The web writer as a pick-up artist.

by Nick Usborne on March 17, 2011

If you haven’t met this guy in real life, you’ll have seen him in the movies.

He’s the guy who is convinced he has the perfect pick-up lines for the ladies.

He boasts and brags about how he can go into any bar, zero in on the girl he wants, and dazzle her with his killer pick-up lines.

Behind his back, we laugh.

But before you laugh too hard…

What exactly are you trying to do when you write headlines for your web pages, subject lines for your emails, and short-form text for your Tweets and Facebook updates?

Thought so…you’re writing pick-up lines.

You’re trying to “compel attention”…”intrigue”…”engage”…and so on. You’re wearing your brightest smile, and you’re trying to dazzle your readers with your best lines.

And that’s OK…or it can be OK, as long as you then deliver what your readers are really looking for.

Consider these two environments…

In a bar people are generally there to relax, hang out with friends, wind down, and have a good time. (Excluding business meetings in bars.)

Online, people generally go to websites with a specific purpose in mind, in search of something, or an answer to something. (Excluding entertainment websites.)

Totally different.

One place is for relaxing and winding down.

The other is task-oriented and purpose-driven.

In fact, as soon as someone types four or five words into a search box, he or she is committed to finding a particular piece of information.

For example, when someone types “how to use a vacuum coffee maker”, it’s pretty clear what they are looking for.

Same with, “what’s the current price of gold?”

Or, “kid-friendly places to stay at Myrtle Beach”.

In other words, the use of search engines almost always signifies intent, or purpose.

And when a site visitor has a purpose in mind, there is a very real danger that your pick-up line will be dismissed.

Same as if that guy tries his pick-up line on a girl who is there to meet with her parents. If he’s lucky, our guy will get a smile. But he’ll then get the brush-off, because she has a very specific reason for being in the bar.

Keep this in mind as you dream up your next killer headline and opening paragraph.

If what you write is not perfectly aligned with the intent and purpose of your reader, you’ll be missing by a mile.

You might get a quick smile.

But then comes the brush-off.

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