Real Marketing Case Study: How to Write Sensationalized Post Titles without Lying

In a previous post I  gave some post title optimizing strategies to help increase blog post CTR rates, shares, and traffic. So make sure you read that one first.

So…why a good post title?

Well, having a good post title is important, because it’s the first thing your readers will see and it determines whether they will actually click to view on your article.

It’s the bait on your hook that will capture the readers.

And you want the best, tastiest bait you possible can have to catch the most fish.

Having an awesome blog post title is especially important if you want to pursue a build social authority strategy.

Why? Because articles that don’t have catchy post titles won’t build up a lot of social steam when you share them on Facebook. And if you are pursuing a PAID advertising strategy, not having catchy post titles will end up cost you a lot more money than it otherwise would to get the same social engagement.

Now that we’ve talked about how to write a stellar post title to increase engagement, I now want to talk about how to do it honestly without lying.

Some of most engaging types of post titles are DATA-DRIVEN ones.

These are post titles that contain statistics of some sort. Not every type of post will have a number (specifically a percentage, a value, or something tangible from a data set or study you are using to prove the argument in your content), but IF you do have some data, it’s a good idea to include that in the post title as a larger than life claim.

For content that is focused on data (research, case studies, information guides, or some topic where you can pull out concrete numbers to prove something), you have a golden opportunity to throw in the title percentages, actual figures, time amounts that stress some huge improvement of the data over time.

Example of Catchy, Data-Driven Titles

  • ‘How I Improved Search Ranking by 150% in 1 Month’
  • ‘My Client Made $10,000 a Week Just Through Facebook (here’s how he did it)’
  • ‘How to Lose 10lbs in  Only 30 Days’
  • ‘Increase Conversions by 2000 percent with this simple tip’
  • ‘My Grandfather Gained 20lbs of Muscle in 1 Week Doing This’

You can’t always create post titles like this for every article (again, this is a very specific strategy), but for some niches these sort of post titles do particularly well — especially in niches where people are looking for a solution to something and you are trying to provide that solution, and using your content marketing to do so.

The real challenge when it comes to cooking up catchy post titles is to actually make a catchy title with an exaggerated claim, yet while being completely truthful at the same time. Let me stress that sometimes, you don’t need to cook the numbers or exaggerate at all, but sometimes you may have to in order to better market your content.

As I said, the trick here is to do so without telling a lie.

You see, anyone can write a sensational post title that lies to their readers.

But not everyone can write sensational post title that tells the truth while still wildly exaggerating enough to drive the traffic.

Is this ‘right’? Sure it is — as long as your not actually faking the results.

And it’s effective at driving traffic — sometimes wildly effective.

Just remember though, when you make hype-sounding claims in a title, you actually need to deliver on those claims in the post content.

If you flat out lie or deceive your readers (which I often see happen on viral style articles shared on Facebook), you will upset readers and damage your personal brand — not a good LONG TERM strategy on your part. Remember, your goal is not to build some fly-by-night website that gets a lot of traffic then goes to ZERO in a few months. The goal is to build an authority income — an income that lasts.

The trick is to creatively look at the data you have at hand and come up with a larger-than-life-sounding title out of it.

But if you do this ‘right’, it’s a good strategy.

This post title strategy ALSO applies to your newsletter titles too — these are just as important as post titles, with the difference being how many people OPEN your newsletter email vs how many people share your post or click on it on the SERPS when they see it.

Same strategy, just different platforms.

I’ll use two pillars in the internet marketing community as a case study for how to exaggerate ‘BIG’ in the titles without telling a lie: Neil Patel and Brian Dean.

If you are going to learn how to lie honestly, you might as well learn from some of the best right?

A Case Study About Neil Patel’s Case Study (aka how to manipulate your post titles to reflect marketing data in a positive light without actually lying)

I love this guy’s work and he’s on of the best marketers around — one that really does give you good, legit information. You can learn a lot about how to make money from him if you read his blog.

He’s a brand in himself and he makes a lot of money on that brand showing his success. He’s also, first and foremost, a marketer no mater what. While he might be an honest marketer, he still uses effective marketing tactics hyping up the the data (without actually telling any sort of lie) to drive in more readers.

Here’s one of his recent article posts. His post title was ‘How I Generated $332,640 in 3 Months from Instagram.’ 

But what if I told you that after reading the case study and crunching the actual numbers, the following 3 titles are just (given the facts I pulled from his post — which could be off given my data source) as accurate and true as the post title he used:

  • How I Banked $27,720 in 3 Months from Instagram with $75,000 in Advertising
  • ‘How I Spent $75,000 and made a Potential $332,640 from Only 56 Sales in 3 Months
  • ‘How I Generated $27,729 through Instagram from 56 Sales By Spending $75,000 on Advertising

Not as exciting as ‘How I Generated $332,640 in 3 Months from Instagram’ are they?

Now, I’m not trying to take away anything from Patel.

He’s a great marketer and he gives awesome advice. I just want to show you how data is neutral and as any good cigarette-funded research study committee will tell you, negative data can be used to show positive results and positive data can be used to demonstrate bad results.

It’s all about how you portray the narrative.

Ok back to Patel’s study.

I want to really break this done just to show you guys that huge claims in post titles are often that: claims to sell something to the reader — even if the facts are true in the post, there is often some exaggeration or manipulation of data for marketing purposes.

Everyone does it (it’s called marketing) and ultimately, it’s up to the reader to do the research.

Patel’s post with some loaded information with the take away being that if you have a good marketing strategy and pay enough money with advertising, you can generate huge sales.

When you read the crazy dollar figure given, you can’t help but be impressed. 332,640 in only 3 months. That sounds fucking insane.

But drill down into the details and you find that while it’s still impressive, it also took an impressive amount of money to accomplish this.

Here’s are some of the facts Neil reveals:

  • Used the advertising campaign to generate 2,570 email optins from which he marketed his product
  • Sold his Instagram marketing package for $5,940 each
  • Sold a total of 56 sales in 3 months from the email list (each sales being counted as $5,940. This means 5,940 x 56 sales = $332,640)
  • The $5,940 was in fact broken down into 12 monthly reoccurring payments of $495 ($495 x 12 = $5,940)
  • Neil spent $75,000 on Instagram Advertising over the 3 months
  • Neil is an online personality in the marketing sphere and has the branding and reputation which he leverages when selling his course

So when we look at the actual title we see a lot of marketing strategies at play here. If you look at my list of 8 Post Content Title Strategies, what does he use?

He uses the Personalized Post Title strategies (uses the How I), he makes the post title Data Driven ($332,640), he includes a Time Limit (3 months). There is also the fact the amount given in the title post is so fantastically large and the time limit is very small that this also draws in the reader.

Now, the post title is completely accurate. Neil give exactly what he says in the title when you look at the data.

But, when you break down the figures, you’ll see a few things of note.

Neil Banked $27,720 NOT $332,640

His ‘332,640’ in sales figure he claims is for the full year (12 months). But he is taking monthly payments of 495. So in actuality, the amount of money Neil’s course has generated and banked is 495×56 = $27,720 NOT the $332,640 amount that Neil is claiming. Yes, in 12 months, Neil will have generated 332,640 but as of now or at the time of the post he made in September 2015, Neil only took in 27,720.

Now look, I know people signed up with the $5,940 in mind, but there’s definitely a chance that many people could pull out of the payment system a few months in. I don’t know how Neil is guaranteeing people will pay the full amount, but I could certainly see many of those customers ejecting from the program after only a month or two of payments, leaving Neil high and dry of the rest of the amount.

In the three month period, the best case scenario would have been that he generated all 56 sales ($27,720) in the first day of selling with the one month charge, then by the end of the third month had two months renewal. This would have given Neil about $27,720 x 3 = $83,160 maximum revenue from those 56 sales by the end of the 3rd month because of the rebilling.

However, this is almost certainly unlikely, since his sales occurred over 3 months and I’m sure is actual banked revenues were a mix of initial bills, rebills, and new bills. But either way, from those 56 sales, he would have LESS than the maximum total take of $83,160)

Neil Only Sold 56 Sales to his email list of 2570 

This is a 2% conversion — not particularly good (which even he admits).

Email lists are by far the best converting source of traffic — far better than google traffic, facebook, twitter, or direct traffic. So a 2 percent conversion is pretty poor. Neil also has the reputation and brand of being one of the best internet marketers in the world, so he’s going to be able to sell his webinar course a lot better than someone who does not have the long list of public accolades her has.

Keep in mind he is selling to a lesser targeted crowd then his blog email list and the product is 5,000+ dollars, so either way it’s an impressive feat that he managed to sell the package.

Now, something to note here.

Any time someone gives a huge sale figure for their digital product, you have to actually look at the cost of the product and the number of buyers.

It’s one thing to sell a product for 40 bucks a piece and make $40,000 from that because you sold it to 1000 people.

It’s less impressive perhaps to sell something for $400, 100 times to make that $40,000.

I’m not taking away the final figure — money is money, but many of the case studies online showing big earnings in short periods of time are because

a) the product / service costs hundreds of thousands of dollars

b) the product was sold to only a few people, but because of a) that amount adds up

c) a lot of money was spent on advertising to generate those sales quickly

Neil Spent $75,000 on Instagram Advertising

Now, generating $332, 64o from $75,000 of advertising is a pretty damn good return.

BUT the devil is in the details and I think there are two points we can draw from this

Point 1: Most Individual Marketers / Bloggers Can’t Spend 75,000 (or even 1/20th of this) on advertising

Most average bloggers, internet marketers, mom and pop businesses can’t afford to spend $75,000 on advertising. Even if someone has the money, they won’t take the risk without guaranteed returns.

You have to be making some serious revenue online already to consider spending this, or you have a system going on that scales and you can be pretty certain of a return. So in all practicality, the average reader won’t be able to replicate Neil’s case study results because they don’t have that type of advertising budget to spend.

Now, for corporations or bigger businesses, this sort of thing is possible, but for most of his readers and the vast majority of regular people out there, these results are not so achievable. Not impossible, but very unlikely.

Point 2:  Neil Likely Spent MORE Money Than He Made at Time of His Post

Neil claimed $332,640 in sales, but when we looked at it Neil actually only collected $27,720 from the sales since he billed per month, 12 times not a whole amount. There is also no mention of any cancellations, which is always the case — even more so when you bill for 12 months and for an expensive digital product that’s over 5000. 12 months is  a lot of time for people to reconsider why they are paying 495 per month over and over!

We figured out that at best case (which is certainly highly highly unlikely), Neil generated  $83,160 if he sold 56 sales the first day and after 3 months had 2 rebills with no cancellations. Again, unlikely this was the case.

So in all probability, Neil took in and actually banked LESS than the $75,000 he spent on Instagram advertising.

Now yes, in 12 months or probably much less than that, Neil will be in the green and have made thousands more than he spent. But I just want to use this example, when looking a the math that Neil claimed $332,640 to his readers on quicksprout.com at the time of his post, but when you read between the lines, that’s his expected income (assuming he stopped advertising, which I’m sure he didn’t) when he had probably spent thousands more than he actually made at this point.

The Conclusion

The whole point of this case study about Neil’s Case study is to show you HOW it’s done. Neil had some awesome success with his Instagram marketing campaign and, if everything works out, he will make a lot of money by the end of it.

And he finessed the Post Title to reflect a more favorable result that attracted a lot of attention, clicks, reads, and links without actually being 100 percent ‘true’ yet while also being ‘100 percent true’.

THIS is how you need to write a post. Neil did it perfectly in his post (and read his other posts — he does the same sort of strategies many times over).

You can either report the facts as they are, but in a less-hyped up away and get a fraction of the attention, or manipulate the  title to portray the data in a more favorable light and get more attention.

Do you get me?

A Case Study about Brian Dean’s Case Study

One more case study, this time from backlinking extraordinaire guru Brian from Backlinko.

He posted an article in January 2015 called “White Hat SEO Case Study: 348% More Organic Traffic in 7 Days

Now, I love Brian Dean’s work in general and I think, based on the articles he’s written, he gives some good, legit info away. He’s a good marketer and knows how to write content people want to see — and do it in a nice, easy to like manner. A lot of people could take some lessons from the way he writes and how he builds an email list.

Now when you read his post title, you think ‘man, 348 percent more organic traffic in 7 days is fucking hole in one’.

It’s a good title. And it’s also completely true when you read the post details.

Here’s what he posted as the graph in a case study done of one of his readers who used one of his strategies to get 300 percent traffic increase in a week.

increase_traffic

 

 

 

 

 

 

You see a sharp increase there in traffic in just a couple days

So wow, who doesn’t want to increase traffic in a week by 348 percent.

Then Brian’s posts another graph, this time showing the actual traffic stats:

Google_Analytics_Traffic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And sure enough, in one week he’s seen a 348% increase in traffic. So the post title is 100 percent true with no exaggeration there.

Except.

When you look at the actual traffic stats, the site had 471 people in 7 days (or roughly 61 search visitors a day) vs the previous week which only had 15 visitors a day.

Impressive?

Not really.

15 people a day going to 61 people a day in 7 days is certainly a positive thing, and it does keep in line with what Brian is trying to teach in the post — that strong backlinks had through a quality content strategy can boost traffic right away.

This is certainly nothing I would disagree with.

But a 348 percent increase of such a small, initial amount is not exactly bone shockingly impressive.

What’s impressive is Brian looking at this data and weaving together a catchy, sensational post title and cooking up an insightful (and theory-supporting) article based around it.

What’s impressive is that the audience, given such a sensational (yet completely true title), fills in the missing details implied by the post title and assumes a more blown up reality than the truth…and as a result is more willing to read the post.

That’s good marketing folks.

Think about it for a second.

 

A 348 percent increase from 500 organic visitors a day to  2248 a day in 7 days is impressive.

…1000 to 4480 organic visitors a day in 7 day is impressive.

…10,000 to 44800 organic visitors a day in 7 days is impressive.

But 15 organic visitors a day to a mere 61 a day in a week is, I think you might agree, pretty mediocre a result — which was the example given in the short case study.

Perhaps the backlinks had a lot to do with this (maybe). BUT, there are other factors such as the site age, older backlinks finally kicking in etc. I’ve had plenty of sites go from 10 people a day to 50 people a day suddenly — even without backlinks, just because the site suddenly had enough age, or older posts started ranking, etc. It could just be convenient timing.

Regardless of whether the strategy worked or not (I’m of the mind that yes, it did — I found similar things myself), what we can take away here is that Dean is a good marketer and takes a bit of positive data then blows that data into something incredibly catchy through a title — which drives a lot of clicks and reads.

At the end of the day, Brian had something like 138 likes just from that post.

Not bad for a bit of truthful exaggeration.

And hell, it’s effective enough he even got a link out of me from that 1 year old post — so you can’t argue with results! 🙂

Keep in mind we could also come up with these alternative titles which are JUST as accurate as the one Brian cooked up:

1. White Hat SEO Case Study: 15 Search Visitors a Day to 61 Visitors a Day in a Week

or

2. How I Got 366 More Search Visitors in only 7 Days

or

3. Case Study: How Site Gained 46 More Organic Search Visitors a Day in Only a Week

All of the above titles are accurate, given the data.

Or of course we have the actual title Dean used below…

4. White Hat SEO Case Study: 348% More Organic Traffic in 7 Days

Which of the four would you be more likely to click on?

Yea, I thought so.

It’s all about perspective folks and as the narrator and author of the post title, you are in control of what the readers will assume when they read it.

It’s a powerful tool that you can use if you are aware of it.

The Final Word

So what am I trying to say here with these two case studies about case studies and my tips on creating a better post title?

Well, simply this: if you are smart about it, you can look at your data (whatever data that may be) and manipulate it to better market your post without actually making anything up or lying about the actual facts.

Information and data is neutral — at the end of the day, if you are a good marketer, you can twist it to your benefit without actually telling any sort of lie.

How much you ‘twist’ that data depends on how much you want to fib. If you are not actually lying about anything, you aren’t really doing anything wrong. And to get more attention to your awesome post full of awesome information, you absolutely should do so (as long as you are not cheating anyone or lying!).

The two examples of well-known marketers did a great job at doing just that: both made claims that were factually true — even though when you actually look at the data, the results looked at form a different perspective are less impressive than the post titles suggest.

I think now you should have a pretty good idea how to create catchy post titles that will drive traffic to your site. Even better, you may be able to look at your data and cough up a sensationalized post title that’s completely true — even if the actual data in your post is not that impressive.

It’s all, as they say, how you look at it.

Go make money online.

Ben

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