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Marie Forleo Archives - Haloway Consulting
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Steal these secrets for more powerful headlines

Headline writing tips

Now more than ever, it is important to write a great headline for your content. Your headline needs to grab your reader’s attention, whether it’s for a blog post or email subject line. Great headlines tell your readers what your content is about. Your title needs to be catchy and clickable—your content is competing for attention in a sea of online information.

If you are business-to-business, learning how to master good headline writing becomes an even more urgent matter. Because 47% of B2B buyers read 3-5 blog posts or content pieces prior to talking with a salesperson. (Source: DemandGenReport)

building construction

Start your headline writing with the end in mind.

To begin, reverse engineer your blog post. First, determine the type of blog post that you are writing. Here is a list of 5 blog post formats that are likely to go viral:

  1. List posts. Provide information in a useful, short list format so that your readers can share with others. 50 Smart Ways to Segment Your Email List Like a Pro
  2. How-to-posts. Teach people valuable skills or provide information that will help them solve a problem or achieve a desired outcome. How to Start Getting Traffic to Your Blog
  3. Resource posts. Deliver longer guides or curated content that provides a solution to a specific problem. The Beginner’s Guide to Twitter
  4. Question posts. Pose a question to your audience or provide direct answers to their questions. How Do I Monetize My Blog (Or Podcast)?
  5. Heart-to-heart posts. Share your deepest, most heart-felt stories and experiences with your audience. An Open Letter to Writers Struggling to Find Their Courage

Include infectious agents

Next, identify what feelings and emotions are appropriate to your blog post and your audience. You need to include an infectious agent that triggers your reader’s emotions. Here are some examples of infectious agents that will engage your reader’s heart and mind:

  • Awe
  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Joy
  • Lust
  • Surprise
  • Shock

Use these 3 key steps for crafting blog posts and headlines

First of all, decide what format of post you are writing. Secondly, identify what main emotional agents (from the list above) are appropriate for your post. Thirdly, figure out what storyline will work the best. That is to say, what reward are you promising your reader? What value will your content provide? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I solving a problem for them?
  • Are you preventing them from doing some wrong?
  • Does this post provide useful resources and information to help them decide or research further?
  • Do I provide instructions or help on how to do something?
  • Am I inspiring or motivating my readers?
  • Am I sharing an emotional, heart-felt story or challenge that they can relate to?
  • Or do I want to engage their curiosity, sense of fun, mystery and adventure?

In short, once you have completed these three steps, you can craft a blog post and headline that will capture your beloved reader’s attention and encourage them to share your content. To sum up, you want to craft the perfect headline to grab their attention and go viral.

9 tips to fix your headline headaches and heartaches

1. Know your audience. 

Do your research to find out what their interests are. Speak to them using their words and how they talk. Keep your customer persona guide handy. Follow your industry influencers on and offline to stay current. “The headline can select the right audience for your ad and screen out those readers who are not your potential customers.”—Robert Bly, The Copywriter’s Handbook

2. Be relevant.

Write about what they care about. Delight your audience with something new, unique and engaging. The more specific you are in addressing their greatest fears and desires, the more powerful you will be in attracting and keeping their attention. Delivering bland, same-old, same-old headlines and content is a guaranteed fast bounce away from your blog post and site.

3. Write your headline last. 

Make sure it aligns with your content. Upworthy's well-publicized process suggests writing 25 headlines per blog post. It takes practice to craft a great headline. You may nail it on the first try, or it may take you 25 to write the perfect headline. Read it out loud to make sure it is conversational, not jargony or fuzzy. Test your headlines with Coschedule’s Headline Analyzer.

4. Keep your headline short and sweet. 

Front load your keywords at the beginning of the headline as much as possible. Write your headlines with search engines and social media platforms in mind. 65 to 70 characters is ideal. Google, Bing and Twitter will truncate anything longer in their search results. Preview what your headline will look like with the New Title Tag Preview tool by Moz.

5. Include feelings. 

Keep your headline short and brief if you are appealing with emotionally powerful language. Use powerful positive or negative superlatives to show why your content is worth reading.

6. Use power words. 

As Coschedule says, friends don’t let friends write crappy headlines. I have several power word cheat sheets that I refer to when I get stuck with writer’s block. It happens to the best of us. Use these tools to get unblocked! Coschedule's Power Word Cheat Sheets

7. Provide irresistible benefits or value

Solve their problem, ask a compelling question or tell an engaging story. 

Examples of headline tactics you should try out and test:

  • Solve their problem. Your audience wants fast and easy answers to solve their problems. Headlines that use this tactic start with:
  • How to Train Your Dragon. How to Choose the Right Alternative Health and Wellness Provider for Your Baby. How to Measure the Effectiveness of Online Advertising.
  • The Best Keto Recipes for Top Performance.
  • (X number) tips or ways to…using numbers such as 3, 5, 7, 10, etc. 24 Indispensable Ways to Grow Your Brand’s Social Media Presence.
  • Why You Should Stop Using These Expensive, Ineffective Diet Aids.
  • What If You Could Brighten Your Teeth in 30 Minutes Without Strips or Expensive Dental Visits?
Give advice for improvement.

Show your readers why they should follow your advice. Give them benefits that prove why it’s worth their time. Can they do something better, faster, easier with your help? Add specific numbers and data to back up your headline. Several research studies have shown that headlines with numbers tend to generate 73% more social shares and engagement. Use odd numbers as brain candy. Our brains apparently find odd numbers more believable, according to research from Content Marketing Institute.

  • Stop Eating these 5 Foods to Lose Weight and Regain energy.
  • 7 Healthy Eating Tricks You’ll Actually Want to Try.
  • Don’t Book Your Flight and Hotel Until You Read This.
Catch your reader’s curiosity. 

Our brains are naturally hardwired to be curious. We want to know the technique, idea, tool or information that we don’t know—especially if everybody else knows it! Then it becomes a potent, viral-inducing FOMO (fear of missing out) type of headline and content.

  • Do This One Crazy Thing to Lose 10 Pounds in One Week.
  • Are You Making This Deadly Investment Mistake?
  • Which of These 10 Fashion Goofs Are Making You Look Frumpy and Out-dated?
  • When to Raise VC Money (And When Not to): The Ultimate Guide.

8. Avoid clickbait. 

Be honest and tell your users what’s in it for them. You may fool your readers once by using clickbait, but they will bounce and never return as soon as they realize you’re not delivering the content they were expecting.

9. Learn how to improve your headlines and copy. 

Use a headline analyzer such as Coschedule’s Headline Analyzer. Steal great headline ideas by visiting sites such as Buzzfeed and Upworthy. If your blogging platform supports A/B testing, do it! Finally, take a good copywriting and editing course to sharpen your writing skills. One of my all-time favorites is “The Copy Cure” from Marie Forleo and Laura Belgay. Fun, entertaining and I can use the information over and over and over again.

Additional resources:

Photo by Igor Starkov from Pexels

Featured image by Anamul Rezwan, Pexels

Celebrate National Go for Broke Day

How to go the distance when the going gets tough

Got motivation? Sometimes when the going gets really tough, it is really hard for me to stay focused and keep taking those wretchedly hard baby steps to move forward. I know I need to, but there are so many fun, easy distractions out there. What I call the “ooh, shiny” syndrome—especially on those days where I’m tired from busting my ass and I’d rather be watching funny cat videos. Sometimes the difficulty and resistance come from my being stuck in fear, and not admitting that I don’t want to deal with it.

Here are some of my favorite tactics I learned from masters of motivation that really do work.
Tactic #1. 
Tackle the really big rocks first. And then reward yourself handsomely for taking care of them.

This one I learned from T. Harv Ecker’s seminars where he tells people to put a pile of rocks, smaller stones and sand into a container. All of it. Everyone takes a shot at filling the container, with hilariously messy results. The secret? Put the big rocks in first. Then add the smaller rocks to fill the gaps around the big rocks. And finally add the sand to fill in all the remaining cracks. Presto, a nicely filled container with no messy overflow.

Harv’s lesson? Each week, pick your top 3 big rocks, and work your butt off to get them done and crossed off your to-do list. I now have a monthly calendar whiteboard in my office that lists my 3 big rocks that I want to take care of, and the rewards for knocking them off the list.

This week my biggest priorities are finishing a marketing plan for a high-profile community project, nailing my new opt-in offers (my current module from Marie Forleo’s B-School program) and getting my newsletter out on time. ARGGGGH. I have a great list of ideas on how to use content I already developed. Now I get to actually do the work of repurposing the content. Not so much fun, and I am going to need some really fun carrots to bust through this rock. NO - make that lots of dark, rich chocolate.

Tip: find an accountability buddy to help you stay on track, provide lots of “atta boys,” “atta girls,” "atta theys" or "atta whatevers." I have two business partners-in-crime that are tough mothers, and a great FaceBook support group for Marie’s program. It’s like having kick-ass fitness workout partners for my business.

Tactic #2.
Fear busting.

Ask yourself honestly what’s holding you back. Lots of times I have big, hairy goals that I set for myself, and I scare myself to death just thinking about them. Smack the little voices inside your head that aren’t helping you move forward. These little voices are fear-based, and they are not interested in the least to help you become happy and living in positive energy. I have a friend who has even named all of her inner critics. I think I have twins for some of hers. “Negative Nellie.” “Numbing Norma.” “Good-enough Gertie.” “Judgmental Judy.” Whenever these diabolical hooligans start popping up and attempt to derail me, I know it’s time to “patronus.”

As in Professor Lupin’s training on how to summon my own protective, good energy to disperse my negative thoughts and get me back into the positive zone. These gremlins especially like to attack after setbacks, snafus and receiving negative feedback or criticism. Sometimes it’s hard being a human being. Use whatever weapons you have at hand to fend them off. Some of my favorite tactics include:

  • meditation for energy clearing and grounding
  • reviewing my big hairy, audacious goals to get me pumped up again (creative idea time with my vision or dream board is especially happy)
  • taking a time-out break with a favorite friend or family loved one at my beloved Umbria Café in the Pearl District. Bella vita!
  • going for a walk in a favorite park or working in my garden. My reward this Sunday is to visit Portland’s Japanese gardens now that the cherry trees are in bloom.
  • when all else fails, I take a bubble bath with a favorite book. No interruptions until my batteries are fully recharged.

Then get back up on your feet and keep going. Don’t waste your time on the nay-sayers. As my Kung Fu master always said, “Fall down 7 times. Get up 8.”

Tactic #3. 
Focus on what you really want.

This is the bigger picture for tactic #2. I recently completed an exercise from Marie’s B-School program that was a real eye-opener. The assignment was to come up with a comprehensive list of all the products and services that I could offer to help people. I had to account for potential revenue generation and the amount of my time and energy it would take to do. Standard Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) kind of stuff. No big deal—standard MBA school assignment.

However, Marie added two catches to the assignment—ones that no business school even thinks about addressing.

  1. I had to rate each and every item in my spreadsheet on a scale of 1 to 10 for how much joy it would generate in my life.
  2. I had to evaluate where each and every item fit in my long-term plan.

WOW. I suggest that you look at your goals and to-do list with the same mindset as Marie’s. Once I completed these two steps, I had a completely different perspective on what opportunities would be the best fit for me. I am going to revisit these on a regular basis, just to make sure that I am fired up about what I am taking on, and giving myself permission to let go of the things that are no longer serving me.

P.s. – For more help with gremlin-wrangling, check out Rick Carson’s book Taming Your Gremlin.

Other great resources: