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In the world of content marketing some questions are easy to answer. For example, would you prefer one hundred visitors reading your post, or five thousand?

That’s a pretty brain-dead question right? We all want the five thousand! Well blogger Erin Falconer, made that astronomic jump in a matter of days by simply changing her headlines and promoting the post.

If you are interested in getting a traffic jump for your content, read on!

WHAT MAKES A GOOD HEADLINE

Brian Clark from Copyblogger has written much on the topic, so I have him to thank for much of my understanding, along with personal experience and some very useful cheat-sheets like this one from Awai Online. What follows is my distillation of the core elements that will help you write better headlines and draw more traffic.

FIND THE REAL BENEFIT

Features are great, but believe it or not that is not the reason your readers come, they come for the benefits. Studies indicate that it is benefits that cause people to click through.

Take this post you are reading right now as an example, did you click the link because you wanted to know about headlines or because you wanted to boost your traffic by 5000%? It was the benefit that pulled you in wasn’t it? Well, don’t expect your readers to be any different.

Benefits are sneaky things, they can be difficult to identify because there are layers to benefits.You might share a technique to efficiently sort your emails, but that is not the real benefit. How do you find the real benefit? Ask why.

In this example, ask yourself:

  • Why would your reader want to sort emails more efficiently? Because they want to be more productive.
  • Why would they want to be more productive? To save time.
  • Why do they want to save time? So they can spend it on more important activities.

See the progression? One feature, but many layers of benefit. The key is to then use this information to frame your promise.

MAKE A PROMISE

Every good headline makes a promise to the reader, after all, you are competing with thousands of other writers for their attention. If you are not promising them something more appealing than the multitude around you, your content will go unread no matter how good it is.

The more specific you can make your promise the better. Generalisation stops people from owning the idea.

That’s why “Save half an hour every day in your emails” will probably work better than “Save time in your emails” because the reader will immediately think what they would do with that extra thirty minutes.

The only catch is the fact that you must deliver on your promise, otherwise you will get a lot of disappointed visitors who will not be coming back or sharing your post.

MAKE IT EXCLUSIVE

Unique content is rare, so if you can build a sense of exclusivity, your readers will respond more strongly.

This is the same principle as when you see advertising for an offer that is for a “Limited time only” or “Only while stocks last”, it capitalizes on the very ‘human’ fear of missing out and the desire for privileged treatment.

For example, using words like ‘New’ or ‘Breakthrough’ will promote urgency to read it before the content becomes old or common knowledge. It is no surprise that people love being the first to know something.

MAKE IT MYSTERIOUS

How many times have you seen those linkbait ads saying things like “Lose weight with this one weird old tip”? You see those ads all over the place at the moment for one good reason – they work.

Even though I know it is just an advertising ploy, and I am not obese, I am still curious every time I see those ads as to just what that tip might be. Lets pull this headline apart;

  • The provider promises weight loss (that’s the promise/motivation)
  • They make it sound easy (by the fact there is only one tip)
  • They make it sound mysterious (by calling it ‘weird’ you know it is not going to be diet or exercise).
  • They give it credibility (by calling it old you will assume it is time-tested)

The natural response is then to click on it because you don’t like the idea of missing out on this mysterious information that you may not ever come across again.

Mystery is good but make sure you give clear benefits in the title, otherwise you risk being so secretive you are not motivating your readers.

MAKE A LIST

My final advice on killer headlines is simple- write list posts. “10 ways to grow your investment” “Top 3 Disney movies” “4 Secrets to a longer life” are always going to draw people in, because the promise is clearly defined and the reader has strong expectations as to what they will find. This, coupled with the curiosity of their opinions or practices being included in your list, will increase their motivation.

YOUR TURN

Well, there you have it! Now you have the swiss army knife of blog post headlines, it is time for you to start writing and drawing those readers in.

Let me know in the comments below if you think I missed any vital points or how you intend to write your own headlines. I’d love to hear from you.