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If you become the expert you were always meant to be, don't blame the experts!

May 2, 2016

Expert guests include Barry Feldman, founder of Feldman Creative and Demian Farnworth, chief content writer at Copyblogger and Rainmaker Digital.

We discuss: Purpose of headlines, characteristics of great headlines and expert tips on creating them.

Little known fact on Demian: Digs vacuums, dancing and books. (Dancing books that suck up dirt are the best!) A common characteristic of good copywriters is they have a sense of humor.

Headlines are forever: The importance and permanence of headlines to content over social media or other shinny things.

Be a relaxed, confident writer when you write headlines because you have to take some risks if you want to get attention. You have to be bold, stand out, have a sense of humor. Need to consistently do it.

Point of headline is to get them to read the first sentence.

Headlines are everywhere and used everywhere as hooks to the reader.  They’re the first thing you read and if they suck they’re the only thing you’ll read.

The challenge we face: people are on information overload. Imagine your reader is walking down a busy New York City street and your job is to clothesline her to get her to pay attention to you. Your headline must be meaningful and believable to her. The only way you can do that is by knowing her inside and out: fears, what keeps her up at night, what are her hopes and dreams?

Social media has changed the way we write headlines in big ways.  Look at sites like Gawker, Business Insider and Upworthy. They all write headlines to get the click. But your content must deliver on the promise or you will fail to earn more clicks – you’ve taken a n emotional and relational withdrawal - you’re not going to win them over next time. Your content must deliver on the promise of the headline.

Barry: “A really good headline selects its audience.  In other words, you need to say something in your headline the reader things, ‘This is for me.’”

Demian: “Don’t be afraid to disqualify people with your headline. The narrower your target the higher your conversion is going to be.”

Your headline is not for everybody, so don’t try and please everybody.

Safe example of a headline that’s probably going to under deliver because it’s for too broad of an audience:  5 Essential Ingredients of the World’s Greatest Recipes.

Better: 5 Essential Ingredients of the World’s Greatest Guacamole Recipes. There’s risk there, but it’s more engaging and selective to those who are interested in making great guacamole.

Characteristics of great headlines:

Add urgency to your headlines by including a deadline and a benefit to acting on the promise, or a consequence for not doing something important.

  • Useful headline: How to Wash Dishes.
  • More attractive: How to Wash Dishes with Vinegar.
  • Make it ultra-specific: 4 Ways to Wash Dishes with Vinegar.
  • Take on the urgency element: 4 Ways to Wash Dishes with Vinegar Before You Die of Cholera.

Barry’s article on HEADLINES as an acronym for writing headlines: H = Helpful, E = Emotion, A = Ask, D = Do’s and Don’ts, L = List, I = Inspire, N = Nightmare, E = Empathy, S= Success.

We talk about putting emotion and empathy in your headlines.  And to do that we must realize the most important thing is to understand the problems of the person you’re trying to reach.

Books and articles mentioned:

In Part 2 of Eyeball Grabbing Headlines:

  • Using templates and formulas for writing eyeball grabbing headlines.
  • Why you should take risks when writing headlines
  • Demian’s favorite dog-eared book for getting inspiration on writing headlines
  • Barry’s axiom for sticking your neck out.