Writer’s block may not be the worst challenge that Internet entrepreneurs and bloggers face; it may be coming up with interesting, attention-grabbing headlines that don’t sound like clickbait.
Too many bloggers today commit the error of composing sensational headlines that don’t make good on their promise, and that frustrate their visitors. How this fad started can be identified if you dig into the past headlines created by some of the greatest copywriters in the world … such as John Carlton, Dan Kennedy, and Gary Halbert.
Carlton produced some especially hard-hitting headlines you can read here. They sound over the top, but they accurately and fairly communicate the content of the article or sales letter.
These headlines evolved (or perhaps it would be more accurate to say they were copied) into a formula that bloggers have repeated for years to render sensational, attention-grabbing heads for articles and promotional emails. However, bloggers with little or no copywriting experience often lack the acuity to formulate these headlines with precision.
Inexperienced bloggers see only the formula: combine an adjective with one of these sensational phrases and you’ve got a winning headline. Experienced copywriters use the formula, but base the sensational headline content on the actual body content.
How to craft sensational, yet accurate titles
When he was working with an expert golfer, John Carlton discovered his subject developed a winning swing by watching a one-legged golfer launch one of the straightest, most impressive drives he’d ever seen. The headline for this man’s sales letter read: Amazing Secret Discovered By One-Legged Golfer Adds 50 Yards To Your Drives, Eliminates Hooks and Slices … And Can Slash Up To 10 Strokes From Your Game Almost Overnight!
This headline isn’t just empty boasting. John’s client realized the one-legged golfer he was watching had an advantage over everyone else: balance. He applied what he had seen to his own swing, and achieved the results promised in John’s headline.
You don’t always need sensational headlines
If your goal is to reach a specific group of people, you don’t necessarily have to include sensational claims in your headlines. There is a different A-list strategy.
Craft a headline that keeps your specific target group in mind, and presents it with something the group wants to avoid. For example, property management company Green Residential makes use of this formula with headlines like 6 Ways New Homeowners Waste Money.
Rather than address general groups of people with your headlines, be as specific as you can. For instance, instead of addressing “business owners” address “entrepreneurs,” “solopreneurs,” or “exhausted executives.”
Once you’ve defined a specific group of people to address, figure out what members most want to avoid. But make sure your target and solution are specific. “Lost sales” and “lost productivity,” for example, are probably too generic.
You’ll capture more attention when your headline aims at helping someone avoid a more specific consequence, such as bankruptcy, bad credit, a lawsuit, or having to liquidate all the person’s stock on short notice.
Sensational titles aren’t always clickbait
What makes a title clickbait isn’t the formula used to compose it, but the content the visitor encounters when he or she clicks through the link. If the content supports the title, there’s no problem.
For example, consider the title, You Won’t Believe What He Discovered When He Removed The Lid To His Trashcan. If clicking on this title leads to a video featuring a raccoon popping out of a garbage receptacle, the headline isn’t clickbait. But if you use this kind of title on a business website, you’ll forfeit your readers’ trust.
Craft your headlines wisely
If you can’t come up with a catchy headline, it’s okay. Be realistic.
For example, Dave Asprey published an article titled Dirty Dishes Are Harming Your Relationship. Here’s How to Hack Household Tasks. The headline isn’t sensational, but it gets your attention. Nobody likes a sink full of dirty dishes, so understandably, it might be something a couple fights about.
Your website will develop a reputation on the Internet, whether you’re aware of it or not. If your content is high-quality but your headlines don’t promote that, people will feel the disconnection and may never return.
As a rule, if you can’t come up with a sensational title that’s also relevant and fair, ditch the sensationalism and keep your headline (and content) simple.