One of my favorite stories is about a doctor who discovered that “cadaveric material” was killing one out of eight new mothers. This Austrian physician from the 1800’s implemented a hand washing routine for his hospitals and clinics and the death rate dropped dramatically. However, “the medical establishment” of the day thought that hand washing was archaic, superstitious, and too time consuming to implement.
As a result, the doctor went insane, only to be vindicated later.
This favorite blog post had only received one view all year. What a big discouragement to me! So I decide to revamp the headline (which I had written years earlier) from Healthy Blood through Cleanliness: The Semmelweis Principle (boring) to Famous Doctor Goes Insane After Cadaver Kills New Mother. And I made a wonderful graphic that went with the title. And I made it long so it could double as a Pinterest pin for all my “blogging buddies” to share.
Headlines are one of the most important elements in copywriting. A good headline has a single purpose — to cause readers to read the copy.
And I’ve studied/read Bob Bly, Ray Edwards, Michael Hyatt, Donald Miller, and more. I have downloaded guides from Coschedule and consistently use their headline analyzer to improve the “appeal” of my headlines to get the click through to my article.
But my “cadaver” headline failed me (and perhaps my graphic was part of the problem).
I lost readers and my “blogging buddies” refused to share my beautiful pin.
So what did I do wrong?
- I was so interested in creating an interesting headline, that I didn’t keep my readers in mind. Many are Christians and conservative — and I don’t think they want to read about cadavers killing new mothers and doctors going insane.
- I also don’t think my audience wants to see scary pictures that try to represent doctors going insane.
- My headline should have offered hope to appeal to my readers.
- And my headline missed two of Bob Bly’s criteria. It wasn’t Urgent and it wasn’t Useful. Read more about Bly’s Four U’s of Headlines.
I got my wrist slapped. And it is a good lesson. An opportunity to learn. Read more about turning failure into success here.
If anyone would like to give some suggestions for a better headline, please read the article and the comment here (not on the “cadaver” article). If I like it better than mine, I will use it.