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Why I Never Use This Word When Writing Headlines

Graphic of two people reading with speech bubbles.

On average, 5X as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar. Less is more when it comes to titles. David Oglivy

My husband is an excellent cook (for which I am eternally grateful.) And, because he only wants real ingredients in his food, there are some "ingredients" that are verboten when he cooks. For example, he doesn’t use garlic or onion powder.


These are processed products and Farmer Husband steers clear of them. Instead, he uses fresh ingredients like chopped onions or minced garlic because the taste of the food is so much more flavorful!


Even though I’m the world’s worst cook, I know exactly how he feels. There are certain words I never use when writing headlines. The biggest offender—and I see it a lot—is this word. See if you can spot it in these imaginary headlines I created.

5 Things to Know About Buying a Home


7 Things to Do on Vacation


3 Things Divorced Men Need to Know About Dating


Did you catch it? It’s the word thing. It’s about as descriptive as the color tan is colorful. (Even if you dress it up and call it taupe!)


I may not be a great cook, but I understand the value of using descriptive words to season my headlines, prompting the reader to action.


Headlines Must Be Specific

The word thing is to me a processed food, and verboten! Why? Thing is just a big, fat cheater! It cheats the reader out of engaging with what the business has written, and it cheats the business out of connecting with the reader.

I say, begone, thing, you're loaded with empty calories and you taste terrible.

Why Thing Headlines are Costly

It’s simple. The word thing:


  • Is vague. The reader can’t identify with the problem or the solution. What is a thing anyway?!

  • Doesn’t encourage the reader to further engage with the business because it lacks description.


So here’s how I season up this word sauce to create a spicy headline.

1-5 Things to Know About Buying a Home


Generic. Boring. What if we changed it to this:


5 Must-Know Facts About Buying a Home


This isn’t a bad headline but it isn’t good either. The headline doesn’t tell us which kind of buyer it’s appealing to, first time? Seasoned buyer? If you are a real estate buyer, you’re not likely to click on this headline because it hasn't given enough information.

What if we took that headline and created this instead:


5 Must-Know Real Estate Facts for the First Time Home Buyer


By removing the word thing and adding “must-know real estate facts” we’re narrowing our market and appealing directly to the first-time home buyer.


Now we have a headline that defines its audience and promises important information for that segment of the real estate market.


Specifics sell! Steer clear of broad, sweeping headlines. They engage no one.


 2-7 Things to Do on Vacation


What a yawner! Who the heck are we talking to? Again, with no adjectives to spice up the headline, it offers no promise of what might be fun to do when you’re looking to do nothing.


How about this instead:


7 Fun Beach Bum Activities to Do on Vacation (You Can’t Do These at Home!)


This title narrows our audience and speaks to the very reason we go to the beach, to do nothing and have fun. The parentheses add a little extra curiosity by teasing the reader that they won’t find these activities at home.


With the new headline, would you click to find out more info?

3-3 Things Divorced Men Need to Know About Dating


This ho-hum title doesn’t tell us much, does it? What age group of divorced men are we talking to? That’s critical because each generation has its own set of unspoken rules. But with this headline, we don’t know.


If we re-work it and clearly define our audience, it looks like this:


Divorced Men 45+: 3 Big Mistakes to Avoid on Your First Date


Now we’ve called out our audience so the reader knows if the article is for him or not. Further, the reader knows that it’s specifically for divorced men preparing to venture out into that beastly world called dating.


By narrowing our audience, speaking to their pain points, and promising a positive result, the reader is ready to engage with us.


Keep Your Headlines Laser Focused


Spice up your headlines with real, actionable words! An effective headline is the reason a person takes action, whether it’s to buy, read an article, or download a freebie.


Once you’ve gotten your reader’s attention, hold it with compelling, juicy copy!


Need some help spicing up your copy? That's what I do best! Let's connect for 30-minutes and talk about what you need. Set up your complimentary consult here.






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