The Fab and the Drab in Recent Content Marketing Headlines

After you’ve put in all the work to brainstorm, research, and write a piece, you want it to get eyeballs. Headlines are your calling card, a testament to the first impression. Writing fantastic headlines is a skill that every marketer is supposed to have in their toolkit. And yet a lot of us — even those commenting on the state of our field — often don’t. (Myself included.)

As I’m perusing my Google Alerts for “content marketing,” there are some headlines that really appeal to me and some that don’t. I decided to lay them out to try to figure out what causes some to make the cut. Below are the titles of real articles published in June and May, categorized into the Fab and the Drab. As a disclaimer, the headline quality and article quality don’t always align. The well-headlined are sometimes a letdown, and the poorly headlined can be a great read (if they can get you there).

The Fab

Forbes Thinks You Might Be Failing at Content Marketing (Here’s What We Think)
Forbes, eh? Way to borrow interest! I’m clicking.

Don’t Be Afraid to Break These 7 Content Marketing Rules
I wonder — what does someone else consider to be the rules of our game? And how will they justify scrapping some of them?

Why PR Should Own Content Marketing
Boldly stated and not an opinion you hear every day. I think I might learn something.

5 Steps to Build Trust Using Content Marketing
Trust is the goal for content marketers, so I’m curious to see if any of the five ideas are things I’m not doing yet.

5 Compelling Arguments to Prove Content Marketing ROI to the Boss
Proving ROI is an ongoing initiative, and it never hurts to have more tools to do it.

Contrarian Content Marketing: How to Zig When Everyone Else Zags
It’d be tough to deliver a more compelling title to anyone who considers themselves a contrarian.

4 Outside-the-Box Content Marketing Campaigns That Work
Hmm, I might get some ideas for differentiating my company from the competition.

Seven Ugly Truths About Content Marketing
This is just plain intriguing.

The Drab

The Most Important Part of Content Marketing Is Not Just Totally the Content
When it comes to making a bold statement in a headline, don’t waffle — go big or go home!

The Art and Science of Web Content Writing
This might be a good title for a book or eBook, but for an article it isn’t specific enough. Sounds like the article would be surface-level (and a snoozefest).

Content Marketing and Your Online Reputation
Reputation — that could be a spicy subject. Why saddle it with such a boring title?

Increase Marketing ROI with Inbound Marketing Automation
This was published on a media website, but I’m 99% sure it would be a sales pitch. I should be glad they tipped their hand so now I don’t have to read their ad.

The Attention Economy: Why Some of Your Content Will Always Fail
I read to get inspired. This article seems like it would be de-motivational.

4 Ways to Repurpose Your Evergreen Content
By now I think I must’ve heard 500 ideas for repurposing evergreen content. I’m sure this author’s four were among them.

So there you have it: my subjective take. The bottom line for me is that I click on things that I think will teach me something or deliver value. The articles I stay away from are those that seem to rehash a subject for the millionth time, offer only the most basic of insights, or try to sell me something. The ones I’m drawn to make surprising claims, offer tips on niche topics that I care about, help me stay in the loop on something important, or relate to me on a personal level.

Here’s a fun game. How could I have made the title of this article better?

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