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Headlines that appeal to machines

March 13, 2008

I’m a copywriter. Thus, I’m intimately familiar with the value of a headline in good advertising. ‘Good advertising’ is debatable term, and the debate is always better over beers. However, for our purposes today, it means the headline does two things: it gets the communication noticed while carving out a position. If you remember an ad but forget the product, then the ad did the first one well, but didn’t accomplish the second one. It’s a fine line between ‘cutting through’ and cutting through with a point.

That’s why we count on headlines (and why headlines should compliment a visual, not repeat it). A good headline gets people to read copy. And if you think that people don’t read copy anymore, that’s because so many of the headlines in ads these days don’t inspire anyone to read copy (another topic to take up over beers).

A good headline on a website (or a blog) does the same without pictures. It entices people to read more.

But then, as the headline said, this post is about machines.

Consider: the web is the only marketing medium where the copy also has to impress machines. If you’ve ever watched an SEO person talk about search marketing, then you understand what ‘impress machines’ means. A web site is trying to keep people all the while trying to use words that attract spiders.

But wait, there’s more.

In the blogospere, the headline of the blog entry becomes the page’s title. And the page title sits rather heavily in the search criteria for organic search. Thus, the headline of a blog entry has to:

  1. Get noticed.
  2. Make a point that gets people to keep reading
  3. Have enough keywords to attract a spider, but not too many to complicate 1 & 2.

Crikey.

Soon, many or all of our clients might consider blogging. And they will consider doing it themselves. If that happens, ask them if they know how to impress people, while at the same time, impressing machines. If they have no idea what we’re talking about, there’s a chance you’ll get the business — which is a nice piece of business because it’s almost daily work.

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