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Can You Write Viral Copy like The Huffington Post?: 6 reasons why you might not be stacking up

December 22nd, 2014 No comments

If you’ve ever opened a web browser, chances are you’ve visited The Huffington Post. That might be related to the fact that they (by a landslide) publish the largest number of viral stories on the web, according to NewsWhip.

One of my favorite things to do when I find out someone is the best at something is analyze their method … and steal the hell out of it.

So I ran a query through one of my favorite sites, BuzzSumo, a content analysis search engine (my description, not theirs), and pulled up HuffPo’s most shared content over the past year.

Because you’re all marketers, and most of the world’s marketing is full of junk, I decided to let you look over my shoulder at my little swipe-file of sorts.

After studying the top 100 headlines The Huffington Post has written in the past year, I found a few reasons why most marketers (myself included) are failing to connect with their audiences compared to The Huffington Post, who is obviously pretty good at it.

Here are the top six reasons I found for why your viral copy isn’t as good as The Huffington Post’s (I’ve included the headlines I found so you can steal them with me.)

WARNING: Some of the headlines you see below may be offensive to some people. Please understand that at MarketingExperiments, we do not take any official positions on politics, religion or personal beliefs. We are only interested in studying what works in marketing. The headlines below are simply a dataset to be studied and learned from, not an official statement on a particular position MarketingExperiments takes.

 

Reason #1: You’re not writing copy that helps your audience discover something new about themselves

Sample Headlines:

Headline Total Shares
Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy 1255809
5 Minutes In A Mom’s Head 1039541
10 Ways Introverts Interact Differently With The World 624656
18 Things Highly Creative People Do Differently 705417
The Achiever, the Peacemaker and the Life of the Party: How Birth Order Affects Personality 364977

 

Apparently, most Huffington Post readers are highly creative, introverted, yuppie moms with siblings. If that’s your audience, then start writing content like the articles you see above.

If it’s not your audience, then think about what you know about your audience that they may not know about themselves and incorporate it into your copy.

Helping someone understand his or her self is probably one of the best things you can do for a person. Also, it’s a big business — just ask your psychiatrist or look at your next bill.

 

Reason #2: You’re not writing copy that helps your audience win an argument with someone else

Sample Headlines:

Headline Total Shares
5 Reasons You Should Have Sex With Your Husband Every Night 1165130
5 Reasons Modern-Day Parenting Is in Crisis, According to a British Nanny 1114892
Moms, Put On That Swimsuit 863569
15 Things All Dads Of Daughters Should Know 752715
The One Thing Christians Should Stop Saying 689654

 

Wrong or right, winning a heated argument is one of the most satisfying things a person can do. Write copy that your audience can use to win an argument they are passionate about, and they’ll almost always share it with their opponent.

As a parent, I know for a fact that a favorite activity of Huffington Post’s highly creative, introverted, yuppie moms with siblings is critiquing other parents on their parenting.

Also, as a husband, I was very tempted to share article No. 1 with my wife, but, as a smart husband, I realized it would probably backfire on me. Still, the temptation to win that argument almost got that author another share.

 

Reason #3: You’re not writing copy that teases an interesting personal story

Sample Headlines:

Headline Total Shares
The Day I Stopped Saying ‘Hurry Up’ 1255809
 My ‘Naked’ Truth 754736
I’m Done Making My Kid’s Childhood Magical 746014
To the Woman Behind Me in Line at the Grocery Store 635764
 WATCH: Incredible Story Of Transgender Son Will Have You Ugly Crying … And Then Cheering 501180

 

I found this pattern to be pretty interesting. For some reason, I wouldn’t have thought a personal story would be all that shareable. That may be because I surround myself with boring people, or, more likely because I’m not a HuffPo yuppie mom. (Yes, I realize that’s one too many references to the same joke.)

It may also be that it’s not as much the personal aspect of the story but rather the fact that it’s an incredibly interesting topic. Whatever the case, the stories above are performing incredibly well. It’s worth testing out an interesting personal story in your copy.

 

Reason #4: You’re not writing copy that blows the whistle on a potential hypocrite (Bonus points if your audience hates them already)

Sample Headlines:

Headline Total Shares
The Insidiousness of Facebook Messenger’s Android Mobile App Permissions (Updated) 814422
 Shocking Photos: PETA’s Secret Slaughter of Kittens, Puppies 699946
Gluten-Free People Actually Have No Idea What Gluten Is 491743
Hobby Lobby Still Covers Vasectomies And Viagra 391341
Vibram, ‘Barefoot Running Shoe’ Company, Settles Multi-Million Dollar Lawsuit 342375

 

This ties back into the satisfaction we feel with winning an argument. Except this time, it’s because our opponent is revealed to be a hypocrite.

Go ahead and take a risk. Blow the whistle on someone in your industry who you know for a fact is a hypocrite. Or better yet, blow the whistle on yourself before someone else does.

Also, here’s what gluten is in case you ever need to blow that whistle.

 

Reason #5: You’re not writing copy that sheds light on an important social issue your audience cares about

Sample Headlines:

Headline Total Shares
10 Reasons Why Handheld Devices Should Be Banned for Children Under the Age of 12 1577398
What Richard Sherman Taught Us About America 848860
If You Shop on Thanksgiving, You Are Part of the Problem 840184
Powerful Ad Shows What A Little Girl Hears When You Tell Her She’s Pretty 822799
Are We Raising a Generation of Helpless Kids? 603236

 

What’s interesting about these headlines is that most of them deal with parenting or the results of parenting. That’s not really a hot-button social issue for mainstream America, but it’s nevertheless very important to the audience of The Huffington Post.

Are there small-scale social issues that are happening in your industry no one is talking about? Leverage them in your copy.

 

Reason #6: You’re not writing copy that promises a remix of something your audience already likes

Headline Total Shares
Florida State University AcaBelles Rock Lorde’s ‘Royals’ A Cappella (VIDEO) 1174219
Pentatonix Performs The A Cappella Version Of ‘Little Drummer Boy’ You’ve Been Waiting For 918676
‘Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark’ Movie Will Make Your Childhood Nightmares Come To Life 850040
The Piano Guys Will Blow You Away With ‘Angels We Have Heard On High’ (VIDEO) 773558
Jimmy Fallon And Adam Levine’s Random Musical Impressions Will Blow Your Mind 582891

 

Building on the success of something that is already successful is how 99.9% of the world gets their good ideas. Don’t let the musical covers in these headlines distract you from the more important point: Your audience has products and services they already love.

Find out what they are and remix it in your copy.

Hopefully if you haven’t improved your viral copywriting skills reading this post, you can at least steal some ideas from The Huffington Post.

Also, if you’d like to get the list of headlines yourself, you can go to BuzzSumo and search for “HuffingtonPost.com” or any other site you’re interested in studying.

 

You might also like

Optimizing Copy: The 7 most common copywriting mistakes we see marketers make

Copywriting on Tight Deadlines: How ordinary marketers are achieving 103% gains with a step-by-step framework

How to Persuade People to Join Your Email List: 7 Copywriting Samples You Should Steal Ideas From

Copywriting Research Chart: What do customers want from your copy?

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Landing Page Optimization: What a 4% drop in conversion can reveal about offering discounts

December 18th, 2014 No comments

Discounts can be tempting to use as a tool to increase your sales volume.

There are plenty of cases where incentives have been successful; however, one caveat to consider is they also come with their own set of consequences.

When the dust settles and the results are in, every marketing team has to determine one thing:

Are discounted product offers always the optimal choice for a price point strategy?

That’s a question one large media company recently posed in their testing efforts that I wanted to share in today’s post to help you learn more about the potential impact of discounts on the bottom line.

Before we dive in any further, let’s look at the background on this experiment:

Background: A large media company offering various subscription products.

Goal: To determine the optimal pricing point after the introductory rate.

Research Question: Which price point will generate the greatest return?

Test Design: A/B split test

Control 

 

In the control, customers are presented with an offer of “50% off Home Delivery for 12 Weeks with free digital access.”

 

Treatment 

 

In the treatment, a triggered lightbox was added and designed to pop-up, offering an incentive for an additional four week discount of 50% if the order was not completed within a certain time frame.

Read more…

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Customer Response: The surprising reason why color matters

October 30th, 2014 4 comments

Can something as simple as a change in color have an impact on whether a customer will use a search tool on a page?

Intuitively, we thought it did, but we really couldn’t be sure until we tested. This led us question this particular page for a large media brand:

 

The Variable Tested:  “I want to … ” search box

 

The page was a normal page layout with a white background. However,  we wanted to test the impact of color on the search box.

 

The Treatments: “I want to…” search box color variants

 

Read more…

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Perception vs Reality in the Eyes of a Decision Maker

October 20th, 2014 4 comments

Every company struggles with finding ways to convey the value of their product or service in an impactful way. The reasons for subpar value proposition can range anywhere from the value of the product being presented in a convoluted or confusing way to not reaching the customer when they are motivated to buy.

In some cases, the mindset or pre-existing biases can cloud the value proposition in a potential customer’s mind. The ability to overcome that destructive perception is key to guiding a potential customer through any sales funnel.

 

Clarity trumps persuasion — and a wrong perception

Anyone who has seen a webinar or attended a summit featuring MECLABS’ Managing Director, Flint McGlaughlin, has most likely heard him say, “Clarity trumps persuasion.” I want to take that one step further and say that there is a great feat in providing enough clarity to trump a wrong perception.

Earlier in my career at MECLABS, I spent time as the Lead Generation Specialist. In that role, our task was to generate sales-ready leads for our partners.

During that time, I was assigned to one of our more difficult partners — a global provider of outsourced investment management services.

My job was to speak with C-level decision makers of non-profit organizations and schedule meetings with one of our partner’s regional directors.

These meetings had one purpose: Communicate the distinguishable benefits of the firm and its outsourcing model to these decision makers. The problem was these DM’s didn’t want to talk to me.

The decision makers were well aware, as was our partner, that switching an investment management provider was an extremely long and involved process, and more often than not, the organization I was speaking with was happy with the status-quo and did not want to consider an alternative approach.

Their perception was that we were looking to force the organization to switch their investment model after the meeting. This wasn’t the case. Finally, after many rebuttals that weren’t resonating, we started to change our approach and messaging.

Read more…

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Landing Page Optimization: Leveraging perception to tip the value scale (Part 2)

October 13th, 2014 No comments

Last week, I wrote about the importance of considering the value exchange scale in your marketing campaigns. I explained how increasing the perceived value of a product to your consumer can transform something as simple as a rock found in your backyard into the must-have toy sensation of the season — the Pet Rock.

This week, I’m going to share some more tactics to use this scale to impact your marketing efforts, but I must warn you, things are going to get a little deeper. I recommend reading last week’s article before you proceed.

Just to recap, Value Force is what your consumer thinks your product is worth, while Cost Force is the price that you, the marketer, salesperson or company, are charging for the same product.

When, in the mind of your consumer, Cost weighs more than Value, the prospect will say “no” to your offer. However, when the Value of your product weighs more than its Cost, you may receive the coveted “yes.”

Sounds simple, right? Let’s take another look at the value exchange scale: 

 

We’re going to assume that for this hypothetical marketing case, both Value and Cost are weighted equally. Given this scenario, how can we affect the scale without directly adding to or subtracting from the Value Force or the Cost Force? It may help to think a little bit out of the box for this one. Let’s ask some “what if” questions:

What if the triangle moves to the left, like in the picture below?

 

Read more…

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Landing Page Optimization: Leveraging perception to tip the value scale (Part 1)

October 9th, 2014 3 comments

In an experiment with a B2B company, we split tested two landing pages against each other. Let me give you a brief background on the test, and then, I invite you to guess which landing page produced the most leads.

 

Background

This B2B company wanted to promote one of its thermal imaging cameras by creating a downloadable guide where people can enter personal information on a landing page registration form and then get access to a product guide download that will help them choose which thermal imaging camera to purchase.

Which landing page do you think generated the most leads in this experiment?

Once you do choose one, try and think why one performed better than the other. I will share the results with you after the creative samples below:

 

The control

 

The treatment

 

Which landing page do you think won?

Read more…

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