Sure you have a lot to say in your mat release or blog post, and several hundred words to get your message heard (or several hundred pixels in the case of an infographic), but don’t underestimate the importance of a great headline — which may very well be the hardest working words of your content marketing campaign.
Editors and readers sift through a lot of content before deciding what to publish or what to read. That said, your headline must grab their attention. And, when it comes to SEO, it also needs to grab the attention of a search engine!
In the case of mat releases, just because your story gets selected for publication does not mean the job is over for the headline. In order to drive endgame results, it then needs to be eye-catching and appealing to the outlet’s readership, too.
The most successful headlines tend to be straightforward, generalized and snappy — under 65 characters (including spaces) is best. Remember, this is not where you want to tell the whole story or get too specific. Editors are playing a numbers game and they want to appeal to as wide a readership as possible, so think broad, not narrow. Of course, there is still room for creativity in a headline — after all, you do want your content to stand out from the pack.
Above all, your headline must be easily understood in a fast-paced world where your target is bombarded with tons of headlines at a furious pace. If an editor or reader can’t instantly tell what your story is about from its headline, he or she will likely just move on to the next headline that is self-explanatory. An opportunity lost for you is one potentially gained for your competition.
In many cases, a timely angle to your headline and content is going to help you get wider coverage. Work ahead to give long-lead editors plenty of time to plan, so they can actually get your story into their publication or special supplement.
These days, you may also be looking to align your headline’s wording with your SEO strategy. This is a great idea when you are executing a content marketing campaign designed to earn you hundreds of online media placements. If you’re working with a content marketing service, talk to their professionals about how you can include your top SEO keywords or phrases in a headline that’s still compelling. You don’t want to become a slave to your SEO software , however, by overloading your headline with keywords and catchphrases. Having done tens of thousands of stories, blog posts and mat releases, they should be a great resource for advice and information on headlines that will and won’t work, and will likely be happy to brainstorm several options from which you can choose.
Remember to give your headline extra consideration: a smart headline will further the goals of your content marketing campaign in just a few words.
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