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Is Your Blog Post Title Worth a “Watch”?

Since we’ve been focusing on effective titles in my last couple of Say It For You posts, I couldn’t help but notice a certain article in my August issue of Financial Planning. The title reads “A Sector to Watch” and the article by Craig Israelsen is about including commodities in a portfolio to provide diversification as inflation ticks up. I really liked the “soft-sell” quality of that title. The author wasn’t “hawking” commodity funds, or even recommending them. Instead, it felt as if he was simply alerting his financial advisor readers to something that might be worth their attention.

Ryan Scott of HubSpot would describe that Financial Planning title as an “If I Were You” headline.  “When someone tells us how we should do something, we balk,” Scott explains. But when someone offers to show us why we should do something, it appeals to us,” he adds.
The Israelsen article does, in fact, include facts on the performance of commodities in different markets, and does make an argument for handling inflation using that type of investment. It’s the title, though, that caught my blog content writer’s attention, because it pulls back a couple of steps from making any argument, offering the almost casual suggestion that commodities are worth a “watch”.

“The job of a headline is to get people sucked into your ad/article in the first place,” is the advice Kopywriting Kourse offers. “The most important rule of titles is to respect the reader experience.  If you set high expectations in your title that you can’t fulfill in the content, you’ll lose readers’ trust,” Corey Wainwriight writes in HubSpot.

That’s precisely what’s so refreshing about the Israelsen title – it takes a contrarian position, literally ignoring both these pieces of advice. (Reminds me of the Tom Sawyer story, where, rather than persuading his friends to help him whitewash the fence, Tom makes it look like the task is so much fun that they want to participate…).

“Captivating titles are the ones that stand apart from the rest. Great titles aren’t afraid to be a little weird,” observes Ryan VanDenabeele in Impulse Creative. Craig Israelsen’s A Sector to Watch” certainly caught my attention. Is your blog post title worth a “watch”?

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Business Blog Title Threesomes

 

A couple of years ago at Say It For You, I began calling attention to the idea of using certain literary devices in business blog titles with an eye to making them more “catchy”.  In addition to alliteration, a second creative writing technique is “threesomes”. The same Fortune magazine that used those ten alliterative titles I named in my last post also had at least two good examples of the Power of Three:

  1. Introducing MUFG Bank – trusted, global, seamless
  2. Right place, right fit, right now (WorldBusinessChicago.com)
  3. “Real Reliable”, “Real Service”, and “Real Pride” (parts of an advertorial series about the Stihl Company)Like alliteration, The Rule of Three is a language device. We’re all familiar with these examples in which three related words or points presented in quick succession for literary effect:
  •  “Friends, Romans, countrymen”
  •  “I came, I saw, I conquered”
  •  “Of the people, by the people, for the people”

Things that come in threes are more persuasive, Moodle explains. Since we process information using patterns, threesomes make content more memorable.

Some more modern examples include:

  •  Stop, look and listen
  • The good, the bad and the ugly
  • The Olympic motto Faster, Higher, Stronger.

“It’s no accident that the number three is pervasive throughout some of our greatest stories, fairy tales, and myths,” writes Brian Clark of Copyblogger.com. the combination of pattern and brevity results in memorable content, which is why three bullet points are more effective than two or four, Clark adds.

Blog posts, I teach at Say It For You, have a distinct advantage over the more static website copy. Each post can have a razor-sharp focus on just one story, one idea, one aspect of your business, and call for a single action. The single topic focus, though, can be supported by three points.

Alliteration, according to Hubspot, makes text “lovelier to read.”In business blog content writing, threesomes might not add “loveliness”, but they do tend to leave an impression!

 

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In Business Blog Posts, Go Ahead and Mess With Mister In-Between

Duckling lying between two rabbits against white backgroundPeople are drawn to articles with negative titles, points out friend and fellow blogger Lorraine Ball. Why? Because, Lorraine answers, they are afraid of doing something wrong. All too often, she observes, writers take the safe, boring route, choosing a headline that sounds like every other headline.  Instead, she advises trying to be bold, which might mean being negative.

Singer Johnny Mercer (no business blog content writer he!), would have begged to differ.  Remember Mercer’s lyrics?  According to him, we’ve got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative, and avoid messing with Mister In-Between.

Corey Eridon of Hubspot suggests a compromise position:  “There’s an undeniable correlation between page views and negativity,” he points out. “We all know the news has gone the negative route for years, and they do it because it works,” he says. But, he then cautions, “If you’re going to get negative with your titles, you have to back it up with some solid content, perhaps using a shared negative experience to create a bond with your readers.

In many marketing blogs, in fact, the content writers focus on appealing to consumers’ fear.  Fear is one of seven emotions that marketing writer Courtney Mills calls “key drivers” for successful ad copy writing. (Others include greed, guilt, anger, salvation, and flattery.)

Having spent nine years and much effort on blog content writing, one of the questions I continue to ask myself is whether “scare tactic”, or at least negative, marketing is ever appropriate for use in business blog writing.

On the one hand, there’s no arguing with the fact, which Lorraine points out in “Why Your Blog Titles Suck”, that you have mere seconds to capture the attention of a potential reader and get them to decide to spend time reading what you’ve written.

On the other side of things, since the blog represents just one aspect of any company’s  (or any professional practitioner’s) overall marketing strategy, the tone of the blog needs to be consistent with the client’s overall brand. It’s important to appeal to a better kind of customer (you know, the ones who buy for the right reasons and then remain loyal, not those who are “scared” into action.)

Thank you, Lorraine, for forcing me (and my readers) to think about this.  As for me, when it comes to positive versus negative content, I believe I’m going to take a chance on Mister In-Between!
 

 

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