Note: This post is mainly an exert from my ebook How to Generate Traffic for Your Website:
A headline has 5-7 seconds to get the attention of a reader. Not only that, but statistics show that only 2 out of 10 readers will read past your headline. That means if you’re going to hook your reader, you need to do it right away.
To give you a more concrete example of just how powerful a headline can be, John Wesley submitted an article to several social networking sites, including Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon, etc. The headline read “The Two Types of Cognition”. With this headline the article generated about 100 visitors. Nothing spectacular. However a couple days later, and after some work rewriting his headline, John resubmitted it with a new headline. With the new headline it got about 5000 visitors. A very significant difference, 50 times more visitors. What was the difference? Only the headline. The article was exactly the same. The headline went from “The Two Types of Cognition” to “Learn to Understand Your Own Intelligence“. You can find the details of his case study here.
Headlines can and do have a significant impact. It might only be one line, but it can easily make or break your articles success.
In addition to grabbing the person’s attention, the headline must offer some value to the reader in exchange for them taking the time to read your content (article, press release, etc.). According to the legendary copywriter Robert Bly, there are eight categories of headlines that compel readers to take action and read your article. They are:
- Direct Headline: These are straight forward headlines that state exactly what they want, they make no attempt whatsoever to be clever. An example is “LandlordMax – 30% off today only”
- Indirect Headline: These headlines are subtle, what could be considered as link bait. They usually try to generate curiosity by the reader, or offer a double meaning in their headlines. In others words the classic link bait approach.
- News Headline: This is a direct news announcement. For example “LandlordMax releases version 6.05”.
- How to Headline: This is exactly as you would expect, it’s a headline that offers you an article on how to do something. For example how to fix a broken faucet.
- Question Headline: This category of headlines ask a question that the reader can relate to, that they can empathize with, something they would like answered. A classic example is “Who else wants to make a million dollars in the stock market?”
- Command Headline: This headline states what the reader of the article needs to do. For this headline to work the first word needs to be a strong and commanding word. For example “Buy this EBook now!”
- Reason Why Headline: This is basically a list of why something is good or bad. For example “3 ways to be more productive with your time”.
- Testimonial Headline: In this case the headline is a customer testimonial. This is done to offer outside proof, otherwise known as social validation. You’re validating through social proof that your article (or product) is great and worth the readers time. After all it’s not just you who says so, someone else is saying it too.
For further reading on headlines I recommend any book by Robert Bly. As well the book Advertising Headlines that Make You Rich contains a list of good and usable headlines (with a short explanation on how to use each headline). And don’t forget to check out Brian Clark’s blog CopyBlogger.com, he’s got a lot of amazing articles on how to write headlines. Good luck and good writing!
This week, after helping K. Nusbaum, he sent us the following comment regarding LandlordMax:
“Thank you so much for your prompt attention to my problem. You have proven exactly why we stay with your company and will recommend you to anyone! “
To which I asked him if we could use his comment for our testimonial page on LandlordMax. He replied yes, and went even further and added:
“We started LandlordMax back in Aug of 07 and within a month fell in love with the software. I utilized the program to run a 64 unit complex and it did great. In Feb 09 I started running another property with 140 units and now use the updated version (Ver6.05) to run both properties. I recommend the software to anyone in property management. Not only is the software great but the customer service is top of the line. No matter what my problem or question has been LandlordMax has been attentive and prompt to handle it. I have not had many problems thankfully though!”
Thank you for the glowing testimonial! It’s very appreciated.
Great news! We just released the latest major version of LandlordMax (version 6.05) a few minutes ago! If you’re a LandlordMax’er, you definitely want to check it out. Be one of the first people to install it on your computer. There’s a lot of new and powerful features in this release!
This is one of those posts I’m not sure how to approach, especially being this tired when I’m writing it. You see I was fully expecting to release the latest major release of LandlordMax tonight, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. Although we don’t have official release dates, we’ve slowly and quietly being letting people know that a release was coming, most likely over the weekend. Again, unfortunately, it’s not going to happen.
The good news is that the new version of LandlordMax is ready to go. It’s actually been ready for almost a full week now. The only thing holding us back is the website, it’s not entirely ready. We’re still working on the release notes, and the user manual definitely needs more work. At the very least I don’t want to release the latest version without a strong News and Newsworthy page like the last release. Although I really hate it, I can accept it if the user manual is trailing behind by a bit. It’s not the end of the world. But we absolutely need a page showcasing the latest features, otherwise it could potentially be confusing to our users. I’d rather give them a good heads up of what’s new, and how some of the new features may affect them (for example a new feature called Advance Notices will have an impact on their existing Scheduled Entries).
That being said, instead of pushing through tonight to the wee hours of the morning, I believe we need a rest (plus we have a key person downtrodden with a bad cold – not me – fingers crossed). I myself have only slept a few hours for the last 4-5 nights, so I’m pretty exhausted. I’m actually hoping this post makes sense when I read it later after I’ve had some rest.
So what I’m going to do instead is take a small breather, and let everyone get some rest before we go live with the new version. We need it! But more importantly, I think it’s important that we avoid making any mistakes releasing a new version of the software. And the best time to make mistakes is when you’re overtired. It’s also the time when people have a tendency to push stuff through that’s of lower quality just to get it over with. That’s not a position I want to be in. I believe the wait will be worth it. I want to avoid making any stupid mistakes. And a few days is not going to hurt anyone. It’s worth the cost.
Although I really don’t like to promise an official release date, I suspect we’ll be releasing mid-week this week.
Thank you for your patience and I look forward to posting when LandlordMax is released!!
PS: Please note that you don’t have to wait for the new version to come out to buy LandlordMax, as part of your license you’re entitled to all releases that come out for up to a year. This includes major upgrades!
It’s early Tuesday morning and you’re just entering your trusted car mechanic’s garage because last night your car was really acting up on your way home from work. You don’t know exactly what’s going on, but there’s no doubt that something is really wrong. The mechanic greets you with a smile and asks you what he can do for you to which you reply “my car is broken”.
What do you think happens next? Is this enough information for the car mechanic to help you?
No, not even close. Firstly, what do you mean by it’s broken? Does the car start? Is the windshield broken? Does the car make any noises? Does it rattle? And so on.
Basically the mechanic will first try to get a basic assessment of what’s going on. Saying the car is broken just isn’t enough. It’s much too generic with too many possible meanings. The mechanic needs to know more.
The exact same is true with software technical support. If you truly want to maximize the effectiveness of the help you’ll get from the support department, give them as MUCH RELEVANT information as you can.
For the car mechanic, you could say something like the car makes a loud rattle, but only when I turn. And this only happens if I’m going at least 30 mph or more. I’ve also noticed that it’s coming from the back left section of the car. I just started last night, I hadn’t heard anything before.
When it comes to support, a surprising number of people seem to just say things like “the software is broken”, “it no longer works”, “I can’t use it”, “it won’t let me close”, “it won’t let me enter my data”. All of these are too vague and to do any real troubleshooting with unless there’s more information to give it a context.
For example what does it’s broken mean? Does the software start up? Are you getting an error message? If so what is the error message? Is it a report that’s not generating the results you’d expect? Are you not able to perform a specific task? The list of possibilities are endless.
And please don’t take this post as me complaining about our customers, because it’s not at all about that. I really do appreciate all of our customers. What I’m trying to give here are some tips to help everyone (me included) to get the best support experience possible. And this isn’t just with us, but with every company out there. Not just software, but with anyone you’re trying to get help from. The more context you can give the better your results will be.
Imagine going to the doctors and just saying you don’t feel well. What does that mean? Do you have a headache? Do you have a stomach ache? Are you bleeding profusely (well you would hope that one would be obvious)? Did you bruise something? The list of possibilities are endless. You have to give your doctor some context so that they can help you.
The same is true with technical support. The more context you can give the better your results will be. I know we always appreciate it when people give us more details. And more importantly, it lets us respond immediately without having to send a request for more details. Adding relevant details and context is a win-win scenario for everyone.
Identity Theft is a very prevalent issue in today’s world. It happens too often to be ignored. I’m sure you know at least one person who has been the victim of Identity Theft. And the sad thing is that in most cases it’s very preventable. Even sadder is that most people don’t realize that they might be the cause. Not as in being the victim’s themselves but as in innocently putting other people in harms way. Well intentioned people are doing things they believe are safe but are instead very dangerous.
Let me give you an example. I founded and run a software company called LandlordMax which sells real estate rental management software to property management companies, individual real estate investors, and so on. As part of this, the software allows you to store information on your tenants so that you can figure out what’s going on with your properties. For example, you can keep track of your tenant’s leases, payments, their address, invoices, receipts, employers, contacts in case they skip out on you, notes, basically a lot of information.
What’s scary is that we continually get requests for the software to store additional pieces of information that shouldn’t be stored on any desktop computer. Even on computers secured by computer security experts. For example did you know that Visa and MasterCard explicitly tell you NOT to store the full credit card numbers in your databases, that you can potentially be held liable for doing so. All you’re allowed to store is at most the last 4 digits. The next time you buy something at your local store with your credit card, look at your receipt. All you’ll see is the last 4 digits of your credit card, nothing more. This is not random, it’s a security measure to prevent credit card theft.
Knowing this, you’d be surprised by what confidential information we’ve been asked to store within the software on our users computers. We’ve been asked to store tenant’s credit card numbers, driver’s licenses, scanned images of driver’s licenses, passports, Social Security Numbers, and so on. Confidential information that should never be stored on any desktop computer.
The scary part is that a desktop computer is not that secure. Not only that, but these are sometimes desktop computers used in homes or businesses of people with little or no security expertise. With no IT (or security) professionals setting up these computers.
But even if only the most advanced computer users stored this type of information, it’s still not enough. These are computers used for everyday usage, not hardened and locked down computers. All it takes is for someone to surf online to one bad website with a browser that has a zero day exploit and it’s game over! In many cases it’s the action of the user that compromise the system, not the system itself. This is also why secured computers are never used for daily activities such as surfing the net. They are locked down so tight that they’re pretty much dedicated to one and only one function (such as a database server).
And even with these systems it’s still a very bad idea. But what’s scarier is that many of the people making these requests are already storing this type of information in plain old Microsoft Word and Excel documents on their laptops. Computer files that are completely unprotected. I also know some people are scanning things confidential documents and saving them as images on their computers, again completely unprotected. These are computers connected to the internet!
This problem isn’t just limited to computers either. How many physical filling cabinets do you think contain all kinds of identity information they shouldn’t? Have you ever rented an apartment or house where the landlord wanted to keep a copy of your drivers license and/or your credit card number?
It’s not that these people want to do harm, it’s that they don’t know any better. Whenever we’re asked about storing these types of information we always tell them we don’t, and then we proceed to very strongly advice against it explaining the issues and how they could potentially be help liable for damages. In most cases that’s the end of it, but unfortunately it’s not always.
What about the poor tenants themselves? How comfortable would you be knowing that your landlord (or the company managing the property you’re renting) has all your information on a desktop computer? Scary isn’t it?
And this is why we will NEVER offer the ability to store this type of information within our software. It’s just bad news on all levels. No good can come of it. This information should never ever be stored on a desktop computer (or in a filling cabinet). Never ever!
And this is why I wrote this post today. From now on we’re going to point people who make such feature requests to this post, and hopefully some of you will too. Let’s try to prevent this from happening. Please do go ahead and comment and share your stories, hopefully we can help people better understand the implications of storing this type of information on their computers. It’s not that they mean any harm, it’s that they don’t really understand the potential dangers. Let’s teach them and hopefully we can reduce identity theft together!