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Episode 2: How to Write Headlines that Convert

Episode 2: How to Write Headlines that Convert

Hey everyone, welcome to Stradeso. My name is Peter Kozodoy, back again to have a discussion with you about headlines. Potentially nothing is more important in your content than the headlines you choose for your infographics, your blogs, and even things like the title of your blog page.

All these things need to be really well-thought-out, and there are, actually, a couple of rules of thumb. See when I was doing some writing for Inc. and Forbes, they kind of taught me, indoctrinated in me, how to go about thinking about headlines. Because there are rules; there are things that people are more or less likely to click on.

So I want to talk to you about a framework, and it’s kind of easy to remember. It’s the two I’s: Intrigue and Insight. So when you’re thinking about headlines, it’s all about intrigue and insight. Intrigue: What’s surprising; what’s interesting that’s going to compel someone to click on the thing that you’ve written? And then insight, which is "What can you actually deliver to them that really gets at their wants, needs, fears and desires, so they know you’re speaking directly to them?"

Now, one of the best ways you can structure this is as a “how-to.” “How-to” is a magical phrase. I go to Google when I want to know how to do something, and hopefully your content is going to come up … right? That's why you’re doing content marketing, to bring people down your funnel. So imagine the following structure: “How to (do the person’s goal) without (avoiding their kind of fear).” Or conversely, it’s: “How to do (the goal) so that (they can achieve a desire).” You can go either way: How to do something while avoiding what they fear, what they’re unsure of, or how to do something by achieving their desire. And that’s sort of the general formula. I’ll give you a couple examples and, by the way, simple is always better here. Don’t be crazy about going complex or super creative. If you start using words that people don’t understand … remember that everyone’s got the attention span of about two seconds.

So, for instance, let's say this is about personal finance: “The strange Warren Buffett trick to retiring wealthy without giving up date night.” Think about this logic for a second: If you’re going to retire wealthy, what’s somebody going to tell you? You have to save money. Retiring wealthy is all about saving money. But you don’t want to save money, you want to keep going on your date night. So, let’s dissect this a little bit. The strange Warren Buffett trick. It’s strange, but whats strange about it? And why is it a trick? And if it’s Warren Buffett that knows it, he must know a trick that I don’t know. So that’s all the intrigue? It’s step one to retiring wealthy, that’s the goal, but by avoiding fear, right? Without giving up date night — that’s what I dont want to give up, that’s my fear. Or, it’s the manifestation of my fear. See how that works?

Let me give you another example: “How to write a best-selling book.” So the goal is to write a book; it’s, “How do I write a best-selling book?” But why? What’s my real interest? I don’t just want to write the book. I want to write it so that I finally position myself as the go-to expert. So it’s like, I’ve been wanting to do this, but how do I do it? This is what the content is going to promise: “How to write a best-selling book that makes you the go-to expert.” Now, simple is best, but specific is even better. If you can niche down your content, it’s going to have a much better chance of getting picked up by Google for people searching for very specific things.

When people are searching for very specific things, youre not competing against all the people who have written general content. More people are going to write about “retirement” than “retiring with three million dollars in Ohio,” for instance. Believe it or not there are people who are going to fit into all those niche silos, so why not go after them? It’s easier.

Let me give you another example — let’s go to fishing. “How to catch salmon in Idaho with your bare hands, even if you can barely catch a cold.” I mean, come on, that’s fun, right? Obviously, Im kidding around, but let’s examine the principles of this “how to catch salmon in Idaho.” I want to go fishing in Idaho. “With your bare hands,” obviously that’s a joke, but you could say, “How to catch salmon with a fly-fishing rod, even if you can barely catch a cold,” or whatever. That’s still not how you catch salmon, but you know what I mean. So what gets conveyed with, “even if you can barely catch a cold”? I cant catch anything; I’m a newbie and I want to catch salmon. You can imagine the content for this is going to talk about “if it’s your first time fishing, then you could do these things,” etc. Of course if you’re going to catch it with your bare hands, you can probably do that at Whole Foods, though they frown upon you going behind the case and handling the fish … don’t ask me how I know that.

Let’s try another example: “How to write a book about consulting to fisheries that fishery owners will actually buy, without ever typing a single word.” Lets say that again, because this is kind of a la the best-selling book example, “How to write a book about fishery consulting that fishery owners will actually buy, without ever typing a single word.” Now what’s implied here is that I’m a consultant for fisheries like, fish farms — and I’m afraid they won’t buy the book I want to write, and I’m afraid I can’t even write it to begin with. This is going to satisfy that person’s desire, right? “Fishery owners will actually buy, without ever typing a single word,” so that’s both my desire and my fear baked into one headline. This is fairly formulaic; it’s intrigue and insight how to do “X” without doing “Y” or so that you can do “Z.”

And as long as you kind of follow this format, you'll get it. I know it seems simple, but again, simple is better, so don’t be afraid to be very straightforward about this stuff. And when you’re writing this, you know, obviously, I’m joking around with titles, but think about the things that your target market is going to go to Google and type in, because the whole purpose of content is to be found and to take people down the funnel of know, like, trust, try and buy, right?

This is about know and like, and you can have a little fun with it as I did. They’re going to get to trust you through the content you put out. They can’t trust you if they can’t know you, and they can’t know you if your headline isn’t interesting enough to click on — otherwise they’re going to pass you by and you’re going to be very unhappy.

So that’s the tip for today. Thanks for tuning in to Stradeso so we can help turn your problems into projects. See you next time.