The Secret to Great Headlines: COFFEE

Headlines are important. They were always important, but I think they’re even more important now. This string of words is often the difference between success or failure. Headlines are as important as coffee in the morning. Yeah, that serious …

Headlines are important. They were always important, but I think they’re even more important now.

Most of our content — just like your marketing content — is viewed, or not viewed, based only on the merits of the headline. This string of words is often the difference between success or failure.

Headlines are as important as coffee in the morning. Yeah, that serious. serious-coffeeAdd SEO considerations and things get even more complicated. Right?  Well, maybe not.

Over the years, I’ve developed the philosophy that writing for SEO and writing for people is not actually that different. (Forgive me, Denny.) In fact, I think humans and spiders are both essentially looking for the same thing when they evaluate a headline: keywords.

The term “keyword “tends to make people thing of soulless SEO manipulation, but humans think in keywords as well. We have topics and questions in our heads that are all categorized by keyword. A keyword is just something that’s on your mind.

Someone who searches for the keyword phrase “call to action” is going to recognize that phrase when they browse our newsletters or magazine or webinars. They’ll click on headlines that have that word too, just like they would on a search engine results page.

I don’t necessarily do a lot of keyword research to figure those keywords out (although it can be very valuable). If I know the audience we’re aiming for, I’ll usually know the words that are on their minds. We write around those.

Headline COFFEE

Which brings us to COFFEE. It’s not just a delicious, pick-me-up drink for breakfast (or in my case, any time of day). It’s a way to think about how to write headlines around the words I believe our audience is thinking about, and align that all so humans and search engines will both recognize it as the content they need.

COFFEE stands for:

  • Catchy
  • Obvious
  • Far Forward
  • Emotional
  • Evocative

Catchy: The headline wording should be a catchy turn of phrase, something that sticks in the mind and grabs attention. A fish hook baited with an ear worm.

Obvious: The specific topic of the article — the keyword — should be super obvious from glancing at the headline. This is a departure from some classic headline writing techniques, which might use a mystery/reveal trick. In today’s world, we need to grab attention and build trust and convince someone to read more all at once. People see so many headlines, most of which don’t pay off on their promises, that I don’t believe they are inclined to click on a wide open mystery. Making it crystal clear that this is the article that will answer the question on your mind is essential.

Far Forward: The keywords should be far toward the front of the headline. This is a clue to search engines that those words are important in the article. I think it’s also essential for people reading digitally. Human readers looking at a paper page can recognize keywords at the end or in the middle of a headline. But online, especially on mobile where they might only see the first few words, Front-loading the keywords makes sure they’ll be seen. Your keywords should be in the first five words — first three is even better.

Emotional: Good headlines play on an emotional need. Think of the emotional copy drivers, pick the emotion you’re drawing on, and hit that hard in the headline.

Evocative: The best headlines aren’t just emotional, they trigger strong reactions, images, memories or feelings. They may even start an argument, or propose something preposterous that people hope will be true (and you will explain away in the article). This is the special sauce that turns a good headline into something that can take off and go viral.

All that together should have the same effect as coffee: It will perk the right audience up to want to read your content.

Maybe even first thing in the morning, as they’re having their other coffee.

coffeepoem

 

How Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Saved a Customer

Talk about valuing your customers and providing exceptional customer service! It’s no wonder that GMCR is one of the fastest growing brands out there today, with 11 consecutive quarters of better than 40 percent net sales growth.

I wanted to make public a recent experience I had with Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR). My wife, Stephanie, an avid coffee drinker (and a shopping nut, who’s probably better suited to be writing a retail blog than yours truly, who looks forward to a trip to the mall with the same enthusiasm as a trip to the dentist), received GMCR’s Keurig brand Special Edition Single-Cup Brewer system nearly 10 months ago as a wedding shower gift.

Excited at the thought of enjoying GMCR’s specialty coffee blends brewed fresh each morning, Stephanie couldn’t have been happier. After the long, harsh winter we had in the Northeast part of the country, I can attest that the brewer was put to good use. All in all, the Keurig brewer was a hit, making just the right amount of coffee for our house. And Stephanie was a loyal customer, restocking her supply of the specialty coffee K-cups with purchases at local retail stores. That is, until this summer.

The complaints were few and far between at first — it wasn’t always brewing a full cup; the coffee splattered out at the end of brewing, leaving a mess on the counter; and sometimes when turning the machine on to “get ready to brew,” it would make a grinding noise and then just shut down — but grew louder as time went on. So Stephanie decided to take action.

Her first step was to go to GMCR’s website for info. on its warrantied products. After learning that we had a one-year warranty from date of purchase, Stephanie called the customer service phone number listed on GMCR’s website (she didn’t see an email address to send a message to). After providing some basic information — name, address, phone number, item purchased — her call was transferred to a GMCR product technician.

Upon confirming the purchase type and date of purchase via serial number, Stephanie was asked to explain the problems she was having with her Keurig Single-Cup Brewer. The technician on the other end of the line walked Stephanie through some “troubleshooting” ideas, but none of them corrected the problems.

Satisfied that the error lay with GMCR, the technician said a replacement would be mailed out to us within seven to 10 business days. Not only that, but in recognition of her troubles, GMCR was throwing in two boxes of its specialty coffee blend K-Cups as well.

Talk about valuing your customers and providing exceptional customer service! Not to mention the fact that Stephanie reported that both women she spoke with on the phone couldn’t have been nicer and more patient. The whole process took less than 20 minutes. She’s now a fan of GMCR for life. It’s no wonder that GMCR is one of the fastest growing brands out there today, with 11 consecutive quarters of better than 40 percent net sales growth.

Editor’s Note: Make sure to check out the Sept. issue of Retail Online Integration, in which GMCR will be featured as the cover story profile (written before my wife’s personal experience with the brand). Take advantage of the opportunity to learn from a brand that’s doing things right.

Do You Target Laptop Loiterers?

You should. I know, I’m one of them. When I’m about to meet a contact in Manhattan (I live in Brooklyn), I’ll often stop at the local Starbucks before or after to check email and work on articles. Sometimes I’m there for several hours. Oh, and I may even get a coffee (sometimes – don’t tell Howard Schultz!).

You should. I know, I’m one of them. When I’m about to meet a contact in Manhattan (I live in Brooklyn), I’ll often stop at the local Starbucks before or after to check email and work on articles. Sometimes I’m there for several hours. Oh, and I may even get a coffee (sometimes – don’t tell Howard Schultz!).

But apparently some coffee shops, though fortunately not Starbucks, are not too happy with us folks. A recent Wall Street Journal report, for example, discussed how many local coffee shop owners are pulling the plug on laptop users during the recession, as we take up seats and drive away diners. Some even cover their electrical outlets as a cost-cutting measure to save electricity.

For online marketers, however, laptop loiterers may be a new target audience. In fact, according to a mobile insights report from JiWire, a mobile audience media company, 38 percent of people using Wi-Fi at cafés or coffee shops make online purchases during their visits, and 77 percent are in the market to make major purchases in the next 12 months. Purchasing plans include the following:

  • 48 percent intend to buy new smartphones;
  • 54 percent plan to travel more than once on at least week-long vacations;
  • 28 percent plan to buy new laptops; and
  • 24 percent plan to buy cars.

Additionally, the report found online audiences in cafés and coffee shops use these venues as their extended home offices or college libraries, with 83 percent connecting locally in their own neighborhoods. What’s more, most are affluent males between the ages of 25 and 49, and 40 percent are business decision makers with management titles. Twenty-three percent have C-level or VP titles, while 44 percent are in small- to medium-sized businesses.

The report is based on data from 275,000 public Wi-Fi hot spots, as well as a survey of 2,057 customers randomly selected in more than 6,500 U.S. café locations that used JiWire’s Wi-Fi Media Channel between April and June.

So, how would you target these users? One idea may be to offer a special coupon — perhaps through Twitter — just for folks working in cafés or coffee shops. Any other ideas? Let us know by posting a comment here.