July 20, 2010
Your website’s content will get noticed, get read and get customers if you use your headline and first paragraph to let readers know what is in it for them. Here I’ll introduce you to some techniques you can use to make that happen.
This article is an edited version of a chapter of Wordtracker’s The Website Content Recipe Book – 21 irresistible content ideas to wow visitors and boost your search engine optimization
Never Stop Marketing – Every Page is a Marketing Page
Visitors may first enter your site through almost any page. And for various reasons no matter what you do, many will not read more than one page. Therefore, to maximize response you must treat every page as a marketing page. So add adverts to where they will be seen – a subject I plan to write about next week (look for ‘How to make your articles sell’).
But only a small percentage of readers will respond when first seeing even quality adverts. You’ll have to work a bit harder for the rest of your readers. You’ll have to use your pages’ content to make them consider a marketing offer (perhaps another day). You must prove that you (and your brand) are expert at delivering what’s wanted, and can be trusted. To do that, your page must first be read.
Who is Your Site for… and What Do They Want?
When you’re busy creating content, it’s easy to forget that your website exists to sell your products and services to particular groups of people. And even if you would never forget such a thing – can the same be said for everyone who writes for you?
As well researched and expert as you are in your field, it can be hard to put yourself in the position of your targeted visitors who, when they come, will spare just a few seconds to find a reason to read the content.
When constructing an argument or presenting a product, it seems logical to first present the building blocks of your case before giving the end result. The end results should be something that will make your readers’ lives better. But…
People Buy Benefits Not Features
If you want readers to read on, you must spell out the benefits before describing and explaining the features.
Features are the characteristics of what you’re selling. Benefits are the things that those features will do for you.
For example, people don’t buy light bulbs for features like being long lasting, bright and cheap. People buy light bulbs for benefits like saving money or the planet and helping them do things in what would otherwise be darkness.
Your Headline is the Most Important Part of Your Content
If your headline does not promise something of interest, then your article won’t get read and you’ll struggle to sell. This is because most visitors arrive at a page, read a headline and then make a decision to stay or go.
Also, if a page is linked to from elsewhere on your own site or others then your headline is likely to be used for the link. When reading headlines, potential readers are looking for what a page might do for them. They are looking for benefits and if your headline does not deliver, they are gone.
Here are a few guidelines for headline writing:
- Promise benefits – tell readers what the content will do for them.
- Don’t be clever or obscure and don’t make the reader think too much.
- Don’t be ironic because most readers won’t know you are being ironic.
- Don’t force readers to read the story in order to understand the headline.
- Try asking a question about a problem and entice with the solution.
For a masterclass in headline writing, try Wordtracker’s recent eight-part headline writing course by Sean D,Souza, a master of the craft.
Your First Paragraph is the Second Most Important Part of Your Content
Make your first paragraph (aka the lead or the standfirst) as succinct, clear and uncluttered as it can possibly be.
If a visitor has been interested enough in your headline to read on, the next thing they will read is your opening paragraph where you have to give the same benefits with a little more detail.
You can’t explain everything with your first paragraph. So find the most important idea you want to put across, explain what it is and perhaps begin to elaborate on it.
For example, this article’s lead is:
“Your content will get noticed, get read and get customers if you use your headlines and first paragraphs to let readers know what is in it for them. Here we’ll introduce you to some techniques you can use to make that happen.”
It starts with a benefit:
“…get noticed, get read and get customers…”
…and then comes a summary of how to achieve that:
“…if you use your headline and first paragraph to tell readers what is in it for them”
Then the second sentence repeats the benefit with some detail about how this will be achieved:
“…we’ll introduce you to some techniques you can use to make that happen”.
Hopefully we’ve achieved what this first paragraph set out to do and in the future no visitors to your site will leave without you having done everything you can to get them to read on and reach your marketing.
You’ll find more about how to use effective headlines in your marketing – as well as loads more website marketing tips and ideas in Wordtracker’s Website Content Recipe Book – 21 irresistible content ideas to wow visitors and boost your search engine optimization. YES, please tell me more about The Website Content Recipe Book.