The Science Behind High-Performing Headlines

Posted on

Crafting great headlines is as much an art as a science.

You have to intrigue people on an emotional level, and then quickly return your statement with the argument that your piece is worth their click.



Fortunately, the number crunchers analyzing these things have provided us with some compelling data for readers who click on “headlines” for readers. Let’s focus on some examples, and why they work.

Golden Child of Viral Headlines: Buzzfeed

These days, you can’t even make headlines without referring to Buzzfeed, a site that has experienced unprecedented social growth since its launch in 2006. Buzzfeed has a science for their relentless clickable headlines – something that gives an in-depth review of TrackMaven. A case study last year.

Here’s what they found:

The biggest social share comes from asking questions
“Which mythical creature are you? These light-hearted questions are passed across Facebook and Twitter.

What’s more, people can’t resist learning something interesting or entertaining about themselves, so they click and share to get Chakli. The semi-customized nature of the replies and Facebook comments at the end of each result page just promotes sharing.

The science behind the question

The question format is more than just introspection or building curiosity.

TrackMaven’s study showed that, in an analysis of one MILLION blog posts, about 95% of headlines did not have a question mark – but those accounted for more than 46% of social shares for that particular data set.

a coincidence? Less likely. The question is clearly a smart way to title your blog post for more shares.

It’s about the numbers
List Post: Very easy to write and understand, it has become a main focus of modern website. But where most sites offer an average of 5, 7 or even 10-count lists, Buzzfeed and many similar sites, they double that number:

Double your distractions with (mostly) odd-numbered list posts!

These high numbers promise more entertainment value for your click. For those with a few extra minutes to spare, this is an attractive incentive.

In addition, our brains are instinctively wired to understand that “more” usually equals “better”, which is why studies have repeatedly proven that we actually Ready to hit the headlines:

Some interesting discoveries:

If you’re wondering why I had such a bad score of questions in the headline when I was showing itearlier, it’s possible that the survey has what to do with the phraseization of this question – one about the different ways to drink tea Title.

In other words, do not ask any questions. Ask a question that matters to your audience.

If you’re curious about how the author came up with those magic numbers for a list post, it turns out that we focus on odd numbers, and eight word headlines get the most clicks.

Word use case

See a pattern here? There are many reasons why words like you / your, this, who, how and reason are all in the headlines. It has even been said that Buzzfeed has its title writing for a Madlibs-style science with this unique formula:

Number + adjective + noun + descriptive clause

Tucking in emotional clues with their adjectives (insulting, insane, unbelievable…) simply pushes our curiosity more.

We are secretly attracted to negativity
Hidden in secret pockets and dark corners, our itching clicking finger cannot help but make up for the negativity. Startup expert Iris Schur did a study about Dark Science of Blog posts in 2013 in which she analyzed more than 100 different blogs with post titles dealing with negativity.

Surprisingly common in all of these was that Post dealt with technology and not black magic or magic dolls.

She found that using words like “kill,” “death,” “bleeding” and “war” yielded many more clicks and shares than less negatively-focused posts.

Studies have also shown that the things we are not clicking attract more than the things we are doing. This is possible because we had drilled it into our heads about what we should be doing throughout our lives, so knowing where we messed up might be a bit of a draw for us.

Forget science is not always in stone …
Although these tips and ideas will definitely make you think about making psychologically attractive headlines.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *