The most important piece of copy you write for a blog post, an email or any other type of written communication is your headline. This is even more true now as the information overload of today’s Internet makes finding great content an exercise in headline browsing.
For example, I subscribe to the RSS feeds from about 70 blogs covering the alcohol, wine and spirits industry. Yet, I have a hard time finding good content within these blogs. Mind you, it’s not because the good content isn’t there. It’s because I also subscribe to 350 other blogs and make efficient use of my time by skimming headlines looking for an inviting post. Many people suffer from inbox overload and treat their email the same way.
The same theory holds true if you look for good content on social news sites like Digg or StumbleUpon. The posts that often make the front pages of those sites, thus receiving an influx of traffic, aren’t always posts with great content, but ones with sexy headlines.
Take a look at a snap shot of several posts in my Spirits Blogs folder from Google Reader. Scanning this list quickly, I see one post that might be worth reading, but it took me a second to find it. DrinkBoston’s “Locke-Ober – Best Boston Bars” at least teases me that I’m going to find out which bars in Boston are good. It turns out, Locke-Ober is a bar and the post is a review of it. After reading the post, I would respectfully suggest a headline like, “Drink At Locke-Ober. Teddy Roosevelt Did!” Or perhaps the more sophisticated approach of, “Why Locke-Ober Is One Of Boston’s Best, And Worst Bars.”
With the intent of being more constructive and less critical, the rest of the headlines are confusing or dull. “Islands of Scotland” doesn’t tell me what the post is about, really. I assume it’s a travel post and irrelevant to my whiskey interest. Turns out it’s a post about touring whiskey distilleries on the islands. I love Dr. Whisky, but “Malt Mission 2010 #379” tells me nothing other than he’s cataloging his posts in some numerical fashion that the casual reader doesn’t understand. His first sentence is very interesting, however:
“There is some real, old-fashioned, hand-crafted, family-run whiskey-making going on in the Hudson Valley.”
How about making the headline, “Old-Fashioned, Hand-Crafted, Family-Run Whiskey In … The Hudson Valley?” since those descriptions are more often associated with Kentucky and Tennessee distillers?
According to Brian Clark in his fantastic piece about writing magnetic headlines, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest. With the majority of web readers skimming rather than reading and aggregation services becoming the preferred source for today’s news, the key to great blog traffic is your headline.
Here’s hoping the spirits bloggers take the suggestion to heart. You should too.
And in case you want some good spirits blogs to read in addition to the above, I recommend Accidental Hedonist, What Does John Know, Dowd on Drinks, The Chuck Cowdery Blog, BBQ and Bourbon and The Intoxicologist. There are a ton more and I’ll probably get some grief for leaving a few out. My most recent list can be found in my spirits blogs OPML file here. Download it, import it to your feed reader and your Spirits folder will have the good stuff.