A Little Background

It is a pleasure to be joined by my good friend Todd Jones this week. Todd is a copywriter who has a lot of wisdom to offer.

You can reach Todd via his website Copyflight.

Show Notes

Introduction:

Welcome to the SDM Interview show. Before we get on to this week’s episode I want to apologize for this podcast not coming out on a consistent basis.

The business has been really busy lately and my spare time I have been distracted by the magical run of The Toronto Raptors.

Starting this week, this podcast will come out on Monday morning.

You will also notice the enhanced transcript that has come out with this week’s episode. We hope you enjoy it.

Over the next few weeks, we will be updating the transcripts for those episodes which have them to the new format and creating transcripts for those episodes that do not have them. Our goal is to have these completed by the end of July.

Now on to this week’s episode.

Todd Jones and I have become really good friends over the last few months. We share ideas on a regular basis. Todd is a copywriter at Copyflight.

On one of these Zoom calls, we were talking about creating headlines. We thought this would be a really great discussion for you to listen to, Without further delay, please sit back and relax and enjoy this great discussion about Headlines with Todd and me.

Robert Cairns:

 

Hey everybody, Robert Cairns here I’m here with my good friend Todd Jone of Copyflight. Todd and I have had many conversations. Todd is a professional copywriter, and we were talking a little bit about headlines. And how much headlines matter towards copywriting. How are you today Todd?

 

Todd Jones:

Probably could use some more coffee. But other than that I’m doing pretty well.

 

Robert Cairns:

 

We all could use more coffee Would you like some more coffee or a Diet Coke?

 

Todd Jones:

 

I had a Coke Zero for lunch and then apparently wearing off on real quick so.

 

Robert Cairns:

 

So you, you run a really cool business called Copyfight and you kind of write copy for some people right now, what are some of the things you’re working on right now

 

Todd Jones:

 

Working on a project with the agency, the nonprofit’s down in Texas, and they rescue and rehab sea turtles. So it’s been an interesting project something different than I’ve done before. So enjoying doing that writing that the some of the main pages on that, and kind of helping set the course for strategy going forward. Coming on that project. And I usually write a couple of blog posts a week to link them up. And that’s what I got. I have a few people that have contacted me about stuff recently, and I’m working on some products that that maybe I can sell in the near future.

 

Robert Cairns:

 

And yeah, if you want to check out Todd’s writing a main WP, it’s really good well, or to read, informative transition people who like discussion, as we all know, discussion brings ideas. And we were just talking offline, that’s really important. The biggest problem with copywriting use, the average person can’t do it, or doesn’t do it. Well, isn’t that right?

 

 

Todd Jones:

 

Uh, you know, some average people have actually acquired the skill and done it. So I guess that’s maybe that’s a little different way of looking at it. And you know, I mean, it’s a skill, like building a website or running PPC or Facebook ads, those kinds of things. I mean, you know, maybe comes a little easier, someone who does it regularly, more often. You don’t do it as-as often. But not to say that somebody you know, people can’t execute some part of writing up and there’s a really it’s actually a book I liked by Ann Handley called everybody writes and anytime somebody starts talking about content or something like that, I usually recommend that book to them, it’s not going to make you some kind of persuasive copywriter per se, but, you know, it gives you the basics of writing on the web, some of the things you need to pay attention to. But yeah, we talked in one of the copyright groups the other day we’re talking about how you know, many of us surely you something like Grammarly or something like that the kind of self-help self edit what we do and that the grammar nazis don’t do too well with copywriting because we break the rules a lot in this for there’s some certain reason for doing it sometimes has to do with rhythm writing, sometimes it has I’m not just breaking a rule, just to get somebody’s attention, you know, and so and in persuasive so Grammarly doesn’t always like what I write, but that’s okay. You know, we just had a little argument Now usually when, and but I use Grammarly a lot, especially for blog posts. But you know, there are little things like, you know, when you’re doing copy, particularly for web page, you have what I like to call the five second tests, or the three seconds, that’s really, and so, you know, we-we tend to want to show how smart we are right, which is totally understandable. Just went to long graduation yesterday, I can imagine those kids want to show how smart they are. But when you have five seconds to make, get your point across you, you really have to simplify as much as possible. Which allows people to grasp what you’re saying quickly because you don’t have you know, a minute or two minutes for somebody to like that’s why I have an issue with homepage headlines a lot. And maybe we’re just companies is coming from I don’t know. But people tend to write clever headlines. And I’d like to say what’s your buddy Krista and travels picked up on be clear, not clever.

 

Todd Jones:

But I get that Chris Christie? Oh, by the way, well, I get that enjoying a week. So I can’t claim some kind of, and she may have gotten it from someone so I don’t know. But that’s, that’s the typical case. And it’s okay to be okay if you’re if you’re Nike, or if you’re Coca Cola, you can afford to be clever, because you have a global brand. So you know, you can be clever, like, Oh, that’s clever. Okay, cool. But if you’re just average business, no one knows who you are. Clever, just going to make them wonder. And with that five seconds, they will hit the back button or go to notice site and you lost them. Be clear, let us know who you are. Now, that’s not to say your homepage headline can’t be short. It can be and you can expound on that. In the sub-headline. A lot of people will leave a sub-headline off or they will fail to communicate what needs to be done or what it needs to be with the headline in the subject line. And he completely struck out.

 

 

Robert Cairns:

 

 

I agree with that. And it’s funny you were going to talk listening to you talk about Grammarly. I must admit, I’m not the best speller in the world. I use grammar all the time. But I’ve been known to take a headline and deliberately misspelled words, and then I’ll get like 25 responses saying two misspelled words. So I know those people all right, but I had to say because l pointed it out. So sometimes you do things that are out of the box to get people’s attention. So people need to realize that it’s not copywriting. It’s not always about grammar. Now you talked about headlines. So really interesting. What do you think should go in a headline?

 

Todd Jones:

 

Letters? words? Is that what you’re talking about

 

Robert Cairns:

Yeah, what-what kind of things going that,

 

Todd Jones:

 

uh, you know,

 

I’m going to use the word benefit. If you’re not communicating a benefit. The benefit of what, what you’re providing, whether it’s an article or web page or whatever, you know, people wonder why they’re, they’re reading it. Why do they want to read it? I mean, overly used to say that what people read 80% of the headlines, but 20% of the copy. And he was talking about advertising 50 years ago. But it’s still true today. I don’t think some people would run some tests I’m saying, to kind of verify that but if your headline and here’s the other thing. This is new to me, Robert, but upsetting to listen to Joanna from copy hackers a lot of her to say tutorials, which is like an education. Okay, if you know if anybody thinks I have an MBA in copywriting is because I listened to her on her Tuesday tutorial. But anyway, she would go through we are it’s like an over the shoulder. You know, she’s going through copy. I mean, there are different formats. Sometimes she’s interviewing somebody, somebody let she let somebody else present. But when she used to do more of the over the black autumn over the shoulder, he had air story open, and she would talk about what we’re done and all this kind of stuff. And then she would call process. And some of us are like what in the world is across it? she’s referring to a subheader in the text. So like, whether it’s a page or blog post, or whatever, we typically do different font size, and we call it a header or subheader. She called him a process. And because it is it really turned me into this. You’re not just using it as a formatting tool, which you are using as a formatting tool helps people scan. But you’re also using as a tool like a normal headline to get people to read that section. So I’ve tried to be more cognizant of that and my rise I’m looking at my headline sub headlines again or headlines in the of the of the blog posts for is this make people want to read it doesn’t explain what’s going to happen instead of one or two words choppy subhead, I have really started to put a little bit more work into that. But Grace is the old copywriting term for that. But we in the web industry tend to call it a subhead or, you know, or h2 or whatever. But and that’s been an interesting discovery for me just to think about those cross and she calls them What is it communicate, but I really think you put the benefit in there. Yes, you could throw in some shocking things. You can misspell a word you can do. You can use some I use Denzel Washington, an article one time and somebody put ping me on facebook said, I love that article. And I’m a huge fan, it got more credibility because of Denzel Washington’s name in there. That’s essentially social proof in a headline. So you know, if I said, joy, direct men’s blah, blah, blah. Well, the people in the WordPress community know who Troy Dean is all sudden, he gets her attention

 

Robert Cairns:

 

As reading a really not reading, listening to a really good podcast called the marketing swipe file. And it’s done by David Gearhart. He’s the CMO up at Drift a company you and I both don’t well. And David was talking about copywriting in a recent episode a couple of weeks ago. And he said, one thing he does is he writes a one-page header. And then the first line, he writes almost a subheader or same idea. And then he’s done. Because he knows that that first lines out, right, and that second lines, not right, people aren’t going to read the rest of it. As soon as she would the way. Email programs are in browsers are how we all display snippets. So he likes to get right to the point. And then make this point real quickly in like five seconds or less.

 

Todd Jones:

 

Yeah, that’s an old journalism technique. Actually, you know, you read the newspaper, they would the first paragraph, then the first couple sentences would be essentially summary of what the posts of the article is about. And it’s to help people know if they want to actually continue reading. So I think it’s a good practice to make a law, I am a big fan of books. So there’s a kind of a balance there between, I think you do have to have a summary at some point before you start into the body of the text. And a lot of times my hooks, will, a lot of times my summaries will be right before I start the actual body part. So I’m alive with my articles, a lot of times I will do a story or something like that to hook people. So I love a lot of times, I’ll dive into that first, it’s kind of the same as watching an episode of Su, mon or su which I do a lot or in our MC is Dawn’s or something like that he should, or movie is going to have a story gap is what the gap is story.

 

Todd Jones:

 

Granted, I’m drawing a blank right now. I know what you mean, Donald Miller calls it a story gap, which is what it is you, you put it you-you build us a gap in the story. And it’s done different ways. And sometimes just you know, here’s the start the the old Disney formula once upon a time, and then you have the the cons where they’ll start. And it’s actually in the future. And then the rest of the movie that will back in time. And so you know, you have a story gap, but it’s all about hooking your reader in, in that section. But as far as the headline, I mean, I guess you could have a hook in the headline as well. But I think you’re you need to have that benefit in there too. So whatever you do, you gotta have the benefit. And this is my problem with clickbait headlines a little bit. I know people will use formulas, so which is fine. I see a lot of formulas because sometimes we just got to have somewhere to start, that’s fine. Nothing wrong with that. But they’ll use these clickbait headlines and it becomes clickbait. Whenever what you say in the headline is not completed in this in the article or the page. You know, in other words, if I say something about Denzel Washington a headline and I don’t mention him in the article, it’s just a quick thing. And I’ll see people do that, especially with stuff like the ultimate guy that you know, I have an issue with people using the alternate God and wrote about that last week. But you know, a lot of times you’ll see somebody saying the ultimate god of whatever, and it won’t be God in your life. So what happens to you, I think your roads, your trust, as a writer, as a person eliminate Archer authority, it hurts your credibility. So I just caution people, you know, if you’re going to use a hook, if you want to use something like that, just make sure you deliver. So if you’re going to say, Denzel Washington or, or, you know John wick, and headline to get people’s attention, then you need to have that in the story in the article somehow. Otherwise, you lose your credibility.

 

Robert Cairns:

 

And for those who don’t know, the life for this podcast is listening, the dogs and more dogs crumble. So you know, that’s the way it goes. I’m not cut the grass. So what shouldn’t go into a headline?

 

Todd Jones:

 

Well, that’s what I one thing I just address. You shouldn’t put something in there that you’re not, you know, not going to talk about

 

Todd Jones:

Yeah, it means you know, if you’re going to use like, you know, a major name, or put something in there, and it just doesn’t play out, like you’re saying in the artful. That’s the worst thing you do it again, it kills your credibility. I think there can be a place for wanting to work headlines, for sure. But I think most of us have bad ideal headlines for anything, not just the homepage. You know, being clever is, in being cute is something we all kind of smirk and want to do. But I think he had to be careful about that. If it’s not, you know, but it can be a hook. And as long as that hook delivers on what you’re saying, and that’s fine.

 

Todd Jones:

 

I think you just have to be careful about being clever. And you have to be careful about using something that hooks people that you don’t deliver on. I don’t know if I’m making any sense at all, but you do actually. So we know and i agree with it. I mean, if-if the copy is not in attacks, there’s no point in putting in they have I know people do it all time. I think long term, it doesn’t build up long term credibility. So I try to avoid doing that. I think there’s nothing wrong with the headline is shocking. As long as the information in the text is as relevant. You and I were talking offline where I did actually did a podcast and I deliberately put in a Walmart in the headline, which was what we were talking about, I did a comparison. And believe it or not, I’ve had eight or nine either messages or private people saying you really compare business to Walmart. Yeah, I did. It means people listen to it. But I also reference Walmart, in the headline in the body of what I was doing. So it you know, sure. Makes sense.

 

Todd Jones:

 

Yeah. I’m so sure the headlines be long, short in between Devaney feeling on that,

 

I’m going to say what you would probably hear from somebody like Joe, what’s it, it’s gonna be as long as it needs to be?

 

Robert Cairns:  

 

That’s a nice one of those is depends on the top answer, right?

 

Todd Jones:

 

Yep. So

 

I would agree with that. And they typically talk about copy when they’re talking about that. But I think with a headline, it’s, it needs to be as long as it needs to be, we get into, especially with SEO, and how many characters it needs to have by we cut off heads, you know, and you know, Google’s gonna do it Google’s gonna do, it might be 60 characters today, and next week, it might be 120. So, you know, Google’s gonna probably display most of those characters. There’s no reason to have like a three Long’s a three sentence, long headline, I agree, I would say a sentence, a concise sentence, which, which does talk about the benefit is long enough. So you know, if you start going beyond that, it’s going to be hard to display, which means it’s going to be coming using the reader. So and I know, it’s not a very good answer. I don’t have a character,

 

Robert Cairns:

 

It is a good answer, actually. Because if it were me, I wouldn’t be writing headlines just for Google. They matter. But not as bad as people think. because, frankly, if I had $1, for every time, Google changes search rule, when I would retire in Hawaii somewhere warm right now.

 

 

Todd Jones:

 

And I’d be a rich man. Yes. So my advice is, you know, just write a concise headline, which has the benefit in the headline, and what you’re talking about. And it’s probably going to be a sentence. And just stick with that, if you can find a way to, you know, make it a little bit shorter, that’s fine. If you want to, if you’re a little concerned about what the hell it is, you do something like that, the shared headline analyzer, which I like to use Dell because it’ll give you some parameters around help you play around with it. Another trick I have done over the years, and I’ve heard this many places, I think I try to write at least 10 headlines. And it doesn’t always work out that way. But the more times, you can write two different variations of you kind of just like a brain dump, right. And eventually, you know, the better one will come out. And sometimes you just can’t, you know, get one the score high on a share through or co schedule. But those are a couple of headline analyzers you can use to kind of give you a sense of whether or not your headline falls flat, you know, you’re going to have it you want to have a benefit, you want to have something that evokes a little bit of emotion. And you want to be clear about what you’re doing. I guess if there are three things that that you you had in your headline, those three things, you know, it evokes a bit of emotion, it doesn’t have to be like, a very drastic emotion, folks emotion is clear about what the article or what the thing is about, it has a benefit to it. So that’s three if you can do it, in three words, then about it. I would say maybe if you want to add a fourth is something that really stands out. And that’s why people play the game of the misspelling, see, yeah, if you want to play that game, that doesn’t work all the time, but sometimes it could,

 

you can classify that under evoke emotion as well because sometimes people get passion if you misspell a word. But yeah, yeah, it’s just kind of like adding social proof to it. And I don’t always do that. But sometimes I do. But you know, if you’re throwing in a celebrity, or well-known figure, or something, or even like a well known, like parents or something like that, we-we did an article at Conway senior last year about a Craig shop town, kind of it seems a hyperlocal site that I run here in town, and young man who ran last year, I did a couple of really good articles while I did several, but that one was about credit shop. And I think I reworked the headline just to include Paris, because, you know, it was like having breakfast on the streets of Paris or something. I don’t remember exactly how it was. But I added that because I want to get the mentalities and there’s nothing else in Central Arkansas, like this restaurant. And it just like brand, a little piece of Paris to Conway, Arkansas, and that, you know, I wanted to do that article as well read, so I don’t have to do the headline or the content or, but still, that’s all you can, you know, social proof element to it, for sure.

 

Robert Cairns:

 

Yeah. And then the other question I always bring up is, what type of fonts and colours should go into a headline? Like, should they just leave a black on white? Or do you have any theory on that one?

 

Todd Jones:

 

No adult because I’ve never done much in that regard. And now all my sites, and especially like a landing page homepage, or whatever, I’ll, I’ll sometimes I’ll use the colour everyone branding, you know, for a subheader, which is easy to do using the filter, or any other page, whether for that matter, you can change the colour I’m not big on fancy fonts, for headlines. Sometimes I have a hard time reading them. And then when, if you remember 1015 years ago, we didn’t even use, sometimes we didn’t use HTML text, we put up an image in there of the way I’m thinking, I’m thinking, why did we do that we do. And because we can make a fancy looking thing. But I’m not big on that stuff. If you’re going to change the colour, make it the colour of your brand. So definitely don’t use a colour your own brand off the charts to get attention. You know, I think you want it to be subtle and stand out a little bit, but you don’t want it like, you know, to use fluorescent orange or something.

 

Todd Jones:

 

Oh, jack,

 

are you know, in some of these fonts, I see that Pee Wee’s might want to use it for a script font, you know, I would rather use comics. com What is it called comics? What’s the one everybody hates that Comic Sans or whatever? Comic Sans, I would rather use that then one of the script fonts and I can’t even understand or read. So that’s me personally, I think you’re thinking about user accessibility. In those cases, when you’re talking about the web, you know, now you’re out here to a printed brochure or something like that, you know, you can use a, you know, a little more descriptive font and all that you can understand what it says. But when he’s on the web accessibility, you have to pay attention that that’s something that because you know, your screen readers going to read that and, and then somebody may have vision problems. So I’m not big on making a fancy font for your headlines, honestly.

 

Robert Cairns:

 

Nor am I actually I must admit, I tend to fall back on either Times New Roman, or Ariel in the headline, almost, I might change the colour. But I mean, I can almost guarantee if it’s a headline fun I’ve written it’s on the StunningDigitalMarketing.com site, it’s going to be times new roman, or Arial. They read them, they show up really well. And one thing I would say is to make your headline bigger, make you’re heading bigger. I mean, I prefer on the 16 or an 18 point heading, that’s just me as a rule, but I mean, don’t make them the same as your text you on the stand out of the band. But scripted is really hard to read. And frankly, it’s the last thing I want to be reading.

 

Todd Jones:

Well, if your if your header or subheader, or cross said when we call it if it is so important to the text, and it is the copy. And people need to understand what it says to know the keep reading, then why would you want to make that hard to read?

 

I mean,

 

yeah, so in and I’ll get on some people sites and usually not web professionals, but I’ll see that some of my colleagues in the copywriting me will have these funky fonts. And I’m like, it may fit your brand. But it doesn’t help too much as far as reading. That’s my opinion.

 

Robert Cairns:

 

I would suggest anybody that wants to learn a bit about headlines, one at the fallbacks, I always say to people school, look at a big media site, go look at the USA Today, go look at CNN, go look at the Toronto Star in Toronto and see what they’re doing with their stuff. Because I can almost guarantee you.

 

Todd Jones:

 

There’s somebody who pushes the boundaries but does a good job. Their headlines in the journalism field are always been the New York Post,

 

no question. They push

 

the boundaries, they skirt around some of this stuff. But they write some of the best headlines for articles that I’ve ever seen. And the journalists, they they’re not afraid to be, you know, most journalism, they’re trying to be a little safe. You know, I don’t want to be too crazy. The New York Post is not afraid of that. So kudos to them. They’ll they’ll push that boundary a little bit.

 

 

Robert Cairns:

 

I have a number of journalists and writers in beside you Todd in my circle locally, even guys who wrote for the scar I have a friend who writes freelance he’s in Toronto, right sports for the New York Times, but he’s based out of Toronto used to work for the Toronto Start’s parent company for years, I have another friend of mine, who’s retired writer, and they always say to people, you know, why don’t you fall back on media sites. There’s a reason why they do what they do. And they do it every day is and frankly, it comes back to what they’re saying. There’s not much difference between them all and the headlines, the layout, the fonts,

 

Todd Jones:

 

I think you got to kind of say, you know, what works really well, why? why it doesn’t work. So

 

that’s really well, I would say go to BuzzFeed, you know, and I wouldn’t advocate all the headlines. So you do and they, they may push the boundaries more than new or post, but you’ll get an idea. And what I used to hear from the copy bloggers blog, which is essentially as far as copy and blogging goes, probably at least one of the top 10 blogs that’s out there and what they used to say, and I’m not sure I mean, Brian Clark may have said it, I don’t know. But they used to say go to your magazine store, go to your bookstore, which we don’t have anymore. But you know, your bookstore, look at the magazine section because, or the news or go to the grocery store and like the you know, go to the checkout counter, look, the magazines, and if you’re still there, because that’s what they’re doing. They’re competing for your attention. So you know what they say? See how they get your attention. So I think you push the boundaries a little bit. If it doesn’t fit your brand, though, you might be careful about doing that. You know, if you’re not, if you don’t have a casual fun brand and then thrown out of BuzzFeed top, you know headline with probably not being in your best interest. But if you do, then you know, you can probably push the boundaries a little bit. If you’re more. If your brand is more corporate more professional, then you probably want to do something more like New York Times The Wall Street Journal. In terms of headlines,

 

Robert Cairns:

 

I would agree.

 

I really think that’s some good advice. As somebody wants some copywriting gun, Todd, how can they get ahold of you?

 

Todd Jones:

 

As well, they can send a smoke signal or a pigeon all the way down here to Arkansas. The website is copy flight calm. And my email is Todd at copy fly calm. So working on some consulting packages now and we have some home and about page copywriting products and working on other stuff as well. So

 

Robert Cairns:

 

Thanks for your time, Todd, have a great day.

Outtro:

Thank you for listening to the SDM Interview Show. This show is hosted by Robert Cairns, the CEO and Chief Creator of Amazing Ideas at StunningDigitalMarketing.com

This podcast comes out every Friday morning. It is available on all podcast platforms.

If you would like to be a guest on this podcast, please email us at podcasts@stunningdigitalmarketing.com

If you would like to find out more about the Digital Marketing Services we provide, please go to StuningDigitalMarketing.com

If you are interested in all the projects our CEO/Chief Creator of Amazing Ideas Robert Cairns is involved with, please go to RobertBCairns.com

This podcast is dedicated to Robert’s late father, Bruce Cairns.

Have an amazing week. Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars. Make your business succeed.