Writing financial headlines that will make your content go viral


I get a lot of people asking me about headlines. Getting a good headline isn’t hard but it does take work.

I’m getting a lot of practice with this skill. I’m contributing content at different financial news outlets with different audiences (Learnvest/women, SigFig/newbie investors, Wealthfront/Silicon Valley engineers), so it’s giving me a lot of practice experimenting what works — and what doesn’t.

The goal of your financial content

This should go without saying but a lot of times we forget why we’re writing.

  • We’re writing to engage prospects
  • We’re writing to service clients
  • We’re writing to get noticed by the news media
  • We’re writing to build and scale our financial practices

How we write — well, that’s about technique. But before we do anything, before we put pen to paper, we need to stay focused on our goals.

Headlines: getting to first base

As a teenager, it became abundantly apparent to me that to win the affection of any girl, I needed to take baby steps. The courtship ritual is exactly what you’re trying to do with your content.

Your headline on your blog posts or articles is what gets users to click on the article to begin with. Without a good headline, no one’s reading your stuff.

That’s the sad, doggone truth but without a good headline, your content is dead in the water.

And the truth is, copywriters always say that the purpose of each line of your content is to get the reader to continue on to the next line.

I like that.

One resource that really should help your headlines

Here’s an amazing resource by the way — Headline Hacks. It’s written by Copyblogger’s editor John Morrow. I’ve mentioned Copyblogger (definitely put that one in your favorite links folder) a lot on AdvisorInsider and it’s a great resource to learn from masters of the copy arts how to just write darn good content.

Now, because we have compliance concerns and require some (a lot?) of integrity in our writing, we can’t create ludicrous, screaming, irresponsible headlines like in other industries.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t be creative and develop seductive content that leaves our readers/prospects wanting more from us.

Of course, numbered lists still work really well (though I’m getting tired of them).

Here’s what work best in terms of getting people to read — and share your content.

  1. Play into fears and insecurities: These headlines (The truth about mutual funds that most advisors don’t want you to know) play into the fear factor that grips investors. Don’t abuse it — that’s not fair but use it gently.
  2. Making things easier for your prospects: Things like, 4 Ways to Simplify your Retirement Investing, help your readers solve problems and simplify their lives.
  3. Piggyback on a bigger name: Chances are you got on the AdvisorInsider list because you read my ebook about Ken Fisher. You want to be him (I know I’d consider having his kids for the right $$). Admit it. Most readers are intrigued by larger, bigger brands. You can play off of that with the [INSERT FAMOUS ATHLETE] Guide to Income Investing.
  4. Mistakes: Nobody wants to make mistakes and we’re all paranoid we’re doing things wrong, all the time. A headline that says, Do you make these 6 mistakes when you pick a stock?, gets people to open your post.
  5. How-to: John Morrow calls this the oldie-but-goodie that still works. Describe how to do something in detail and people eat that stuff up. It works so well because it showcases your individual expertise at something.

Subject lines: the headline of your emails

In email marketing, there’s something called the open rate. That the percentage of people who open your emails when you send them. You may or may not be surprised to know that financial emails rank as one of the lowest among all industries in the open rate.

Why? Because much of our content sucks.

It sucks because crazy greedy newsletter marketers ruined emailing for finance pros with sensationalistic BS content.

It sucks because so much of what we write is just bland drivel, spiced with jargon 99.99% of world doesn’t understand.

Think of your subject lines as the headlines of your emails. Your subject lines are what convince (or not) people on your email list to open your emails. They are what get you to first base.

Spend a couple of minutes crafting something that a live person would find interesting.

Mystique, numbered lists, and solving your readers problems work really well in subject lines.

More resources on writing good financial headlines and content

From the UK’s online editor of The Times, this one shows the history of headlines and goes through actual steps how to get people to click or read an article.

How To Write Awesome Headlines

View more presentations from TomWhitwell
This article is a very important read (from over a decade ago!) about how to structure and write articles for best usability over the Web.
BusinessWire has a presentation about what makes good headlines for press releases to get picked up by the media.
Here’s another good formula (SHINE) to putting together good headlines.
The greek god of copywriting, Gary Halbert, discusses the techniques and the process he uses to write killer headlines
How do you write good headlines? How do you get people to open and read your stuff?