How Marty Weintraub got me to click

Marty Weintraub needs to blog more. If only to jump start my brain in the morning. He has an excellent post at the moment called, Drive 28,402 Extra Visitors by Blogging for 48 Minutes. When I see a headline like that I think “yeah yeah yeah, nice linkbait.” And then I read it.

Lets deconstruct that last sentence, because something very interesting is going on. I see it a lot lately in blog posts about linkbait where they simply label linkbait as a trick. It is not a trick, it’s a promise.

When I read Marty’s title, it promised me something. I don’t think I was consciously aware of what the promise is. I know I registered “Extra visitors by blogging” and that is what caught my attention. But a deeper force drove me to read the article, probably my sub-conscious giving me a kick and yelling, “this can help you with your goals“.

This is why headline writing is tricky, the correct usage of an effective title creates a response in the brain that is incredibly complex and is impossible to backward engineer. What I mean is you cannot set up a mathematical model that would replicate the positive response rate, which is why headline writing software is a joke.

What can seem like a simple headline, may be something that has taken hours to create. Some of the time has to be spent to get you into a state of mind. I’m not talking about sitting cross legged on your kitchen floor with incense burning and the sound of crashing waves on the stereo. I mean you have to be in the right frame of mind, the right mood, to reach down into the parts of your mind and pull out a bunch of words that can illicit the correct response.

You may say I am thinking about this too much, that you never have problems coming up with great headlines. Well that may be because you are in the correct state of mind more than you think.

When writing a headline I feel I have to prepare, I have to make sure I have a chunk of time to devote to the dark art of headline creation.

A great headline is one that makes you click, you may even hate it, but if you click, it works. And this is what some people don’t understand, they think that the headline is rubbish because they don’t like it. And yet they read the article.

Headlines are not the story, they are the promise of the story.

Comments

  1. says

    For me Lyndon, that headline in isolation makes me think yeah right whatever! The fact that you referenced it gives it credence, I dont know Marty from adam, but I do know.

    The danger in using a headline like that is that if the article is a pile of shit, then I’ll quite possibly remember the url or the brand or the guys name as something to avoid in the future.

    IOW – whilst a click is a click is a click, the end result and what people do in their heads once they land on the click target, is far more important.

    Chicken and eggish? Yeah a bit, if you dont have the bait, then you wont get hooked,but if the fish grabs the bait and finds it to be distasteful, then it might just spit it out before the hook is lodged

    Great headlines are great headlines, yet without a little subtance beneath they aint worth a cold cup of the proverbial.

    I guess Im trying to make the point that whilst headlines matter, it also depends on the platform on which they sit. A headline on page 1 of goog Y! or mSn will be far more attractive than one buried on page 5.

    Anyhow, thanks for making me think too much ;)

  2. says

    Headlines definitely take up a fair bit of my time when I’m writing an article. Gotta throw in the right keywords while making sure its enticing enough.

    BTW, I’m writing this comment in my Google Reader. How cool is that. :)

  3. says

    First, thanks for hosting this discussion. Lyndoman is my total headline
    writing hero. His post “65 Headlines to Jump Start your Linkbait” really got
    to me a few weeks ago. We wrote a somewhat unsuccessful post called “Free
    Sex, Viagra, Money, Women, & Beer” right afterwards, which was a cute look
    at headline writing. We incorrectly thought ourselves clever. Suffice to
    say that the content did not keep the promise of the headline…and bloggers
    totally did not care. It got me thinking.

    The post is about maximizing the potential for a content to go viral to the
    stream-of-consciousness where-the-hell-do-I-find-the-time-to-blog life of
    anyone who is NOT Danny, and Barry, and Rand-by using outbound linking as
    invitations dance.

    We could have called the post “Don’t Waste your Time Blogging if You’re
    Stupid” or “3 Critical Techniques to Wring Dollars Out of Blog Posts Now”
    and it would have not been arrogant. The reason is that people like us don’t
    usually talk in public about exact techniques to contact each other and
    communicate with each other (trackbacks, pingbacks, myBlogLog, analytics,
    etc.) is because we are all anonymous literary stalkers and voyeurs. It’s
    valuable for others to know how we think. We learned from reading you guy
    and others.

    We were SO careful in writing “Drive 28,402 Extra Visitors by Blogging for
    48 Minutes.” The SEM community is comprised of journalist-bloggers who are
    absolute masters. The traffic I referenced, while lovely, is insignificant
    to the Rand’s, Barry’s, and Danny’s of the world.

    Still, 28,402 visitors matters to anybody. The reality is that we keep track
    of goals, relating to how long it takes me to blog, as important KPI s for
    our business. Time spent in every part of my day has to pay on average no
    matter how much I love writing. The reality is that it took 48 minutes.

    I was worried that it was flip or arrogant to case study this traffic
    events. That much traffic is not a big deal to the big boys. Still, should
    someone be ashamed to care about 28,402 visitors? I suppose we could have
    included anecdotes about 13 other posts that nobody ever read cared about.
    Someone start a meme about of the WORST 5 headlines of our careers with NO
    outbound links that drove NO traffic.

    I was careful to communicate that blogging is REALLY hard work. In thinking
    about it I realized that there was something important afoot: maximizing the
    potential for a post to go viral to the stream-of-consciousness
    where-the-hell-do-I-find-the-time-to-blog life of anyone who is NOT Danny,
    and Barry, and Rand.

  4. says

    It’s funny how the mind works sometimes. Even if we clearly know its a linkbait we still sorta wanna read what it is all about so that we won’t feel “left out” on information. :)

  5. says

    Same thoughts here, Lyndon. First I thought “oh, great, another bait”, but then I clicked on it, because I got curious. Paraphrasing, “Curiousity killed a SEO” ;)

    I am thinking it is not that blogging is hard work, but it takes effort and practice to produce great posts, no matter if you spend 5 or 500 minutes on it. Just recently, I have written a response to Rand’s post and it only took an hour or two (not 13 minutes, though).

  6. says

    Some of the masters of the dark art of headline writing work for MSN. The three news stories they designate for their “Todays Picks” section have got to be some of the most talked about news stories in the country (I know they are in my office). And nine times out of ten, the story is inconsequential or only vaguely related to the headline. I mean, how else does the country know about the “Dog found 2000 miles from Home”?

    What is great is that they do it with 4-7 words per headline.

    My hometown is blessed to have the greatest BBS you can imagine for a sports team – http://www.clutchfans.net. Diligently moderated, it has definitely helped me hone the art of headline writing. After five years and thousands of posts, you learn what people will read and what they won’t simply by looking at your thread statistics. An awesome education in “How Marty Weintraub got me to click” journalism while chatting about one of your favorite sports teams.

  7. says

    So the “Today’s Picks” right now are:

    Nursing-home cat predicts deaths by cuddling residents

    20 ways sharks aid humans

    What would Jesus drive?

    I can’t make this stuff up.

  8. Lyndoman says

    Jake, headlines are easily 100% of the first step in the battle. It’s not 50/50 with regards to content as people do not consume the content and the headline at the same time and then decide their view.

    The headline is in isolation. It is the only thing people see first. To get to the content the headline must work its magic. Whether or not the content works is another thing. It depends on your goal.

    But the headline is everything in that initial contact and if it’s a bad headline, people will not bite. If you have a low readership, headlines could be where you are weak.

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