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Do You Want to Write the World’s Best Headlines?

By Snap Agency February 13, 2017

There’s no shortage of content online. When people search for information about any industry, they can easily find blogs, videos, infographics, podcasts and more. Why do readers choose certain content over others? More often than not, the headline is the most important factor.

People want information quickly. They’ll read the headline and make a snap decision about the quality of the content. Unfair? Maybe. But if you want to increase views, you’ll need to craft killer headlines. We took a look at thousands of article titles across a huge variety of industries.

Our data was collected with Buzzsumo. This platform lets you search for popular blog posts by keyword. Popularity of posts is ranked according to social media shares.

What Do Great Headlines Have in Common?

There’s no one secret to writing an effective headline. Instead, there are a few different strategies that are used successfully on a regular basis. You’ll want to keep them all in mind when crafting your headlines, and choose which ones best fit the situation.

Ready to learn how to write the world’s best headlines? Let’s go.

Put Numbers in Your Headline

More than half of the most shared headlines had a number in their title. This number could be in the form of a percentage, list or other use. For example:

  • 61% of Home Owners Fall Victim to THIS Every Year
  • 7 Quick Tips for Hosting a Great Dinner Party
  • Bringing Home a New Pet? 5 Things You Need to Know Beforehand!

BuzzFeed is well-known for this type of headline. Their articles are a great example of the “listicle” format, but you don’t have to use the list-style format to include numbers in your headline.

So, why do numbers work? People like certainty. When we see numbers, we feel that sense of certainty in regard to what (and how much) we’re about to read. Plus, we’re more likely to share the information with others. This is a psychological principle called the Ellsberg paradox.

Also, numbers help the reader understand the article. They can get a general sense of the length as well as understand that the article will be short bites of easily digestible info. While using the numerical form of numbers less than 10 might feel uncomfortable for grammar-philes, it’s OK to break the rule for headlines.

Use between 16 and 18 Words

Seventeen words or so are usually enough to describe the headline in an in-depth, intriguing way. Identify the problem your reader is having and imply a solution. You’ll want to leave the specifics of the solution for the body of the article. The idea is to entice the reader into opening the post.

Interestingly, the phrase “this is what” is disproportionally popular in a headline. Now, obviously, you can’t use that specific phrase every time. But you can use it on occasion.

Also, keep the larger message of what “this is what” means. It’s a phrase which implies certainty. You, the reader, have a problem and “This is What” you need to know to solve it.

Teach Readers How To Do Something

Some classics never go out of style. How-to guides have been popular since the early days of the Internet, and they’re still widely shared today.

How-to guides can cover basically any topic. Aside from teaching the reader a new skill, a how-to guide also helps establish your brand as an authority in your industry. Make sure you don’t skip steps, and make sure your guide is readable by a variety of curious searchers—you don’t want to turn people away from your brand by confusing them or making things too complicated.

Ask a Question

Readers will automatically answer a question in their head, which means immediate engagement. For instance, the headline for this very article is a question (in case you forgot, it’s “Do You Want to Write the World’s Best Headlines?”).

Ideally, readers will reflexively answer “yes,” they do want to know how to write the world’s best headlines. And while the “world’s best” part is tongue-in-cheek, the title still conveys that this article is about headline-writing tricks we think most people don’t already know about.

Post Videos

Some people like to read information. Others prefer to watch it in video form. You can reach both types of people by including a video in your content. The video should be on the same topic as the article. Ideally, you’ll want to create an original video. Finally, put the word “video” into the title. Many people use brackets like this: [Video].

Here’s a list of video and image resources to help you get started.

Be Controversial (Sorta)

Don’t be afraid to take a stand. Now, this doesn’t mean just opine on some controversial topic in the world. There’s probably little benefit to your business publicly taking a strong stance on a political issue, for instance.

But within your industry, feel free to have opinions. People don’t want to read bland, middle-of-the-road opinions all the time. If you feel strongly about some issue related to the product or service you provide, take a side in a blog post. People who agree AND people who disagree will likely appreciate your point of view.

Tell the Truth (and Be Funny)

Obviously, we’re not teaching anyone to write the world’s best headlines. But the hyperbole is a jokey way to stand out from the crowd. So, in this case, we’re kidding around with the “world’s best” – but the bulk of the article is genuine info on how to write effective headlines that’ll draw more views.

Don’t have your headlines promise the moon and the stars. Deliver well-researched, engaging information in your article, but don’t be afraid to have a little fun, too.