opens last night. I guess your research paid off.”
“I don’t know what we would have done without those articles. They saved us.”
Stella leaned in and gave Ryan a kiss.
“No, you saved us. The articles showed you the way. That’s all.”
Stella rose, grabbed her keys from the hook and made for the door. Ryan sipped his coffee and watched her go to work. For the last time.