25 Easy Headline Hacks That Get You More Clicks

25 Easy Headline Hacks to Get You More Clicks, commahound.comLet’s say you’ve spent hours – days, possibly – laboring over your copy. Maybe it’s the landing page for your new course. Or the blog post that you’re sure is going to go viral. Whatever it is, you’ve put your heart and soul into it.

Finally, the big day arrives, you hit “publish” and…nothing happens. Silence. Not even crickets are chirping.

You don’t understand it. Your copy’s amazing. What went wrong?

Before you start all over, take a good, hard look at your headline.

The headline is the first thing people read. It’s what gets their attention. It determines whether someone reads your copy and then whether they decide to share what you’ve written.

David Ogilvy, who many consider the father of modern advertising, said:

On average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent 80 cents of your (advertising) dollar.

Yes, headlines are THAT important. And yet, many people overlook them because they’re kind of a pain in the tuckus to write well.

Luckily, there are some simple hacks you can use to create a compelling headline. Yes, they’re formulaic but they’ve been proven to work time and again. Why reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to?

SECRETS OF…
Why it works: We all love to be in on someone else’s secrets!

1. The secrets of ______________ that ______________ doesn’t want you to know.

2. The top secrets of the best _________________.

3. Secret ways to _________________.

4. The secret that your _________________ isn’t telling you.

5. The secret _________________ that only the pros know.

MISTAKES
Why it works: Most of us hate making mistakes and want to avoid them.

6. Are you making these _________________mistakes?

7. The biggest mistakes you’re making with _________________.

8. Avoid these common mistakes when you _________________.

9. Don’t make this mistake when you _________________.

10. You’re probably making this _________________ mistake and don’t even know it.

PAIN POINTS
Why it works: It’s human nature to want to avoid pain or discomfort.

11. Warning signs that you may be _________________.

12. What you must know to avoid _________________.

13. What you don’t know about _________________ can hurt you.

14. Finding a good _________________ isn’t as easy as you think.

15. If you’re going to _________________, read this first!

NUMBERED LIST
Why it works: Promises value in an easy-to-consume format.

16. 20 ways to _________________.

17. The top 10 best _________________.

18. 3 easy steps to _________________.

19. 100 reasons to _________________ today!

20. The 27 things you need to know about  _________________.

HOW TO…
Why it works: The enticement to learn something new is almost irresistible!

21. How to _________________ in 10 minutes a day.

22. A step-by-step guide to _________________.

23. How to be _________________ without even trying.

24. How to use _________________ to _________________.

25. Learn to _________________ so that you _________________.

BONUS HACK

After you’ve created your headline, run it through CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer to test how strong it is and then tweak as necessary. Want to take it a step further? If possible, do an A/B split with your audience to see what resonates most strongly with them.

Your turn: Do you have a favorite headline hack? Tell me about it in the comments!

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5 Super Easy Ways to Make Sure Your Copy Gets Read

5 Super Easy Ways to Get Your Copy Read from commahound.com

Psst! I have a secret to share but I’m going to need you to lean in. Closer. Clooooser.

Okay, here it is…

Shocking, right?

Don’t get me wrong. The words are important. They get attention. They paint a picture. They create desire.

But just as important is how the words look when they’re laid out.

Good copywriters understand this and they use tricks to keep the eye moving down the page.

Here are 5 super easy ways to make sure your copy gets read:

1. Bulleted or Numbered Lists
This is a great way to break up long copy into something that’s more easily consumed by your reader. It draws the eye by promising they’ll receive information that can be quickly scanned and absorbed.

2. White space
Repeat after me: “White space is my friend.” It is the literary equivalent of breathing room. Whenever possible, make sure you leave plenty of room both in the margins and in the body copy.

3. Short sentences and paragraphs
We’ve all been there. You land on a website that’s wall-to-wall words with long sentences and paragraphs that never seem to end. The thought of having to slog through all those words exhausts you before you’ve even started to read. Breaking up long passages makes it easier on your reader and helps keep them engaged.

4. Subheadings
If you have a lot of information to convey, break it into sections and add subheadings. This lets the reader scan through the copy to find what she needs to know to make a decision.

5. Italicized, underlined or bolded words
These devices let the reader recognize, simply by scanning, the most important info on the page. After you write your copy, be sure to test it by only reading the emphasized words. Then ask yourself if the words make sense and convey the right tone or message.

Your turn: Which of these is your favorite when reading or writing? Are there any I left out? Tell me in the comments.

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Want free publicity? 3 tips for a better press release

Something you may not know about me: I write a just-for-fun blog from the viewpoint of my pets. (What? That’s not crazy, right?)

In the last five years of writing the blog, I have somehow (through no real intention of my own) become part of the pet blogger “influencer” sphere. Because of this, I get more press releases than I care to count from companies wanting me to help promote them.

And you know what happens to most of them? They go straight to the trash.

Why? Because there’s nothing in it for my readers or me. 

Generally, these press releases are long advertisements, announcing the newest product, the newest hire, the newest…whatever. And they’re boring. So, so, SO boring.

If I…one itty bitty blogger…don’t find these press releases worthy of publishing, why would an actual media outlet?

Press releases can be a powerful tool in promoting your business. They lend legitimacy to your product or service and can get you free advertising (yes, please!) That’s why it’s so important to do them correctly.

So what’s the secret to a good press release? Make it newsworthy.

In my past position as a corporate copywriter, I put together many, many press releases. Most were targeted to our local news outlets and most were almost always picked up by at least one, usually more. Here’s what worked for me:

3 Tips for Writing Better Press Releases from commahound.com

 

1. Don’t announce your announcement

If I had a nickel for every press release I received that began, “XYZ Company Announces Its Brand New Dog Food,” I’d be rich. Most outlets view these types of press releases (and rightly so) as thinly disguised advertisements. Unless you’re Apple Computers, they’ll probably pass them by.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t make an announcement. Just do it in a more interesting, creative way.Think about what you enjoy reading about in the paper or online. Most people gravitate toward hard-hitting news, editorials or human interest stories. When crafting your press release, look for an interesting hook. Do you give back to animal rescue? Did your company help with disaster relief? Has your product been shown to increase pets’ longevity or reduce separation anxiety? Those are the types of stories that outlets will consider newsworthy and be more likely to pick up.

2. Write like a journalist

Media outlets always need stories to fill airtime or column inches. And the less work they have to do, the better. If they can pick up your story verbatim, they’re only too happy to do it.

Make it easy for them by writing it in good old-fashioned journalism style. Stick with the “five Ws and an H”: who, what, when, where, why and how.Quotes from executives, customers or others involved in the story tend to make a press release both more newsworthy and interesting. But don’t insert a quote just to have a quote. Make sure it adds to the story.

3. Keep it short

When you’re really excited about something, it can be hard to pare it down to just the essentials. But you’ll increase your chances of your press release being picked up if you keep it to one or two pages at most (around 300-800 words).

Sometimes media outlets have a very small space to fill, so they may only pick up a paragraph or two. Therefore, make sure the essential information is towards the beginning of the release. A good rule of thumb is to read the first paragraph only. Does it stand alone? If so, you’re in great shape!

Your turn: Have you ever used press releases in your business? How did they work for you? Any tips or tricks you’d like to share? Tell me in the comments below.

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What You Need to Know about Breaking the Rules of Grammar

grammar-hammer-rules

Last month, I covered 10 grammar mistakes to avoid so that you make a good first impression on prospects and customers.

I also shared the post on LinkedIn and was surprised how many read it and gave positive feedback. Apparently, this is something people worry about and want to improve upon. And that’s GREAT. I’m thrilled that so many found it helpful.

At the same time, it made me uncomfortable.

Because here’s the thing: Rules — yes, even grammatical ones — are meant to be broken.

In The Elements of Style, the quintessential guide book to all things writing, the authors advise writers to “write in a way that comes naturally to you, using words and phrases that come readily to hand.”

In other words, if you don’t talk like Shakespeare, you don’t have to write like Shakespeare.

Actually, Shakespeare is a terrible example. He made up his own grammatical rules, along with entirely new words, all the time.

So on second thought, maybe you should write a little more like Shakespeare.

But before you grab your grammar hammer and start smashing rules willy nilly, you must have a firm grasp of what the rules are to begin with. Then, you should have a rock solid reason for breaking them.

For example, most of us, when speaking, end sentences with prepositions. So when you’re writing, it’s totally okay to end your sentence in a preposition if it makes the sentence easier to understand.

Being easy to understand is critical. If prospects can’t quickly grasp what you’re selling or why they need it, they won’t buy. Period.

So be clear. Be concise. And if that means breaking the rules sometimes, get out the grammar hammer and start smashing.

Your turn: What’s one grammar rule you frequently break and why do you do it? Tell me in the comments.

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Make a Good Impression by Avoiding These Common Grammar Mistakes

Photo credit: imnotrightinthehead.com

Photo credit: imnotrightinthehead.com

Ugh! Grammar Nazis. Don’t you just hate ‘em?

Oh, you used “your” instead of “you’re.”

Did you mean to put that apostrophe there?

How can you not know the difference between lie and lay?

Really, it’s just exhausting. And the quickest way to bring them out is to make a minor error on a blog post or a Facebook status. The Grammar Nazi Sharks really start circling then (now there’s an image for you).

As a copywriter, people just assume that I’m judging their character and worth based on their spelling, punctuation and grammar. Case in point: here’s a book my sister bought me as a gag gift for Christmas. Well, I think it was a gag gift anyway.

judge

But this couldn’t be further from the truth…honest! Everyone – including me – makes mistakes now and then. It’s just going to happen. And, listen carefully now, that doesn’t mean you’re a bad person.

However, the fact remains that first impressions are important. And in this day and age, when impressions are often made online rather than in person, it’s wise to pay extra attention to spelling, apostrophes and commas. Too many mistakes in your writing can lead people to believe that you are unprofessional or take a lackadaisical approach to your business.

To help you out, here are 10 of the most common grammar mistakes I see in writing. When proofing your work, check for these before you publish and you’ll be well on your way to making a great first impression!

Avoid these common business writing mistakes.

  1. Apostrophes (or not)
    With very few exceptions, apostrophes are only used in contractions (can’t, don’t) or to indicate possession (the cat’s collar). Never use an apostrophe in a plural (a collar for cats).
  2. A lot, not alot
    Alot is not a word. Confession time: this tripped me up for years. But then I read something that helped me get it straight. You wouldn’t write “abunch,” “alittle,” or “adog.” So don’t write “alot.”
  3.  Loose and lose
    “Lose” means that you can’t find something. “Loose” means something is not tight or is free from constraint. If your dog darts out the door, he’s gotten loose. If you don’t catch him right away, you might lose him.
  4. They’re, their and there
    “They’re” is the contraction of “they are.” “Their” is possessive (meaning it belongs to others). “There” means that something is elsewhere.
  5. Its and it’s
    This is another one that trips me up. “It’s” is always the contraction of it is. (It’s a nice day out.) “Its” is the possessive of “it.” (I love its color.) Which means that “its” is one of those exceptions when it comes to apostrophes indicating a possessive. SO confusing!
  6. Do’s and don’ts
    This is not a hard and fast rule. But according to AP Style (which many writers use), the correct use of the apostrophes in this case is as you see above. Another one of those exceptions to the apostrophe rule.
  7. Who and that
    “Who” refers to a person (the person who gave me your name) and “that” refers to a thing (the necklace that my mother gave me). Now, in the pet industry, I personally think there’s an exception to this rule. When referring to an animal, it should technically be “that.” But I almost always write and say, “who.” So sue me, Grammar Nazi Sharks.
  8. Quotation marks
    It may seem counterintuitive but periods and commas should go within the quotation marks at the end of a sentence, not outside of them. For example: I thought it was funny how she said the word, “olive.”
  9. Affect versus effect
    “Affect” means to influence and is usually used as a verb. (The trainer affected my dog’s behavior immediately.) “Effect” is typically used as a noun and refers to a result. (The effect on my dog’s behavior was immediate.)
  10. Irregardless
    This isn’t a word. Period. End of story. Please don’t use it ever. Use “regardless” instead.

I hope this helped! If you have questions about any of the above – or if I left out any of your particular pet peeves – please share with me in the comments below.

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3 Big Things I’ve Learned About Marketing from Michael Port

michael port mentoring program

At the live event! (Can you find me?) // Photo credit: Ana Melikian

When it comes to marketing, do you sometimes feel like you’re shouting into the wind? You know you have a great product or service but you’re having a tough time being heard?

I did, too.

Then six months ago, I joined a group mentoring program led by Michael Port of Book Yourself Solid fame.

If you haven’t read the book, I can’t recommend it enough. We all know the pet industry is highly competitive and the thoughts, ideas and system he suggests can help give you the edge, whether you’re a solo entrepreneur or a large corporation.

I first picked up the book a couple of years ago. Then in January of this year, I took a four-week intensive on the Book Yourself Solid system. A couple of months after that, I decided the next best step was to join his mentoring program.

It was absolutely, 100 percent, no-doubt-about-it the best thing I’ve done for my business up to this point. I find myself living my dream of working with smart, successful, amazing clients with good hearts who respect my abilities and what I have to bring to the table. It’s both exhilarating and a little surreal.

One key aspect of the mentoring program is the opportunity to attend three live events a year. I just returned from my third one where, for three glorious days, I had the opportunity to work with Michael, his coaches and the other entrepreneurs who are part of the program.

You might notice that there were a lot of threes in that above paragraph. So continuing with that theme, here are my three biggest takeaways on how to create a life/job/business you love.

1. Have a plan

The entire first day of every live event is spent working on a 90-day plan. The focus is on four main areas: financial, marketing, systems and projects.

Like many people, I’ve always had goals. Mainly vague ones like “get clients” or “make money.” Good goals, yes. But getting specific about what your goals are and then having a plan in place to reach them? Well, that’s where the magic happens.

The shorter time frame of 90 days (versus, say, a year) makes the goals seem achievable and doable. It also identifies the areas in which I might try to do too much. That 90-day window (which is really more like 60 when you take out weekends) forces me to get very clear on the most important things I need to do to move my business forward. All the other things get cut or go on the back burner for now.

Think about your own goals with your business or career. Are they specific and actionable? Do you have a plan with projects and processes that will help you achieve them? If so, great! If not, make the time to put something down on paper in the four areas I mentioned above.

And then remember that just because you have a plan doesn’t mean you should stop planning. As Josh Patrick, one of the expert presenters, put it, “The process of planning is what is important. Are you going in the right direction? Are you testing various scenarios?” While Josh’s area of expertise is in financial planning, the statement holds true for marketing and business plans as well. Planning is active. A plan is passive. The key to making the plan work is to work the plan.

2. Be open and ask for help.

You know the best thing about Michael Port? He surrounds himself with great people. He doesn’t pretend to be an expert at everything. That’s why much of the live event is led by his elite level coaches and other experts. They were all incredibly knowledgeable and helpful, and the information they provided was invaluable.

Even more valuable to me, however, is the support from the other mentorees. The group ranges from those just starting out with only an idea to wildly successful business owners with years of experience. Their professions range from deejays to wealth managers to life coaches. And every single one of them was eager to help, to offer advice, to lend an ear, to give a pep talk.

In both our personal lives and our careers, it can be tempting to try to figure it out all by ourselves. But — breaking news! — we don’t have to! Apparently, there’s an insane number of people out there who want to help you and support you, and who will celebrate your successes with you. All you really have to do is ask. And of course, don’t forget to return the favor whenever possible.

3. Serve who you’re meant to serve.

One of the reasons I was so attracted to Book Yourself Solid is that the system isn’t “salesy.” Michael’s emphasis is on creating connection and serving who you’re meant to serve. When you’re doing what you’re supposed to do, when you’re being helpful to others, when you’re serving who you’re meant to serve, everything else falls into place.

When I started my business, I knew in my heart that I was meant to serve people in the pet industry. But going through this program has shown me why it’s important to serve who you’re meant to serve. It’s the why that gets me up every day. It’s the why that makes me work incredibly hard for my clients. It’s the why that makes every bump and challenge along the road worth it.

So what’s my why? Why the pet industry? Because almost to a person, folks in the pet industry have remarkably good hearts and they truly want to make a difference for pets and their people. They get into this industry because they understand the important role animals play in our health and happiness. And above all, they’re determined to make their little corner of the world better.

I honestly believe I work with the best people in the best industry in the world, and I feel so blessed and privileged to be part of it.

Your turn: Why do you do what you do? Who are the people you’re meant to serve? Tell me about it in the comments!

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