How to Write Emotional Headlines Readers Will Love

Your new blog article may be a masterpiece, but without a good headline, your post is basically dead in the water. There is a lot of competition for your reader’s attention – so you need to grab readers and compel them to click. For copywriters and marketers, that makes writing great headlines a must-have skill.

Luckily, there are some proven formulas for hooking your readers and getting them excited about your content. In this post I’m going to teach you how to write a powerful headline that your readers will love (and click).

Here’s What Makes a Great Headline

Your blog article title or headline is just one ingredient of a great piece of content – but it’s a pretty important one, as it’s the first thing your readers see.

There have been all kinds of studies done on the ideal length of a headline, words most likely to be clicked, words least likely to be clicked, and even capitalization styles. While these structural guidelines are important, capturing the “so-what” in your headline is critical.

A great article headline:

  • Appeals to a specific target persona
  • Demonstrates value – what’s in it for the reader?
  • Is emotional – headlines with positive sentiment perform best
  • Sparks curiosity in the reader – also known as the “curiosity gap”

A number of copywriters also rely on the “four U’s” as rules of thumb for writing great blog and article headlines.

Your headline should be:

  • Unique
  • Useful
  • Urgent
  • Ultra-specific

Did you know that headlines with numbers perform extremely well?

Numbers are scannable, specific, and offer a preview of what’s to come. Headlines like 7 Ways to Groom Your Dog are some of the most-clicked titles on the web.

One more thing – never, ever be click-baity. Don’t promise something your content doesn’t deliver. It’s frowned upon and no one likes to feel duped.

2 Free Tools for Writing Great Headlines

When writing, spend some time with your headline. Rewrite it. Tweak it. Change one word and then maybe change it back. Spend a lot more time than you think you should on writing the best freaking headline you can write.

There are some tools to help you test and make improvements. But the final decision is yours.

CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer

CoSchedule’s free Headline Analyzer is one tool I swear by for testing out different blog post headlines. Paste your headline in the box and you’ll get an instant score, plus a quick assessment of what’s working and what’s not.

Use the suggestions provided to test and retest your headline until you’ve got a score of at least 70 or above.  If your score is above 70, you’ll see a green circle. For lower scores, the circle is yellow or red.

The tool breaks your headline down into types of words contained in your headline:

  • Common
  • Uncommon
  • Emotional
  • Power words

Shoot for a high ratio of emotional and power words to improve your headline.

Results also evaluate the headline’s:

  • Number of characters
  • Number of words
  • Headline type – list, how to, generic
  • Sentiment

Let’s look at the title for the post you’re reading right now.  While testing out headlines, my score jumped 4 points simply by adding the word “powerful”.

Headline Analyzer tells you when your headline is “too wordy”.  According to this tool, headlines between 6 – 8 words get the most clicks.

This headline was a bit too long.

You can also optimize for characters used:

headline analyzer tool for writing great blog headlines

I like to use this tool and then compare against a second free tool.

Writing an email campaign instead of a blog? Check out this email subject line tester. 

Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer

Advanced Marketing Institute’s Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer is not the prettiest. But what it lacks in style it makes up for in insight.

You’ll receive an Emotional Marketing Value  (EMV) score in terms of a percentage, and a breakdown of which types of emotions your headline sparks within your customer.

Here are AMA’s results for one of my headlines:

AMA emotional marketing value score how to write great headlines

Like with the other tool, you can test and test again with different variations. If you’re trying to target a specific phrase, I recommend trying to use the keyword phrase in the title.

Whether you’re a freelancer, SMB, marketing agency, or in-house marketer, content marketing can seem overwhelming or even mysterious at times. But know that you have access to expert support, plus a wealth of knowledge & tools out there. I promise – you’ve got this.

If you have any more questions about writing headlines or content strategy in general, let me know in the comments below, or message me here. And when in doubt, always bring it back to the basics – your customer and your why.

tips for better website and content marketing

8 Things That Will Instantly Make Your Website Better

In today’s marketing world, your website is the North Star of your marketing strategy. All other efforts should orbit around and lead people back to your site.

When someone does land on your company’s website, you have about 5 seconds to capture their attention. In this time, you need to clearly communicate what you do, why you do it, and for who. The best websites are well rounded – visually beautiful, easy to use and with a clear, compelling message.

Essential Website Design Tips for 2019 and Beyond

If your site isn’t there yet, don’t worry!  These tips will help you optimize your website content and design for user experience, SEO, driving traffic to your site, and more…

tips for better website and content marketing
Make your website do more for your business.

Mobile Responsive Design

You probably already know that optimizing for mobile is extremely important. You might even be reading this on a mobile device?

At least 80% of internet users own a smartphone, and users spend an average of 69% of their media time on mobile devices. No joke! Google has even started penalizing sites that aren’t optimized for mobile devices. So, the need for responsive design is more critical than ever.

Together with web development partners at Carolina SEO Consultants, I help companies create mobile responsive sites that look great and communicate value.

Focus on Benefits, Not Features

Have you ever heard the saying “Features tell, benefits sell”? It’s true!

While customers might use features to compare two similar products, what they really care about is how your product (or service) makes their life easier.

Your website copy should focus on what problems you solve for your customers, what tasks you help them accomplish, and how they will feel after using your product or service.

Customers care less about “Advanced safety restraint systems” and more about “Keeping your family safe”. They care less about a “Dual-core 1.4 GHz ARM v8 Typhoon processor” and more about “Surfing the web, faster”!

Learn how I use the Hero’s Journey and StoryBrand frameworks to tell a story of success on your website – a customer-center that focuses on the positive results of your product or service.

Speak Directly to your Audience

You probably know all about creating detailed customer personas. You’ve spent a lot of time nailing down exactly who your target customer is. You know their age, gender, geographic location, income, interests, where they hang out online – all of it. Now that you’ve figured that out, you can speak directly to your target audience.

Replace “we” and “our” with “you” and “your”.

Instead of “Our clients see great results” try “You’ll love the results!

By using second person, or “you”, you’re speaking to the customer one-on-one and allowing them to see themselves at the center of your success story. At the end of the day, customers care less about how great your brand is, and more about what’s in it for them.

Another thing – leave the industry jargon out. They don’t get it and they don’t care. (Remember that thing about benefits, not features?)

Reduce Loading Time

Slow page loading drives users nuts. It may even cause them to jump ship. Section.io reports that just 5 seconds of page load time can cause more than 20% of users to bounce. Whoa. The good news is, having faster pages can increase your website’s conversions by as much as 16.5%.

So how do you achieve a faster site? Google’s free PageSpeed tools will analyze your site, give it a score, and then offer suggestions for improving your load time on both mobile and desktop.

One quick fix is to compress all images using a tool like compressor.io before uploading them to your site. You can also set all external links to open in new browser windows or tabs. And if you’re redoing your site completely, a good web development team will make site speed a top priority.

Create Clear Calls to Action

Sign up now. Get started. Let’s chat. Calls to action like this are a critical part of driving and measuring conversions online. We’re so used to seeing call-to-action buttons, we many not even think about it. But make no mistake, they are super important!

There’s no point in capturing your audience’s attention, getting them all excited about your product, or building trust if they’re not sure what to do next. Make it easy for them to call you, schedule an appointment, or BUY your product.

Calls to actions should contain simple action phrases, and they need to stand out from the rest of the design. If your call to action is “Contact us” or “Get in Touch” it’s best to embed a contact form directly on the page, rather than forcing the user to open an email program in order to send you a message.

Include Social Proof

More and more business takes place directly on the web, without ever meeting your customer face-to-face. But that doesn’t mean people don’t need to vet you or build trust in your brand.

Social proof shows off the great things others have said about you before they book a call, sign up for your email list or click the ‘Buy Now’ button. Social proof in the form of testimonials, client or partner logos, case studies, and more work to reassure potential customers that you actually do what you say you do.

Some experts suggest sprinkling testimonials throughout your site rather than assigning them a specific location. You can add them to the bottom of the home page in a carousel feature, tuck them in around product pages, or put them on your Team page (you do have a Team page, don’t you?). People may not have time to click on a testimonials page, but they will notice testimonials as they cruise through your site.

Blog Consistently

If you want to develop a strong online presence, you need more than just a cool website – you need a website that can be found. Blogs are one of the top ways that new users find their way to a website, if they include the type of content that your potential customers might be searching for.

SEO keyword research can help you figure out what keyword phrases to focus on, and a site like Answer the Public is great for coming up with topics of interest. I’m a big fan of blogs not only for their SEO potential, but their ability to “connect us with our tribe” (thanks Jeff Bullas) and build a loyal following.

Regarding blogs, HubSpot says:

Companies that published 16+ blog posts per month got about 4.5 times more leads than companies that published zero to four monthly posts.

and

Content marketing gets 3X more leads than paid search advertising.

How often are you currently publishing to your company blog?

AnswerthePublic.com – This grumpy old man will help you come up with great topics for your blog.

Make it Easy to Read

Keep readers on your site and engaged with beautiful design – remember that 5 second rule? Along with your clear, compelling message, your site should be easy on the eyes.

Make sure your site is easy to read by including plenty of white space. Whatever you do, avoid huge blocks of text. Long, unbroken chunks of text make people glaze over and zone out faster than you can say “website bounce rate”.

Break your text up with strong headlines and sub-headers. Sub-headers (known in webspeak as “H2s”) are important tools for SEO. They also make your site easy to read or skim and find information quickly. Headlines grab the reader’s attention and tell readers – “Hey! This is important!

Other tools for great web writing and design include:

  • Bullets and numbered lists
  • Short sentences
  • Short paragraphs
  • Color and text variation for keywords, headlines and buttons

If you’re ready to improve your website’s design, readability and sales driving power (or if you still have questions), I’d love to chat!

hero's journey content marketing brand story

How to Improve Your Content Marketing with the Hero’s Journey

You’ve probably heard it before – good marketing is about storytelling. A good story sells products. Your brand needs a story.

“Storytelling” is the content marketing buzzword of the past few years. It’s everywhere from conferences to courses to books – to the point where some marketers are over. it. Over it!

But there’s a reason the trend has resurfaced and will continue to again and again.

It’s simple – ready?

EVERYONE LOVES A GOOD STORY…

Introducing the Hero’s Journey

…and every good story follows a trusted formula. Sorry to take the mystery out of it, but there you have it.

Bestsellers and blockbusters use proven storytelling patterns to pull at your heartstrings, get your blood pumping, and make you care whether the protagonist wins the game or falls on their face.

The Hero’s Journey is a classic formula. The concept is not new (nor is it the only framework out there – more on that in a minute).

This archetypal story pattern is credited to mythologist Joseph Campbell, as described in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces. It was later refined by Christopher Vogler in The Writer’s Journey. In his book, Campbell waxes philosophical about how humans around the world tell versions of the same story, over and over.

Side note: It seems crazy to me that such a broad-sweeping observation can be credited to one person, especially in a world with such long oral traditions – but ok!

A Content Marketing Success Story

I create a lot of websites and write brand copy for clients using this framework. A lot of the biggest and most popular brands also use the Hero’s Journey formula to connect with customers.

We use it because it works.

Don’t believe me? Keep reading.

Let’s talk about shoes for a second.

Nike’s Just Do It. Campaign is a stripped-down version of the Hero’s Journey. It’s what made Just Do It. so infectious (and so profitable). Whoever the ad agency was that came up with this – big high fives all around.

Why does it work? The campaign paints you as the hero.

Just Do It. says that regardless of occupation, age, or gender you can do anything you put your mind to. YOU can do it. The product is just there to help you along your journey to achieving your goals, whatever they happen to be.

just do it storytelling content marketing

A Modern Day Hero’s Journey: StoryBrand

More recently, you may have heard or seen a new version of the Hero’s Journey, re-branded for a modern audience and a new generation of marketers.

Author, speaker and business owner Donald Miller has essentially repackaged the Hero’s Journey, giving it a catchy new name fit for our times – StoryBrand. Or, even more concise and textspeak-friendly, SB7.

While a lot of what Miller says has been said before, he drives the key point home –

CUSTOMERS DON’T CARE ABOUT YOUR STORY – THEY CARE ABOUT THEIR OWN.

With the SB7 framework, Miller focuses specifically on applying the formula to marketing and brand storytelling, as opposed to using it for books and movies. He breaks the formula down into seven neat and easy buckets, making it really easy to execute.

As I said, StoryBrand and the Hero’s Journey are not new, nor do they stand alone.

Plenty of others have stood the test of time. Dale Carnegie is famous for his “Magic Formula”. Problem-Agitate-Solve is a popular strategy for sales copy. And as a former improv comedy geek, one of my personal favorites is the Story Spine.

Developed by professional playwright and improviser Kenn Adams, the Story Spine has since been nicknamed the Pixar Formula. The movie makers have used this format to make billions of dollars and win several awards.

I told you – everyone loves a good story!

The Proven Storytelling Formula

Hero’s Journey, StoryBrand, SB7, call it what you will – following along as a character struggles to be victorious (or fail) is engaging. It draws you in.

Why?

Because we’ve all been there. We can relate.

This format is tried and true, from King Arthur to Star Wars to presidential campaigns.

Here’s how it works:

Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey template contained 17 steps. Donald Miller’s has 7. Another point for StoryBrand.

7 steps to a great marketing story:

7 steps to a great brand story
Image courtesy of StoryBrand.com
  • Character
  • Has a Problem
  • Meets a Guide
  • Who Has a Plan
  • Calls the Hero to Action
  • Which Results In
  • Success

                  OR

  • Failure

Voila! P.S. I hope I haven’t ruined all your favorite movies and books!

Using the Hero’s Journey in Your Content Marketing

At some point, brand marketers must have looked at the box office figures and decided it was time to get in on the action.

And lo and behold, storytelling is the biggest wave in content marketing today. There are entire workshops, books, websites, and coaching programs built around teaching the art of the story.

So how can you use storytelling for awesome and effective content marketing?

If we can go back to Nike for a minute – the key to using the hero’s journey in marketing is this: the customer is the hero – not your brand.

THEY’RE THE HERO. YOU’RE THE GUIDE.

In the classic hero’s journey, the main character (the hero) has a problem which he or she (hopefully) solves.

It’s easy to think your brand should be the main character, aka the hero. But I have news for you – Customers don’t care about your story. They care about their own. (kind of like Donald Miller says in his SB7 pitch).

By positioning yourself as the guide or mentor, you can highlight the benefits, not features, of your product. You can focus on outcomes, aka success for the hero, aka your customer.

Why It Works

“92% of consumers want brands to make ads that feel like a story” 

Seems simple right? It is. And that’s exactly why it works.

Brand storytelling works because stories tap into our emotions. When done right, they make us forget, if even for a moment, that we’re being sold to.

Stories are emotional, and as you probably know, emotions sell (using emotions to sell is a whole ‘nother blog post).

Besides, people are extremely savvy these days and making your brand the hero comes off as icky and stilted.

If you’re ready to tap into the emotional connections created through storytelling and drive your customers to buy, I can help.

I will use the proven Hero’s Journey/StoryBrand formula (or another proven style) to engage your target audience, position you as an expert guide, and get people to click the best of all buttons – the BUY button.

If you want to learn more, shoot me a message! I love to talk shop.

Writing Globally – Travel Industry Copywriting

Lifelong traveler here! I’ve lived on 4 different continents and I am about to call my 6th country home. Early on, I knew I was more than just a tourist. I wanted to be a part of the industry, but wasn’t really sure where I fit in. Recently, I’ve combined my two main passions by working as a content writer for the travel industry.

The travel industry is a great place to be. It’s exciting as a writer because it reaches every corner of the world and has ties to many industries. Not only in tourism sub-markets like airlines, hotels and museums, but also for industries like electronics, beauty products, insurance, clothing and more, travel has a sales impact.

Travel Writing – What I’ve Been Up To

As a travel writer I have experience with businesses from around the world, large and small. Luxury, mid-range or budget, every traveler needs to find information to get where they’re going, and help them make the most of their time there.

 

2018-09-17 (1).png

Luxury Travel Property Descriptions

I was commissioned to create website content such as Company Story and property descriptions for a luxury real estate development in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. These five star luxury residences and vacation homes deserve five-star descriptions that dazzle, impress, and entice.

Neighborhood Guides for Hotels

I love helping travelers discover local activities, food, and experiences near their hotel. As a freelance writer for Arrivedo, I work directly with hotels to create neighborhood guides that attract new guests and improve the experience for current guests.

2018-09-17.png

I’ve recently created SEO-friendly, customized guides for Hotel Eleven in Austin TX and Hotel Carris Porto Ribeira in Porto, Portugal. Your hotel can partner with me too!

Blog Posts & Online Articles

Sometimes I do ghostwriting, which means I don’t always get to publish work under my own name. However, working as a ghostwriter (or “ghostblogger”, as the case may be) for The World’s Most Popular Cruise Line® has certainly been a fun project!

I love writing travel articles like these about exotic destinations including what to expect, best foods to try and souvenirs to look out for – because who doesn’t love looking forward to a vacation? I enjoy getting people excited about their travels and describing all the fun adventures they can get into while on their trip. I learn something along the way and get ideas for my own travels. Win-win!

Guest Posts

On occasion, I’m available to contribute a guest post. In the past, I’ve collaborated with other travel sites and communities to share my experience as a digital nomad and long-term traveler. Areas of expertise include financial planning for travel, solo travel, teaching English abroad, moving abroad, running a business while on the move, making the transition to self-employed or remote work, packing and travel tips, and travel inspiration!

This post for SheHitRefresh.com (a travel community of women over 30 who want to break free and live a life of travel) covers volunteering abroad using Workaway.

Operation Gone

What kind of 21st century traveler would I be if I didn’t have my own blog? See what I’ve been up to the past year and a half…

screen-shot-2018-06-07-at-12-37-17-pm

Still want to see more? Check out some more of my work