The sexiest part of content marketing isn’t your content


The other day a marketing professional asked people in her community to comment on her blog post. I won’t get into specifics because I don’t want to embarrass anybody, but the post headline was something like “Four Tips for Better Content Marketing.”

I’m generous with my time and I help people every day, but I couldn’t bring myself to even open this link —  the headline was so boring! She couldn’t earn my attention with that headline, even when I wanted to help her.

This highlights the point I want to make today: The most important part of your content marketing isn’t your content, it’s your headline.

Whether a blog post, a podcast episode, or a YouTube video, the headline is the first thing subscribers and browsers see. They make a. decision to consume your content based on that headline. So to get any traction with your content marketing, everything depends on the headline.

Unfortunately, writing a headline is often overlooked. I’ll admit that sometimes I fall into that trap, too. I’m trying to hit a publishing deadline and don’t spend enough time wordsmithing the headline!

The original title for today was “The most important part of your content marketing is not your content.” I decided to add the word “sexiest” instead because that would be an unexpected and perhaps provocative word for my blog!

There are a few tried and true ideas that contribute to better headlines in your future. Let’s go:

1. Make it yours

When people contribute a post to this blog, I always challenge them to write something only they could write. I’m not going to read “Four content marketing tips.” But I will definitely read “How content marketing saved my marriage.” That promises a unique story.

Give me something I can’t find a million times on Google.

2. Add positive emotions

Research into the most-shared articles on the web uncovered these most popular emotions:
• Awe (25%)
• Funny/Laughter (17%)
• Amusement/entertainment (15%)

Content with a positive sentiment goes viral more than negative content.

A useful tool to create a better headline is the free Analyzer from the Advanced Marketing Institute. It works on the theory that increasing the emotional marketing value (EMV) of your headline drives more social sharing. In my independent research, I’ve found that social sharing drops off if the headline is too emotional. The ideal score seems to center around 30–40.

My headline today received an EMV score of 56, against an internet average of about 35. Sexy for the win!

3. Great headline trigger words

There are certain headline words that seem to prompt clicks:

  • Give: Offers, discounts, deals, or contests that can benefit a wide audience.
  • Advice: Tips, especially about problems that everyone encounters. Examples are how to lose weight or how to choose a college. Add the word “secret” and it is even better advice!
  • Warning: Posts about dangers that could affect anyone in your audience.
  • Inspire: Inspirational quotes. Love them or hate them, they work.
  • Unite: Posts that highlight a danger, an evil, an enemy, a cause, or a personal or community need.

And while we’re at it, there are negative themes that shut down readers:

  • Talking about yourself
  • Being too edgy or offensive
  • Being too obscure or niche
  • Publishing technical words nobody can understand

4. Make your headline succinct and accurate

A few rapid-fire ideas:

  • Make your headline tweetable (i.e. short).
  • Make it descriptive and accurate. Never mislead readers.
  • Make it creative enough to stand out in a crowded blog reader.
  • Reference a numbered list (increases social sharing by 50 percent). Numbers are headline brain candy. And use digits instead of words in your headline.
  • Ask a question. A reader’s instinct is to find the answer.
  • Include one keyword or phrase to help a search engine determine the theme of the article and aid your SEO.

5. Warm words

In a study of blog posts that had received more than 1,000 social shares, a headline that featured a “human” word like “food,” “home,” and “lifestyle” accounted for 85 percent of the world’s most viral content.

Words like “business,” “tech,” and “news” made up just 14 percent of this traffic.


There are hundreds of tips out there to help you write a better headline, but these are a few that I keep in mind when I am writing for you. Was this helpful?

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions. He is the author of some of the world’s bestselling digital marketing books and is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

Follow Mark on TwitterLinkedInYouTube, and Instagram. Discover his $RISE create community.

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