If this headline were a woman, I’d marry it.
That’s an odd thing to think, no?
Back in the day, my friends and I used that phrase to denote something inanimate that we were particularly fond of. “This pizza is so good, if it were a woman I’d marry it!”
That was a long time ago. I can’t remember the last time such a thought flashed into my head. Which is what made it so weird when it happened last week.
Especially after reading a headline about … video streaming quality and Internet service providers.
But what can I say? The headline was that good.
As were a few others I happened upon since the last edition of Headlines That Work.
Let’s break them down, including one so irresistible I had no choice but to copy it.
Here’s why I’d marry this headline
I love a headline that just comes out right and smacks you in the face with its promise.
This one does just that:
Part of the reason this headline hit me so hard and fast was timing.
The previous night, I had experienced the sudden HD-to-standard-definition shift (while watching House of Cards) that many Neflix users had recently endured. I even received a text from a friend inquiring what was up with Netflix.
Everyone who uses Netflix (a large and growing number) is in the target audience for this article. That’s a lot of folks. The article clearly articulates the answer to a question so many of us were asking: “What’s up with the streaming issues?”
So the just-come-right-out-and-say-it headline style works perfectly here.
As does starting it off with the word “Here.” Because it signifies that you’re going to get right to the point.
When your article provides information on a hot current issue that involves a big brand name, especially if the issue is a problem, don’t beat around the bush.
People want answers and solutions. And if it’s a big brand, you can bet you have a big potential audience.
Use your headline to tell people exactly what problem you’re going to solve or exactly what solution you’re going to provide … and the clicks will stream in quickly and clearly. (You know, like Netflix videos used to.)
Is this next headline the best ever?
I’ll end the suspense: No, it’s surely not.
And I bet now you’re feeling a bit let down, like I overhyped this section with the subhead.
Well, I did. And if I had used this subhead as the actual headline for this article, I bet a lot of your eyes would have glazed right over it in our blog feed, on Twitter, or elsewhere.
We’ve been so inundated on the web with “Best Ever” this and “Best Ever” that, that such hyperbolic headlines have lost their mojo … when they are left general and not specific.
A great example of this is a headline I came across recently at Marcus Sheridan’s blog, The Sales Lion.
With this headline, Marcus chose to not rely on cliché and general curiosity. He makes the bold statement of “best example ever” … and then tells you exactly what it is: The Lego Movie.
In addition to the specificity lending some weight to his claim of “best ever,” he allows himself to capitalize on the national buzz about The Lego Movie.
I haven’t seen it, and perhaps you haven’t either. But it’s permeated pop culture, so I have had a few separate conversations about it. And I know that a lot of people — ranging in age from kids to older adults — love it.
When I saw the headline, I wanted to see if my guess about what made The Lego Movie the “best example of brand storytelling ever” was the same as Marcus’ explanation. It was.
And you know what? Marcus might be right. The Lego Movie really might be the best example of brand storytelling ever. At worst, it’s not a ridiculous conversation … so the headline doesn’t leave you feeling duped from overhype.
But had he just used “The Best Example of Brand Storytelling Ever,” I doubt I would have clicked. It would have come across as generic click bait.
Specific is good, especially when specific will actually pique more curiosity.
This isn’t always the case, of course. Sometimes holding back is good … but not when big brands or big names are involved. You are almost always better off using them in your headline.
But should you always give more in a headline?
Of course not.
“Give ’em more” has become the theme of this post, but I should note that more is not always advisable when it comes to headlines.
Look no further than right here at Copyblogger.
The big man himself, Brian Clark, is a master at using very few words to both promise a benefit and pique curiosity with a headline. His headlines do not use one letter more than necessary to get their point across (and get you to click).
This is a good lesson, but the lesson isn’t simply that “shorter headlines are better.” The lesson is that every word in your headline had better contribute to promising a benefit or provoking curiosity (or better yet, both), or it should be axed.
No fluff. No flab. No dead weight.
So if you are going to write a longer headline, especially if it is going to include a (gasp!) second sentence, you better be damn sure it’s worth it.
“That extra little thing”
A tip of the cap to Ramsay Taplin for the email he sent me a few days ago that reminded me of a headline technique I’ve been meaning to discuss.
It’s “that extra little thing,” and Pat Flynn describes it perfectly in #1 here.
How does it work? Ramsay’s example in his email referenced this post:
(I actually prefer Ramsay’s Clarkian, pared-down version of this headline: “12 Asian landscapes. The last one blew me away.”)
This isn’t a technique you want to use too often, because your audience will start to tune it out, but it can be very effective when sprinkled in from time to time.
Other examples include Pat’s post that I linked to above:
5 “Five-Minute or Less” Blogging Tips That Yield Big Results. I’m Using Tip #1 in This Title.
Or this, from Ramsay’s own site:
(In a fitting bit of coincidence, I had clicked on Ramsay’s post via a tweet before I got his email. And I had clicked specifically to see what the one that “sucks” was.)
Though we try at all costs to stay away from hype-y headlines here at Copyblogger, we’ve used subtle versions of this technique in the past. In fact, one of the articles in the Popular list over there in the sidebar uses this technique:
Without the parenthetical, that headline would get a lot of clicks — because people (especially our readers) yearn for knowledge about how to build an audience with story. But that post undoubtedly got even more clicks because people were curious about who America’s “great living playwright” is.
Again: don’t use this technique too often, or with a post that doesn’t have a payoff, because it will actually work against you.
But timed right — as I have hopefully done with my own headline for this post — it can be quite effective.
Which of the three headline techniques discussed here do you plan to use next?
And how would you have written the headline for this post? I’d love to hear your suggestions below.
Want a headline-writing cheat sheet?
Download our ebook How to Write Magnetic Headlines. It includes 38 time-tested, proven headline models — plus explanations for why they work, so you can apply them properly.