Hey did I catch your attention?
Well thank god. I was SO worried you wouldn't notice me!
I’ve got this amazing list that you just have GOT to read and then mayyyyyybe you’ll click click click on my latest link and download my amazing fabulous TOTALLY INCREDIBLE EBOOK GUYS YOU’RE JUST GOING TO LOVE IT!!!!!!
OMG here’s a list of 10,000 things you’re doing WRONG IN YOUR LIFE number 23 is just so cray cray holy—
PAY. ATTENTION. TO. MEEEEEEE!
This Is How I Feel Every Day of My Internet Life… I’m Sure Some of You Can Relate
Every day, I go online and look at content.
Part of it is my job, part of it is an addiction (probably).
No DSM-V code for this one yet, but I digress.
I’m bombarded by lists of things I didn’t know I gave a damn about until I saw them.
Obviously I have to click because hey, I didn’t know those 13 things about Darth Vader that were super duper ultra secret and maybe it will change my life forever if I do.
The irony starts to set in when I mock people who watch television, wasting their lives away in front of a screen.
Obviously I’m superior because I’m reading.
Well, maybe not reading per se—more like scanning, looking for the good bits.
Cause I’m not going to read the whole article—who has time for that? I have 300 more articles to read! And they’re ALL going to change my life.
I generally have to read about 300 articles to find something worth sharing because most of it is crap.
The headline is a lie.
Someone spent hours and hours of their life trying to trick me when all they had to do was write something friggin’ interesting.
If I Have To Rely On A Compelling Headline To Get People To Read My Article, My Content Has Already Failed
If writing is about crafting a compelling, moving, life-changing story, then why in god’s name are people telling me to focus on the damn headline?
And they are telling me that, constantly it seems—the number of articles (and eBooks, and seminars, and webinars, and whitepapers) on how to write a compelling headline is staggering.
Telling me it’s all about the headline is like telling me the most important part of my 300 page novel is the title.
That the most important part of a videogame is the picture on the box.
That the most significant aspect of a movie is the poster selling it.
As if an amazing novel is worthless if it doesn’t suck people in instantly.
As if the actual content of my content is unimportant.
“If nobody clicks and bothers to read, you’re lost in a sea of content—it will disappear and no one will care.”
Nobody slogs through Moby Dick because it has a compelling title.
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo didn’t become an international sensation because people were ecstatic over the name.
The essays of E.B. White didn’t become the amazing pieces of literature that they are because the title grabbed attention in The New Yorker.
The content is what mattered. The story is what people stayed for (or maybe a bit of whaling action).
This is stupid-corny to say but I’m going to say it anyway—it wasn’t what was on the outside that mattered for these stories: it’s what was on the inside.
That doesn’t magically change on the internet.
Is Your Goal To Get A Bunch of Worthless, Bouncy Clicks, or Is Your Goal to Move People to Action and Actually Make an Impact On Their Lives?
How many times have you clicked on a headline and backed out the second you landed?
Because the content was crap.
And how many more times have you slogged through a swamp of ads to get to the mind-blowing content that you knew waited just on the other side?
I do this constantly. I go for the incredible content 10 times out of 10.
Your headline means shit—if your content is incredible, the headline doesn't matter.
Nobody gives a damn what the name of the first (fourth) Star Wars was—barely anyone remembers it was called A New Hope.
All they remember is what happened. They remember the characters. They remember the story. They remember that these aren’t the droids they’re looking for and that sandpeople always ride single file to hide their numbers.
They remember Darth Vader.
Great articles are great because they fill you with wonder and joy and a feeling of yes Yes YES THIS IS WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT! Great articles light mental fires. They take residence in my lizard brain and push me to tell others.
They whisper to me while I’m trying to work “go Go GO TELL SOMEBODY ABOUT ME!”
Viral posts don’t need a damn headline—the content is all that matters.
Are you focusing on your content?
Stop Writing Headlines—Start Focusing on a Kickass Story
I’m not saying that headlines are worthless. I’m not saying writing a good headline is a fool’s errand.
If you can bust one out in a minute or two, phenomenal.
But if you can’t—stop stressing about it.
Focus your time on the stuff that really matters: the story itself—because that’s what people care about.
It’s not about clicks—it’s about connecting with another human being.
Because no matter what we’re writing, no matter who we’re writing for, we all need to do one thing:
Connect with our audience.
And a headline isn’t going to do that.