How to sound like a clickbait robot
While tech companies like IBM and Google are still working on game-playing computers, news organisations have moved on. They're developing robot journalists.
It makes sense. Why pay a human to write predictable cliché-ridden articles, when you can get a computer to do it for you?
And web content has become awfully predictable. Easier and cheaper analytics allow editors to sift millions of articles in search of the magic formula for 'viral content'. Once you've found the perfect recipe for your readers, why not get a machine to follow it?
Robot writers are already here.
Think I'm joking? Tools like Quill and Wordsmith can draft everything from sports reports to financial analysis.
Any blogger lacking inspiration can call on Hubspot's Blog Topic Generator for ideas. So much easier than tweaking your own headline with CoSchedule's Headline Analyzer.
After all, by the time you've applied your SEO tools, adding enough 'emotion' and 'power' words to make it truly click-worthy, it's going to sound like a robot wrote it anyway.
Optimisation tools aren't all bad.
Learning to write is hard. Bloggers and marketers are busy people. Your colleagues don't always have time to read your piece and give constructive feedback.
A bit of software that can help you sharpen up your headlines and tweets is a wonderful thing. But if you follow ALL the rules, you're going to end up sounding like a robot yourself.
Don't want to sound like a clickbait robot? Avoid these words…
These words have been appearing way too often in my Feedly and Twitter streams.
Powerful. 'Reasons', 'writing' or 'tools', as in 8 Powerful Marketing and Web Tools for Savvy Entrepreneurs. A waste of a word. Would you ever write a piece about 8 feeble reasons to get up early in the morning?
Insightful. Horrid at all times, but truly awful in headlines. Let's assume that if you published it, you believed it was accurate and perceptive. So you don't need to say that in the headline. 'Insightful statistics' is even worse - like 5 Insightful Instagram Statistics That You Should Know A statistic on its own isn't insightful.
Surprising. The content marketer's version of 'One weird tip…'. Here's a sample fact from Surprising Statistics About Marketing Technology: "50% use marketing technology for delivering and analysing emails." Are you surprised by that? No, me neither.
Intriguing. "You'll never guess what happens next…" Desperation strikes, as you try to make a roundup of digital marketing stats sound less like boring blog-filler.
Simple. It never is. Like this piece from the Content Marketing Institute (who should know better). Align All Your Messaging With This Simple & Fun Tool turns out to be 2500 words on a 7 step process for creating a 'message architecture'.
Successful. There's this idea that 'successful' people have habits we're desperate to copy. Because if we copied their habits, we'd magically morph into Marissa Meyer or Richard Branson. That's nonsense. For every 'successful person' who gets up at 4am to meditate, there's another one who doesn't go to bed till 4am because they like writing in the middle of the night. There's no magic formula.
And anyway, success is in the eye of the beholder. Not everyone would agree that Marissa Meyer is the model of a successful human being. Be more specific if you want me to click that headline.
Secret. Whatever you're writing, it isn't going to be a revelation to anyone. (Unless you're an investigative journalist.) You aren't the first person to write about the power of meditation, or how some people use time blocking to get things done. By all means, write about it. But don't headline it The surprising secret of successful leaders.
What other words should we cut from headlines? (We all lapse into cliché sometimes - feel free to point out mine!)