There are 4.5 million new blog posts published every day. What does that mean for a company that is publishing content to get found?
It means that the competition is fierce.
Not only does your blog content need to be high quality, but your headlines (i.e. the promise of the value in your blog post) need to be high quality too.
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“Why” Is Good, but Prospective Buyers Need More
One mistake small marketing teams make when they’re just starting to publish content is using “why” headlines (i.e. headlines that start with the word “why”).
For example, one article I was asked to write for the software company I previously worked for was, “Why Fortune 500 Companies Need an Online Customer Community.”
Many companies publish articles like these to create an idea in the reader’s mind that their services are of value. But these articles don’t sound particularly compelling, do they?
“Why” headlines CAN still work, but they must be curiosity-based. They can’t be an obvious sales pitch.
The person reading the headline can’t easily assume where the article is going. It must create curiosity.
One good example is: “Why Half of Florida Will Be Underwater in the Next 20 Years.” That headline creates curiosity. Here’s another one: “Why E-mail Won’t Be Part of Your Marketing Strategy by 2025.” People will be curious and want to know more.
Your headline must stop people in their tracks. If they’re scrolling down, it must make them STOP when they see it.
The downside of “why”articles is that once people have their answer, they usually leave your page immediately. You’ll get more clicks, but you'll convey less long-term value.
“How-To” Content Teaches Readers a New and Valuable Skill
Resist the impulse to create a sales pitch in the form of a “why” article. The approach that works a lot better is a “how-to”article. These are more utilitarian articles with evergreen value for your reader.
Teach them how to do something.
Examples are: “How to Accomplish X” or “10 Steps to Achieve Y.” You’re teaching prospects how to achieve something that matters to them.
However, be sure to avoid basic surface-level headlines like “How to Engage Your Customers,” followed by generic and obvious tips like “Step 1: Understand Your Audience.”
This is isn’t new information. You have to go deeper.
If “How-Tos” Are Better, Why Do You See So Many “Why” Blog Posts?
There are several reasons why people prefer to write “why” articles in place of how-to articles.
"How-to" articles are harder to write. These articles require specificity, examples, value, and visuals. Therefore, they take a lot longer to write.
The fear of giving away their “secret sauce.” In today's information-soaked digital landscape, I recommend giving away as much value as you can to rise above the noise and attract people to your business online.
People always want to learn how to do things that will save them time, make them money, or save them money.
“How-To” + “Without” = Engaged And Informed Readers (Curiosity + Trust!)
A "how-to" article might initially sound boring, as it is utility-based and seems to lack a certain spark compared to a why article. However, you can add some spark and curiosity by coupling the how-to article with the word “without.”
For example, an article for my consulting company might have this title: “How to Turn More Inbound Leads Into Sales.”
Sure, this headline might be interesting to people who want to solve this problem. Now, let’s add the word “without.”
The new title becomes: “How to Turn More Inbound Leads Into Sales Without Firing Your Current Sales Team.” This title will stop people in their tracks.
Here’s another one: “How to Sell Your House Within 30 Days Without Giving 7% to Realtors.”
It’s important to note that your “without” has to be a task that your reader fears having to do.
With this formula (how-to +without), you lure the reader in, provide them with easy steps that lead them somewhere, and you build trust. Your sales pitch can be lightly woven in without causing any alarms to go off for your reader.
It gives the reader value, which they’ll want to consume, share, and learn more about, thereby, taking the next steps with your company.
Content Marketing Takeaway
There is incredible competition for the eyes of buyers in all forms of online sales. Marketing, advertising, and sales all are competing for the most valuable slices of one very small pie.
Step up your marketing game by giving your reader some up-front value, piquing their interest, and drawing them in.
Success with a small marketing team is all about leveraging minor changes that will change your direction and get you on the path to growth. It’s not about spending a bunch of money on sponsorships or conferences. Small things add up over time and make a huge difference.