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HOW TO COOK UP A KILLER
CONTENT MARKETING HEADLINE
What’s in a name? A lot, actually, when it comes to creating killer hea...
THE MAIN COURSE:
ENSURE READER SATISFACTION
START WITH THE ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS
A good headline is like a storefront: As ...
USE JUST A DASH OF SEO-SONING
Including keywords in your headlines will make your content more search-friendly. But treat ...
IT’S OK TO TEASE, BUT DON’T DISAPPOINT
If you promise caviar but only offer California rolls, your audience is going to le...
DON’T STUFF YOUR READERS FULL OF “BREAD”
Ever lose interest in your entrée because you filled up on the endless basket of ...
CREATE SNACKABLE APPETIZERS
This is a “scans” world, so lengthy headlines that look like a lot of work to read are more li...
SURVEY THE LANDSCAPE, THEN SERVE A SIGNATURE DISH
THAT STANDS OUT
It’s always helpful to see how competitors and other rel...
PREPARE THE PERFECT PAIRING FOR YOUR CONTEXT
Like a cocktail or a fine wine with dinner, your headlines should be well-mat...
SERVE YOUR PATRONS RELIABLY AND CONSISTENTLY
Reputation is everything when it comes to your content — especially if you in...
FUEL READER EXCITEMENT WITH ACTIONABLE WORDS
You want your audience to take action as a result of reading your content, ri...
9 RULES FOR SERVING UP AN
APPETIZING HEADLINE
1.		Start with the essential ingredients.
2. 		Use just a dash of SEO-soning...
THE SIDE DISHES:
SERVE UP SOME ADDED FLAVOR
Once you’ve nailed down the basic recipe for headline success,
you can spice u...
USE NUMBERS AND LISTS
Numerical headlines are effective, as they communicate how much information readers will be expected...
PIQUE CURIOSITY AND OPEN UP A DIALOGUE
Readers appreciate it when their own questions, concerns, and opinions get addresse...
GET SAUCY
Depending on your brand personality, adding humor, making clever quips, or injecting a little
lighthearted fun i...
GO FOR EMOTION
The very best headlines are often those that capitalize on the laws of basic human psychology
by playing on...
MAKE IT TRENDY AND TOPICAL
Tying your headline to recent or upcoming happenings (like industry meetings or new technology
...
THE LAST WORD ON HEADLINES
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you’ll find that a piece of content you were expecting to...
Looking for a little hands-on headline help? Check out our list of
tips and tools for generating unique headlines, evaluat...
How To Cook Up A Killer Content Marketing Headline
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How To Cook Up A Killer Content Marketing Headline

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What’s in a name? A lot, actually, when it comes to creating killer headlines for your content marketing efforts. In fact, crafting a clear, powerful, and compelling title may just be the most difficult part of content creation. There’s a lot of advice out there on what makes for a good headline; but, really, there’s no definitive answer. Readers’ tastes vary. Trends come and go. SEO standards shift… and what seems like an exciting and inventive title construct one minute can feel stale and cliché the next. So how can content marketers strike the right balance between clarity and creativity to give their content the best chance of attracting an audience? Read on for ideas from our #CMWorld Twitter chat and wider CMI communities that will help put your content headlines on the frontline of success.

Published in: Marketing

How To Cook Up A Killer Content Marketing Headline

  1. HOW TO COOK UP A KILLER CONTENT MARKETING HEADLINE What’s in a name? A lot, actually, when it comes to creating killer headlines for your content marketing efforts. In fact, crafting a clear, powerful, and compelling title may just be the most difficult part of content creation. There’s a lot of advice out there on what makes for a good headline; but, really, there’s no definitive answer. Readers’ tastes vary. Trends come and go. SEO standards shift… and what seems like an exciting and inventive title construct one minute can feel stale and cliché the next. So how can content marketers strike the right balance between clarity and creativity to give their content the best chance of attracting an audience? Read on for ideas from our #CMWorld Twitter chat and wider CMI communities that will help put your content headlines on the frontline of success.
  2. THE MAIN COURSE: ENSURE READER SATISFACTION START WITH THE ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS A good headline is like a storefront: As people walk by, it should draw their interest, give them a sense of what they’ll find inside, and convince them that they’ll find value in what you have to offer. TIP: When crafting a headline, always keep your audience’s needs and interests in mind. Start by answering the main questions readers will use to judge whether your content is worthy of their time: 1. What are the “nuts and bolts” of this story? 2. Why is it important to me? 3. What will I miss out on if I don’t read it? EXAMPLE: The Most Innovative Part of U2’s Tour Is Something the Audience Never Sees READ MORE: 7 Ways to Write Eye-Popping Headlines RULE NO.1 Be concise and draw interestin the beginning. Answerwhat’s in it for the reader. —The Gary J. Nix
  3. USE JUST A DASH OF SEO-SONING Including keywords in your headlines will make your content more search-friendly. But treat them like you would a rare, exotic spice: Use them sparingly to stimulate your readers’ appetites, and take care not to let them overwhelm your offerings and render them indigestible. Remember: Though you certainly want your content to gain the attention of search engines, keyword stuffing is a big no-no. Ultimately, you should be creating content to engage human readers, not robots. If your headlines communicate the value your content provides for your target audience, you’ll get the clicks you are after, and better search rankings will naturally follow. TIP: Ideally, headlines should be distinctive so that they are easily searchable long after your content has been published. Consider using relevant hashtags in your titles so that readers can find and follow your conversations on an ongoing basis. EXAMPLE: 15 Creative Ways Brands Recognized #SCOTUS on Social Media RULE NO.2 Headlines are for humans. Readers interact & engage w/ content; robots crawl and shouldn’t determine your headline —Liliana GH THE MAIN COURSE: ENSURE READER SATISFACTION
  4. IT’S OK TO TEASE, BUT DON’T DISAPPOINT If you promise caviar but only offer California rolls, your audience is going to leave unsatisfied — and probably won’t come back again. TIP: Headlines set an expectation of what your content will deliver, so make sure you aren’t filling yours with deceptions, exaggerations, or meaningless buzzwords just to get a click. In the words of a certain March Hare, be sure you say what you mean, and mean what you say, by offering useful, honest information with real value. EXAMPLE: This Is What the Brain of a Stroke Survivor Looks Like RULE NO.3 Entice and keep it relevant to the content! Don’t mention theBieber unless you are actuallywriting about him!! —Brandie McCallum Don’t be The Boy Who Cried ‘Awesome’. —Doug Kessler THE MAIN COURSE: ENSURE READER SATISFACTION
  5. DON’T STUFF YOUR READERS FULL OF “BREAD” Ever lose interest in your entrée because you filled up on the endless basket of breadsticks brought to your table? Similarly, if you give away all of the important information in the headline, people won’t feel the need to click through to read more. TIP: Play off readers’ natural curiosity by leaving a little bit of mystery in your headlines. A reader who passes by the headline Add Milk to Make Fluffy Omelets Like the Pros might find the temptation of learning The One Foolproof Trick for Perfect, Fluffy Omelets too tantalizing to resist. EXAMPLE: No More Free Checked Bags on JetBlue: The Lowdown on New Fees RULE NO.4 Tell me enough to draw me in butnot too much that I don’t need toread the article —Lucy Rendler-Kaplan THE MAIN COURSE: ENSURE READER SATISFACTION
  6. CREATE SNACKABLE APPETIZERS This is a “scans” world, so lengthy headlines that look like a lot of work to read are more likely to get passed by. Also, long headlines get cut off in search engine results pages (SERPs). TIP: Get to the point as quickly and concisely as possible. In general, 10 words maximum is a good rule of thumb for headlines, and fewer is even better — especially for social media posts. EXAMPLE: Debt Payment Looming, Greece Seeks a New Bailout RULE NO.5 Your audience [are] skimmers,scanners and glancers, not readers...Grab them with genuine headline and1st paragraph summary. —Lois Martin THE MAIN COURSE: ENSURE READER SATISFACTION
  7. SURVEY THE LANDSCAPE, THEN SERVE A SIGNATURE DISH THAT STANDS OUT It’s always helpful to see how competitors and other relevant media sources use headlines to position their content. This can give you a sense of the current trends and may spark ideas on what you can do to make your headlines unique and distinctive. TIP: If you want some headline inspiration, take a look at the top blogs in your niche, as well as general-interest publications that your audience is likely already consuming. Be aware of the current headline styles and trends they are following, but don’t feel like you have to rely on any gimmicks they may be using. EXAMPLE: All the Weird Things Business People Do on Twitter RULE NO.6 Read everything. You can get inspiration from all sources — keeps you well rounded too. —Josh St. Aubin Check magazines like Cosmo & TheStar. If you need headline help, readmore magazine covers. —Heidi Cohen THE MAIN COURSE: ENSURE READER SATISFACTION
  8. PREPARE THE PERFECT PAIRING FOR YOUR CONTEXT Like a cocktail or a fine wine with dinner, your headlines should be well-matched to enhance the type of content you are serving up — and the place where you are serving it. TIP: You wouldn’t expect high-end scotch whiskey to be served at your local dive bar any more than your readers would expect a business jargon-heavy headline popping up in their Instagram feed. So make sure your headlines are context-appropriate and are crafted to fit the particular channel in which they will be appearing. EXAMPLE: CMI’s post headline, Learn the Secrets Behind 5 Great Marketing Projects was adjusted to Great Content: Get Secrets of 5 Marketing Projects to get more play on Facebook. RULE NO.7 Each headline should be tailoredto the medium used. Write at least4 headlines per piece: for web,Twitter, email, blog. —Liliana GH THE MAIN COURSE: ENSURE READER SATISFACTION
  9. SERVE YOUR PATRONS RELIABLY AND CONSISTENTLY Reputation is everything when it comes to your content — especially if you intend to create lasting relationships with your audience. Just as you should be cultivating a unique brand voice or perspective in your content, you need to make sure your headlines communicate in that same signature style. TIP: Get to the point as quickly and concisely as possible. In general, 10 words maximum is a good rule of thumb for headlines, and fewer is even better — especially for social media posts. EXAMPLE: 5 Real-World Lessons College Teaches (By Accident) RULE NO.8 Top headline-writing tip: Signal the voice of the piece. (Hint: does the piece have a strong voice?) —Doug Kessler THE MAIN COURSE: ENSURE READER SATISFACTION
  10. FUEL READER EXCITEMENT WITH ACTIONABLE WORDS You want your audience to take action as a result of reading your content, right? So why stifle the excitement you are looking to create by speaking in a passive voice in your headlines? TIP: Creating a headline that could also be used as a call to action will help get your readers in the right mood to take the next step after reading your content. EXAMPLE: Win Your Battle for Content Marketing Buy-In With This Checklist RULE NO.9 Use actionable words like “download” and “try” — it engages people & asks them to act . —Jade Phillips THE MAIN COURSE: ENSURE READER SATISFACTION
  11. 9 RULES FOR SERVING UP AN APPETIZING HEADLINE 1. Start with the essential ingredients. 2. Use just a dash of SEO-soning. 3. It’s OK to tease, but don’t disappoint. 4. Don’t stuff your readers full of “bread.” 5. Create snackable appetizers. 6. Survey the competition, but serve a signature dish. 7. Prepare the perfect pairing for your context. 8. Serve your patrons reliably and consistently. 9. Fuel reader excitement with actionable words. http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2015/08/headlines-tips-tools
  12. THE SIDE DISHES: SERVE UP SOME ADDED FLAVOR Once you’ve nailed down the basic recipe for headline success, you can spice up your efforts by testing different headline formulas, tapping into the latest title trends, or experimenting with creative constructs that might broaden your brand appeal. Know all the formulas thatwork, but don’t get lazy aboutonly ever using them. —Kristen Hicks
  13. USE NUMBERS AND LISTS Numerical headlines are effective, as they communicate how much information readers will be expected to absorb and help set manageable expectations of how long it will take readers to walk away with the information they came for. But be careful not to overuse the “listicle” format or force a headline to “take a number” if it’s not a natural fit. TIP: Consider using a number- or list-based headline when:  It will help make difficult concepts or processes easier to understand, remember, and execute on  You are discussing a manageable, step-by-step process — but be careful: Too many steps and you may make your content sound more complicated than it is  Your content is informative, or it offers entertainment value  Your collection of content uses a range of other headline styles. EXAMPLE: 7 Tips We Learned Analyzing 75 Content Marketing Examples OPTION NO.1 Headlines with numbers (7 Ways…) signal important things: utility, a quick read and some structure. Readers like these! —Doug Kessler THE SIDE DISHES: SERVE UP SOME ADDED FLAVOR
  14. PIQUE CURIOSITY AND OPEN UP A DIALOGUE Readers appreciate it when their own questions, concerns, and opinions get addressed in the content they receive. Help your audience see themselves in the content you create by asking questions, soliciting input, sparking a debate, introducing a controversial point of view, or otherwise demonstrating that you are interested in creating shared meaning through your content efforts. EXAMPLE: • Are LinkedIn Groups Worth the Trouble? • What Advice Would You Give Your Younger Self About Heartbreak? • What’s Next in Your Content Marketing Career Evolution? OPTION NO.2 That’s what a good tweet should do: invite conversation. —Martin Lieberman THE SIDE DISHES: SERVE UP SOME ADDED FLAVOR
  15. GET SAUCY Depending on your brand personality, adding humor, making clever quips, or injecting a little lighthearted fun into your headlines can be a great way to win over an audience (just ask any class clown). But it’s important that you have the creative skill to pull it off. Jokes can fall flat or get misconstrued, and who wants to risk losing audience favor due to an avoidable error in judgment? TIP: The ultimate goal of content marketing is to forge a lasting, trusted relationship with an audience. So make sure your quest to be clever or to crack a joke doesn’t mislead readers, confuse or offend them, or detract from the clarity and value of your content. EXAMPLE: Is the Funnel Clouding Our Online Vision? OPTION NO.3 Plays on words (good ones, at least) are usually a good way to go. —Kip Meacham THE SIDE DISHES: SERVE UP SOME ADDED FLAVOR
  16. GO FOR EMOTION The very best headlines are often those that capitalize on the laws of basic human psychology by playing on emotions like fear and anxiety, anger, jealousy, or love and compassion. Moreover, studies show that headlines that trigger emotions are more likely to be shared on social media. TIP: The ultimate goal of content marketing is to forge a lasting, trusted relationship with an audience. So make sure your quest to be clever or to crack a joke doesn’t mislead readers, confuse or offend them, or detract from the clarity and value of your content. EXAMPLE: • The One Content Marketing Question You Need to Ask (That May Scare You) • Who Killed the Content? Make Sure You’re Never the Suspect • Awful Plane Crash ‘Prank’ Will Actually Make You Feel Bad for Paris Hilton OPTION NO.4 Write trigger headlines. Triggers are things that set off emotional bombs like shock, joy, surprise, etc. —Salma Jafri THE SIDE DISHES: SERVE UP SOME ADDED FLAVOR
  17. MAKE IT TRENDY AND TOPICAL Tying your headline to recent or upcoming happenings (like industry meetings or new technology releases), seasonal interests (like holidays), popular online memes, or important current events is a smart way to grab attention — not to mention it can convey that you are interested in the world beyond your business. Though their life cycle may be shorter than more evergreen topics, headlines that have built-in expiration dates can also add a sense of urgency to your content by signaling that your content should be read now, before it’s too late. EXAMPLE: • 36 Content Marketing Tips for 2015 • 60 Content Marketing Predictions for 2015 • 4 Tips to Combat Facebook’s Latest Algorithm Update OPTION NO.5 THE SIDE DISHES: SERVE UP SOME ADDED FLAVOR
  18. THE LAST WORD ON HEADLINES Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you’ll find that a piece of content you were expecting to become flavor of the month ends up leaving a bad taste in the mouths of audience members. But fear not! The beauty of content marketing is that many failures can be fixed — and even those that can’t might still serve as valuable teaching tools. So what can you do if your headline falls flat? Change it. You have opportunitiesto repurpose that content to youraudience. Living documents can be changed/added/referenced. —Carmella Lanni If a headline isn’t working, think about why. What can you learn? Failure teaches. —Doug Kessler THE SIDE DISHES: SERVE UP SOME ADDED FLAVOR
  19. Looking for a little hands-on headline help? Check out our list of tips and tools for generating unique headlines, evaluating their performance, and attracting your target audience without the need for shady headline gimmicks. ABOUT CONTENT MARKETING INSTITUTE Content Marketing Institute is the leading global content marketing education and training organization, teaching enterprise brands how to attract and retain customers through compelling, multi-channel storytelling. CMI’s Content Marketing World event, the largest content marketing- focused event, is held every September in Cleveland, Ohio, USA, and the Intelligent Content Conference event is held every spring. CMI publishes the bi-monthly magazine Chief Content Officer, and provides strategic consulting and content marketing research for some of the best-known brands in the world. CMI is a 2012, 2013 and 2014 Inc. 500 company.
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