Everyone knows headlines matter in content marketing and every marketer wants to create the most effective headlines possible. That’s not always as easy as it seems like it should be, though, because what works for one type of content, doesn’t necessarily work for another. And with the overwhelming amount of content we all see every day, it’s easy to blur the lines between:
- News, entertainment and corporate content.
- B2C and B2B content.
- Written, video and audio content.
- Web-based, email and print content.
In our work, we often find these blurred lines confusing people, which leads them to spend more time than necessary stressing over headlines and often coming up with headlines that don’t work for their goals, audience and type of content. If you’re a B2B marketer who has been struggling with headlines, here’s what you need to know.
Keyword-Focused vs. Buzzworthy Headlines
Google has changed its algorithm in recent years to reward websites that regularly update with new, high-quality content. This change has ended the days where you could just cram blog posts with keywords and drive traffic to your site. But it hasn’t rendered keywords obsolete.
If you want your customers and prospects to find your content through Google — or any of the other search engines — you still have to include the terms and phrases they’re searching for. And it’s most effective if you include them in your headlines because it’s your headline that shows them the blog post includes something they’re interested in reading and makes them want to investigate further.
Of course humans are naturally curious, so they’re also drawn in by buzzworthy (more creative, flowery) headlines and “click bait” (articles with titles that draw clicks without giving much information about the content in the body). Knowing this, and seeing the wild success so many brands and news sites see with these kinds of headlines, we often talk to clients who want to create more buzzworthy headlines for their content. But there are at least three reasons this usually isn’t the best plan:
- It’s very hard to be both keyword-focused and buzzworthy in one headline. You can succeed at it every once in awhile, but if you try to do so regularly you’re going to waste a lot of time thinking and usually end up with something awkward and contrived.
- Buzzworthy doesn’t match every brand. The best brands are consistent across all the content they create. When B2B companies try to be too clever, the tone often ends up being a bad fit with their brands.
- B2B customers aren’t looking for entertainment. B2B brands don’t need to be strictly serious or boring. In fact, they should be conversational and engaging. Still, B2B customers are looking for information, not entertainment. When B2B blog headlines get too clever, customers may not click because it isn’t immediately apparent the post contains the information they need.
There are some occasions when you may be able to create more clever, buzzworthy headlines for your B2B blog posts, such as when there’s a major industry event, announcement or other relevant news. When these occasions come up, there’s nothing wrong with taking advantage of them, but it’s not productive to put your energy toward creating buzzworthy headlines most of the time.
Headlines vs. Subject Lines
While blog post headlines and email marketing subject lines look a lot alike, they work very differently and require a different approach. As I explained above, blog posts are — in part — a way to help clients and prospects find your website. To serve that purpose, they need to include the keywords and phrases people are searching for.
Email marketing messages, on the other hand, go straight to people’s inboxes. Customers and prospects don’t have to search for them — they just pop up before their eyes. Also, these are people who know your company — at least well enough to have given you their email addresses. The goal of an email marketing subject line is to get recipients to open the message and see what’s inside.
This different goal requires a different strategy and allows more room to be clever and more freedom to leave out keywords. Don’t make the mistake of trying to model your blog headlines off email marketing subject lines or vice versa.
Deception Doesn’t Help
Although there’s more room to be clever and less need to focus on keywords in email marketing subject lines, at no point should you write headlines that deceive your audience. One of content marketing’s most important goals is to build trust with clients and prospects. If you reel them in with a clever headline and the content they find once they click is totally different from what they expected, you’ve hurt your progress toward that goal — and may have broken the trust altogether.