It’s rare but, according to Murphy’s Law, it can happen. In a cruel twist of fate, your blog post was ruined by a bad headline.
Somewhere in the content editing and approval process, something broke. Some poor, bleary-eyed and misinformed content marketer ruined your blog post by tacking on an unclickable headline, blasting your post into obscurity. Instead of informing and hooking your reader, your headline was rendered useless by keyword stuffing, ambiguity, boringness, and other headline killers.
Or, maybe it’s your own fault — the headline you chose was actually an iceberg, dead ahead, that you just couldn’t manage to steer around before your content nicked it.
Don’t let your headline sink your content ship. Here’s how to save good content from bad headlines.
Level up your social play
You might not be able to change your headline, but thanks to social media that shouldn’t stop you from getting the traction your post deserves.
When promoting on social, don’t just post the headline of your article and the link — that’s boring, and if your headline sucks, it will do absolutely nothing for your content.
Post it with a better headline or the one you originally wanted to use. Or include a witty quip that will cut through the social noise and make people want to read more. There are plenty of angles you can take on social — asking a question, including a stat or quote, creating a curiosity gap — leverage the angles that you know your audience will enjoy, and be sure to stick to best practices per platform (e.g. no hashtags on LinkedIn).
If you have social sharing buttons on your blog (which, you should), program them to share something other than your headline, such as the same witty quip, question or quote. Or, include Click to Tweet links within your content to facilitate sharing that excludes your headline.
Don’t forget to accompany your social post with a compelling image! Which brings me to my next point…
Up your visual game
“Wow, what a remarkable stock photo!” — said no one ever.
Like headlines, you may have little control over your visuals. But when you do have control over visuals (for instance, in social posts), you’d better make them good.
And don’t forget about GIFs — sure, there’s a time and place for animations, but they might give you the click-boost you need when your headline has left your content in dire straits.
Turn it into a conversation
Put the cart before the horse — use the topic of your blog to start or participate in an interesting conversation in an online community, then refer to the post as backup.
If you establish your authority by leading with your knowledge, readers are less inclined to be deterred by a boring headline.
Don’t let the information you compiled in your content go to waste. After all, you put it together to help resolve a pain point. Start or look for conversations on communities like Reddit, GrowthHackers, Quibb or Quora, and use your post’s info to fuel the conversation.
Recycle, repurpose, republish!
So your blog post got annihilated by a headline. So what?
Time to whip out the three R’s of content marketing. Again, don’t let your hard work go to waste — repurpose your ideas into a new content format or a few more social posts to get your good idea out there.
If the body of your content served the purpose of resolving one of your buyer persona’s pain points, then you should be repurposing anyway, regardless of whether your headline sucks or not. Try transforming it into a SlideShare, an eBook, a few smaller blog posts, or even a video. If you need more content repurposing ideas, this post from CoSchedule is a great place to start.
Republishing is another great way to save your post from a crappy headline. When you republish your content on LinkedIn, Social Media Today, Business2Community or Medium, you have the opportunity to re-title your post. The audience may vary from who it was originally written for, but at least you walk away with a new headline victory.
Enhance your content experience
A good headline is often the gateway to a good content experience. But even if the entrance is shifty, the experience can come to the rescue.
The best way to think about constructing a content experience is to think about IKEA. Imagine how terrible the IKEA shopping experience would be if they just dropped you in a pile of furniture. Fortunately, that’s not how it is at all — IKEA provides a clear engagement path that makes the experience easy and delightful. Unbeknownst to you, you go exactly where they want you to go and ultimately end up at the checkout.
Create an engaging content experience by organizing your content strategically, incorporating responsive design, and including targeted and contextual call-to-actions. Even if your reader wasn’t so sure about your content upon clicking your shaky headline, a solid content experience could convince them to stick around and ultimately convert.
Don’t let it happen again
Sometimes you don’t have control over the fate of your headlines. But when you do, make sure you have a process in place to generate great headlines, every single time.
At Uberflip, we practice the Upworthy method of headline brainstorming. Not only do we end up with a number of options to find the best headline possible, we also get several opinions to weigh in before we choose the best option.
If you have the time and resources, sleep on it before making a decision. Or, run your ideas by someone on your team to get a second (or third) opinion.
The bottom line: Allocate an appropriate amount of time to brainstorm headlines. It could help save time in the long run (as you won’t have to perform any of this headline damage control that I’m talking about), and it will help improve the performance of your content.
No more third-wheel headlines
Headlines are the wingmen of content marketing. They should help their content brothers score with their audience, enticing readers to find out what your content is really made of.
When your headline becomes less of a wingman and more of an awkward third-wheel, loitering aimlessly and interrupting your content game, then Maverick, we have a problem.
Create wingman headlines and watch your content win!