If you’re a writer, you need them. But they can often be the bane of our existence. Especially in the legal industry, where we’re trying to balance the technical aspects of legal writing with attention-grabbing catchphrases that can sound a bit trite and silly.
And you want to do all of that in 120 characters or less, so that you can easily share that, plus a link to your content, on all social sites.
Not an easy task!
I read an article today from Jodi Harris with some great tips and tools you can use for creating killer headlines – she clearly understands the need to be professional, while at the same time encourage people to read the important information that you’ve worked so hard to put together for them. After all, what good is creating all of that content if no one is around to read it?
Before we jump into her suggestions, and how they apply to the legal industry, let’s talk for a moment about some of the objections you may have to putting together some more “creative” headlines:
- I’m a serious lawyer. No one is going to take me seriously if I title a legal post with something like “Why Estate Planning is Scarier than Dating Taylor Swift.”: Not true – Although you want the tone of your actual writing to be more professional and less TMZ, of course, the purpose of a headline is to encourage people to read your content. And that’s definitely going to catch their attention. It’s also going to make them think, “hey, this lawyer has a sense of humor, and I’m likely to get information from his writing that I can understand and use. That’s the kind of person I can connect with.” Which will get them to read your work, share it, and come back for more (and hopefully retain you for any future legal needs they have).
If you’re still not convinced, let’s look at an example of a firm that was wildly successful doing this exact thing – they would review episodes of The Office weekly and put a litigation price tag on what it would cost a real-life company to defend the onscreen behavior of Michael Scott and his Dunder Mifflin co-workers. The blog, called “That’s What She Said,” after the popular inappropriate catch-phrase, was incredibly popular and did an effective job of marrying both the fun side of The Office and the serious legal side of employment law.
- No one will know what my posts are about if I don’t spell it out explicitly:Again, also not true. Consider your own attention span (I know this is true for me). When I’m flipping through things on Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn, what’s more likely to catch my attention:
- Bill C-59 Receives Royal Assent – Certain amendments to the Trade-marks Act, Copyright Act, the Patent Act and the Industrial Designs ActOR
- The Cold, Cruel World of Selling Online: How to Keep the Boy Bands at BayClearly, it’s the latter. You’ve got all kinds of time to get your message across in your thoughtful, strongly written piece of content. But you have to be able to get people TO the content first. And to do that, they have to want to read it – that’s where the headline comes in.
- I don’t believe any of those catchy headlines work. Aside from the “That’s What She Said” example that I gave, which is a clear example, I can tell you from my own experience, that the catchier headlines DO work. In a two week period, when I went from “Two for Tuesdays: Breaking Writer’s Block Part II” to “Two for Tuesdays: How to Make Your Content as Fierce as Beyonce,” my post views went up by 70%. From that first title, to “The Two Biggest Content Marketing Blunders Lawyers Make,” views went up 110%. Not every title will be a hit, and not every post will be the one to go big, but headlines that walk the line between being entertaining and informative DO encourage people to click on your links and maybe even read what you have to say – and that’s your foot in the door right there.
So, on with the tips! If you’re a type A analytical person, the way that I am, you’ll really love these.
Tip One: Keep Score
While there’s no “right” or “wrong” title for your content, there are ways that you can help to judge for yourself whether a title or headline will work well for the piece of content that you’ve written. Harris suggests using a title evaluation scorecard, and provides this one from Roger C. Parker.
As Harris says “While you may not hit on every item in the list, the higher the score, the more confident you can be that your titles are doing your content justice.” You can also adapt these individual scores for your practice area.
Tip Two: Get Scientific
This is a tip I’ve heard a number of times before, and that’s the idea of using A/B testing to evaluate headline options. Harris says:
A/B testing (also known as split testing) is the standard method for comparatively evaluating headline options. In this technique, you would randomly segment your audience into two groups, and then send your content to each group, using a different headline for each. If one headline gets a significantly better response than the other, your best bet is to go with the higher-performing one.”
This is also a great idea if you’re still on the fence about whether a more keyword-heavy, legalese title is the effective way to motivate people to read your content, or the shorter, catchier version will do the trick. Test both, and see what response you get. It’s entirely possible that for your audience, the legalese title wins the day – but make sure to test a few titles this way to be sure.
You’ll note that I’m mentioning tracking and data a lot here – I do want to add one caveat. I don’t think success is measured by the number of hits you get on a post, or the number of followers you have on Twitter. It doesn’t matter how many eyeballs you get on your content, if they’re not the right eyeballs. But measuring your content is helpful in identifying what works and what doesn’t. When I compare the hits on my posts, I will look at both the page views AND the length of time they spent on the page – which tells me not only if people are seeing what I’ve written, but also if they’re sticking around to read it, more importantly.
As we often talk about here on Zen, a lot of what you track, and what it means to you, will depend on what your goals are, and who your audience is (which is more specific than we’re going to get in this post!). But know that you should be keeping an eye on the impact that your words are having, so that you can see what the trends are – when you write about a certain aspect of labor law, does that get significantly more hits than usual? If so, that’s probably what people want to read about, and you should write more of that. Are more of your posts being shared by influencers in your field when you write catchy titles? If so, then you want to keep writing catchy titles, so that the people with clout in your industry are the ones seeing your content. I’ve set up my tracking so that it’s a part of my editorial calendaring process, and not a big burden (and that way I also don’t have to try to remember to check the data) – so I highly recommend that for busy lawyers and marketing professionals, try to make the tracking process as natural as possible, so it becomes a part of your content marketing loop.
What are your tips for headlines/titles (and content marketing tracking for that matter)? Add them in the comments!