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headlinesWhy would I possibly suggest that headlines are actually hurting you, when I’ve written countless articles on how to design the perfect headline?  Keep reading and you’ll soon discover exactly why AND what I think you should about it.

It’s a lot of work to master the perfect headline.  True, there are hacks that allow people to create a pretty damn good one fairly quickly.  People are either using these hacks or just generally stepping up their game.  I have encountered countless impressive headlines in my recent wanderings around the web.

Note:  I am talking article and Blog post headlines but I am also talking about email subject lines for purposes of this post.

As someone who makes a living off my words, I understand the importance of a headline that grabs the attention of your reader and sucks them right in.  So I am always pretty critical of the headlines I see out there.  I am always looking to learn and also to see how I would improve things, so I pick apart every headline I come across.

suckedinLately, I’ve more and more headlines are not only passing the test with me but they are actually sucking me in.  I can’t tell you how often recently I’ve thought “ohhh, I have to read that” and clicked eagerly on a link – I can almost taste the good content I’m about to delve into.  I click and because I’m a word nerd, I stop for a second and again just appreciate the headline.  But then the anticipation is killing me so I scroll and start reading – so ready to discover whatever tantalizing tidbit the headline has promised.

And then it hits me – “ohhh”  the initial letdown.  But I’m going to stick with it, I’m going to keep reading and get to the gem I was promised.  At this point I am actually reading more intently, determined to get what I came for.  I’m taking in every word.  But…. Nothing.  So now I’m frustrated and switch to skim mode.  And then, “Hmmm. This sucks. Yeah. I’m outta here”.

I am disappointed but I’m also a little angry.  How dare they perfect the headline and not follow through on delivery in the content?

Ever the optimist, I keep hoping once of these clicks will yield the expected killer content to support that killer headline.

Trust me, I get it, writing is hard.  It’s time consuming and it may not come naturally to you.  But here is the thing…. the best headline in the world does you no good – not even a teeny tiny little drop of good – if you don’t deliver what you promised.

You get your audience worked up and excited and then you leave them hanging.  You are giving your audience the literary equivalent of blue balls.  (Yep, I just went there. I wanted to make my point. Did it work?)

Definitely take the time to write killer headlines or use whatever tools and hacks you have access to.  But then, for the sake of your entire audience, I beg and plead and urge you to follow through and deliver content that will satisfy the appetite you just whetted.

Even if it’s not the wittiest or best written content, at least deliver on the actual material.

In all fairness, content marketing is tough. With the increased demand for content, people are cranking it out pretty quickly and the lack of effort is visible.

I am an avid reader, both because I have many varied interests that I like to keep up on and because my job requires me to be constantly scoping things out.  It’s unreal how many times I have been disappointed by poor content after having been lured in by a great headline.

So back to MY headline.  We all know that the real problem is not that the headline is too good, it’s that the content is bad.  But this is how you create curiosity and interest.  It’s OK to be creative with the headline if you deliver in the body content and provide useful information.

You are better to put no content out there than you are to nab the attention of your audience and then disappoint them.  Killer headlines are responsible for me abandoning some Blogs that looked promising.

So what can you do about it?  A little trick that’s always worked for me – write your content first. When you read the finished product, you know exactly what you’ve delivered, then you can craft a headline that fits the content.  And for the record, both should be killer!

I know one of the areas that people fall short on is editing their content.  By the time you’ve banged it out, you just want to be done and move on.  That is a mistake. That last 10 or 15 minutes is needed to finish it off.  You need that time to ensure there are no errors, make sure the content flows and make sure you’ve offered something of value.  This final check allows you to step back and evaluate the quality and allows you to create the headline that pulls it all together.

Don’t let your killer headline hurt your business.  Create content that is worthy of that headline.