If you’re a writer, or even just a random blogger (heads-up: you’re still a writer), you may have heard several thousand billion times that writing good headings makes good copywriting sense. There is a reason why people keep saying this, and that reason is generally about pulling traffic. I’m going to give you another reason: the RSS feed.
If you’re anything like me, you might find yourself surfing random blogs looking for useful information or good reading. You might also find yourself looking at copywriting material fairly frequently, signing up to significant and not-so-significant copywriting email lists like Copyblogger, and devouring anything on writing, blogging, and websites that you can get your hands on. I do this for a huge variety of reasons; but the key one is because I’m an editor and publisher, and am therefore a trend-watcher. If things start to change in certain fields, I need to be on top of it.
The more I read about copywriting, however, the more jaded I get. It seems to be the same thing over and over ad infinitum.
Until it finally clicked today why it’s such a hot topic: people just don’t know how to do it, or ignore good advice.
The other thing that clicked today is that copywriting blogs and email lists don’t talk about the importance of the RSS feed. They should.
Given my tendency of late to want to know as much as I can about certain topics, I maintain a huge list of feeds in my mail program. Apple Mail is perfect for this because it is visually lovely as well as functional. When I say “I maintain a huge list of feeds”, I don’t mean that they’re for specific sites. Except for the major music labels that I have to be across because of my work at Metal as Fuck, the majority of my incoming feeds are for Google alerts and and WordPress tag feeds. The blogging community is, after all, a global community in action: and getting RSS feeds of content as it happens is the only real way of staying in touch with trends and topics worldwide. People think Twitter does that; think again. In my experience, people tweet out links to blogs more than to anything else.
The thing that I’ve noticed lately, though, is how poorly written the titles of blogs actually are. Here is a sample from the “publishing” tag feed I keep:
Reading these headings, are you tempted to click on many? Not bloody likely.
The only ones of these that seriously take my fancy are ‘self publishing book expo’, ‘the benefits of digital publishing’, and the instructional ones. Others, like, ‘a little random, a little for real’, are next on my list because it’s curiosity-factor only. All of the others could go leap off a cliff for all that I care about them.
Why, for instance, would you click a link to anything titled ‘introduction’ or ‘the leap’? Introduction to what? Leap into what? If you don’t care about telling me what your blog is about, why should I give enough of a shit to read it?
It’s not the 20th century any more, and publishing online is vastly different to publishing in print. An audience reading print is largely captive; online audiences are so much more mobile – and they have the huge (perceived) power of the delete key. You don’t want to make your audience use it more than they have to.
More to the point, if I am looking at an RSS feed, then there are two steps: the first is to click the title of the feed (most of which I don’t bother about) to see if the blog is actually going to be worthwhile reading. If the teaser text is great, then I will. If it’s not great but interesting, it wins there too. Anything else goes into the trash.
While copywriting and how-to-blog articles talk about teaser text and its importance – and it IS important – the big wins go to those who include full text in their RSS feeds.
Now, I never used to do this because I wanted the traffic; and the theory goes that a good teaser drives traffic. For some sites – like music zines on the web – that’s absolutely true. BUT – the busier my life gets, however, the more I see the point of full text. Let’s face it: if your readership is busy (and everybody today is busy), why make them load up a webpage if it’s not even going to be everything they want? Especially on random blogs?
A good example of a full-text RSS is that from the Anthill site, which includes full text about 90% of the time. They’re not always great reads, but I tell you what, I am loyal to that website now. I click links even after I’ve read the full text. It took maybe four weeks of reading their RSS content consistently before I got there, but I did. Talk about a beautiful way of converting your readership!
Anyway, that’s my two cents on this topic. Good headings are absolutely vital. Hopefully I’ve demonstrated why, in a way that most other copywriters have absolutely failed to do.