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Why Bad Headlines Kill Good Content - 2/16/2010 -

Here are four simple takeaways that one corporate blogger shares aimed at anyone trying to drive up their blog readership.

By Cindy Kim

I WAS AT A SOCIAL MEDIA FOR BUSINESS EVENTRECENTLY and had the opportunity to listen to Jay Baer speak on 11 Must Dos for the Serious Blogger. He touched on something very near and dear to my heart:'To be a good blogger, you must be a great headline writer.Ē

I say near and dear to my heart because as a former writer for TV news, the art of headline writing was crucial to our news program. What you wrote in that 15-second slot was a make-or-break opportunity for our audience to tune in to get the rest of the story. Don't get me wrongócontent is still kingóbut what draws people to tune in to your content is the headline. This has proven vital to my function today as a director of corporate communicationsófrom media pitches, blog topics, ebooks, and whitepapers, to email campaigns and newsletters.

Brian Clark ofCopyblogger put it inthese simple terms: 'Your headline is the first, and perhaps only, impression you make on a prospective reader. Without a headline or post title that turns a browser into a reader, the rest of your words may as well not even exist.' Just like going for your first job interview or on your first date, your first impression lasts forever.

When you're browsing a blog, news site, or newspaper, your eyes will skim through a lot of the content and what catches your eye? The headline. Here are four steps tosharpen your headline-writing skills.

1. Keep it short and sweet. Long-winded headlines can quickly lose focus and attention. With so much information out there, you want to tell the Who, What, When, Where, and How in that headline without spewing the entire content right at the top. Keep it short and make it simple.

2. Make it newsworthy. Do your research and Google the topic to see what's out there. If the headline you're trying to use comes upóchange it. Being like everyone else is b-o-r-i-n-g. Challenge the convention ofheadline writing. Make it different and unique while stilltelling the story up front. Read some of the headlines that other bloggers and journalists are using on that topic to see how they are messaging and positioning the story.

3. Tell the story in less than five to seven words. I don't know about you, but I learned one key lesson in writing: K.I.S.S. or Keep it Simple Stupid. What Twitter has taught us is totell your story in less than 140 characters. Apply the same rule to your headline. Keep it simple and tell the story in less than five to seven words using your headline. A good example of a headline from Jay Baer's presentation: Thief Takes Off with Lucky Charms Cereal. He also mentioned one of his more successfulheadlines for his blog: Why Twitter Needs its Bottom Spanked. He said he could've used some boring headline but instead opted for this one, which got tremendous readership.

4. Think SEO (search engine optimization). Whether it's for your blog, marketing campaign email, case study,magazine, newsletter, or other publication, think of ways to optimize your SEO in the headline. Tie it back to your most popular SEO terms that are being usedto find you, your publication, organization, etc. This is important, especially with SEO driving the searchability ofyour brand. By the way, you should have an index of your SEO terms for each category: organization/brand, publications, products, services, etc. This should beshared across everyone and anyone who creates content for your association to maintain accuracy and consistency.

I've heard a lot of writers and editors say that they're not good at headline writing. My suggestion is to challenge yourself constantly in this area, as great headlines will help drive readership, traffic, and open rates for everything you do. Always ask yourself this: Is the headline enticing enough for me to open it ifI were the reader? How is it newsworthy and interesting? Is it sexy?

Put yourself in your readers' shoes,and that is how you will get the answer. After all, if you wouldn'twant to read it, why would they?

Cindy Kim is director of corporate communications at Lumension. Originally posted in the Marketing JournalistBlogand reprinted with permission from http://www.ragan.com/


 

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