It’s a sad, but true story. Odds are high that your clients are losing a golden opportunity to double, or even triple the exposure they get from their websites.
Maybe it’s a bit of laziness on their part, but I suspect that it’s more a point of ignorance. If you don’t know about the light switch, you’ll think it’s supposed to be a darkened room.
You’re going to show them the light (switch), and in this article I’ll explain how.
Let’s Begin with the Basics
When you sit down to write a direct-mail piece, you know that the headline and lead are 80% of the game. If the headline doesn’t grab them, and if the lead doesn’t draw them into your story, then everything else amounts to a complete waste of time.
They’ll only see your headline and lead once when they open the mail. It’s then or never for your marketing piece.
It’s different online. In the online world, you’ve got many ways that a single article can reach your audience:
- Google search …
- Google (or other) news feeds …
- Other articles that drive them to your website, where they’ll see your post …
- Facebook feeds …
- Twitter …
- And, more recently, Google+ …
In each of the feeds mentioned above, you will also use a headline and lead to draw the attention of your reader with the same purpose as with a direct-mail piece: you want the reader/visitor to keep reading.
Now, Here’s That Light Switch …
A direct-mail piece has one headline and one lead. You already knew that.
A blog article, on the other hand, can have TWO headlines and THREE possible leads. Plus, that same blog article can have a fourth, somewhat hidden, “lead magnet” that most people unfortunately ignore.
Before I explain how this works, I believe a quick refresher on the purpose of a headline and lead is in order. I’ll draw from the brilliant “AWAI Copywriter’s Cheat Sheet” that hangs on the wall next to my desk.
Your headline must grab the prospect’s attention:
- Make a promise
- Draw a picture
- State a fact
- Ask a question
Your lead must accomplish two big things:
- Deliver on the Big Promise of the headline; and,
- Introduce the Big Idea
Thus, your headline does something to draw the reader’s attention, while the lead further draws them in by expanding on the headline just enough to get the reader salivating for more.
Why Two Heads are Better than One Online
To understand why and how you have two headlines and three leads online (plus that hidden lead magnet), we’ll have to delve a little into the mechanics of a web page.
When you create a blog post (with WordPress), you will give the blog article a Title. Then, you’ll write a catchy lead paragraph that follows the Title. At this point, you’ve done no more than you would have done for a direct-mail piece.
That top line is what we call the “Title” of the article. When you display the article, this Title shows up at the top of the page, as seen in Mindy’s article below. WordPress encapsulates the Title in what we call an “H1” tag, or Header Tag that serves two purposes:
- First, the H1 tag has a special format defined in a CSS (Cascading Style Sheet) file.
- Second, Google uses it to understand what your web page is about.
What About that Second Headline?
As I mentioned, there is a SECOND headline that comes into play. To see this second headline in action, let’s look at a search-results listing from Google:
You’ll notice that the headline (the “Meta Title”) Google displays is shorter than the Title on the blog. Because Google displays only the first 69 characters of the Title (including spaces), Mindy’s blog headline would have been chopped at an inappropriate place, making the headline almost unreadable. So, the headline was shortened to fit Google’s requirements, but still retained the key elements of a powerful headline.
You might also notice that the two-line lead Google shows is different from the lead in Mindy’s article on the blog. (In the search-results example, it starts, “Mindy digs into … ”) These two lines are called the “Meta Description,” and what I referred to as the SECOND lead. Again, Google limits the number of characters in the “Meta Description” field, so Mindy had to rewrite the lead so it would still draw the reader in, but fit the limited length restrictions that Google imposes.
Both headlines and leads (on the blog and on Google) must still do what headlines and leads are supposed to do. They must grab the reader’s attention and draw him into the article.
How to Create the Second Headline and Lead
Creating this second headline and lead is really quite easy with WordPress. First, you install any one of several SEO (Search Engine Optimization) plugins. My favorite is “SEO Ultimate.”
Once installed, the plugin will add some extra fields to the screen when you add or edit a post:
Google uses the “Title Tag” and “Meta Description” for displaying the article Title and the two-line description on their search-results page. (Note: Google ignores the “Meta Keywords” field, but I believe that Bing still recognizes this field, so there’s no harm in adding your keyword phrases.)
The Third Lead
I’d mentioned that there are actually THREE possible leads to an article. Take a look at the home page of WealthyWebWriter.com:
Do you see how the lead that’s used on the home page is completely different from both the lead you see when you go to the Reality Blog article and the two lines of the Meta Description?
Mindy uses a different lead to encourage the reader to click on a “Read More” link and view the article. This THIRD lead helps in a few ways:
- It provides more “SEO juice” by offering an additional opportunity to emphasize certain keyword phrases on your home page;
- It allows you to define exactly what you want to say on the home page, limiting the number of words and characters so they fit the space allowed;
- And, it lets you further refine your lead to optimize the click-through-rate to the article.
How to Create the Third Lead
Creating the third lead is easy. Displaying it on your blog is a bit more challenging, but any good web programmer can make it happen in a matter of minutes.
The “third lead” is what WordPress calls the “Excerpt” field (see image below). This has to be enabled for you to use it with your blog, but once enabled, it’s simply another field you complete when adding the blog entry.
The “Hidden” Lead Magnet
Finally, let’s talk about that “hidden” lead generator. This is the most under-used trick online.
Google does a lot of things to determine how well a web page will rank in their search algorithm. Somewhere in that equation is the placement of the keyword phrase in the URL.
When you enter the Title of an article in WordPress, it will try to convert that Title into a URL. You’ll notice that the URL for Mindy’s article is: “the-reality-blog-how-i-flipped-a-bad-client-situation.” That’s okay, but it’s not particularly SEO-friendly.
What few people know (but you know now) is that you can edit the URL field in WordPress to include your primary keyword phrase. You also want to shorten the URL field so the entire URL is displayed (and used) by Google. This increases the odds of your blog post getting ranked for your primary keyword phrase in Google.
Here’s an example …
I did a search for “Facebook social gaming” to see what happened. Below you see a listing for an article from Mashable. I want you to notice three things about this listing:
- The keyword phrase emphasized in the Meta Title is “Social Games on Facebook.”
- The keyword phrase in the URL below the Meta Title is “facebook-social-gaming.”
- The keyword phrase emphasized in the two-line Meta Description is “Social games.”
Note that they used the URL field to emphasize an entirely DIFFERENT keyword phrase, which enables the blog post to be seen for three distinct keyword phrases. Pretty sneaky — and clever — wouldn’t you say?
Using This Information to WOW Your Clients
It’s highly unlikely that your clients are using the Meta Title, Meta Description, Excerpt, and URL fields to enhance their marketing efforts. You can use your knowledge of how WordPress and Google work to dramatically increase traffic from the search engines and also increase the click-through-rate on your articles. Even if your client isn’t using WordPress, you can still help them create Meta Titles, Meta Descriptions, Excerpts, and URLs that will target their keyword phrases, highlight benefits, and call viewers to action.
Always follow the rules for writing great headlines and leads, but make good use of these additional fields to “game” the system, giving Google exactly what they want so you — and your clients — come out the winner.