Photo courtesy of Peter Rukavina on Flickr

Recently, CoSchedule had a look at the million plus headlines in its database to find out what type of headlines received the most shares. Here is what the company found works best for writing headlines:

1. Give your headlines a human element

From those millions of headlines, CoSchedule narrowed their research field to a group of headlines that had received in excess of 1,000 shares and categorized them according to topic, using the following six categories:

  • food
  • home
  • lifestyle
  • news
  • business/tech
  • other

85% of the content that gets over 1,000 shares falls into the food, home and lifestyle categories. Business, tech and news only accounted for 14% of that traffic.

Now, it’s going to be difficult to shoehorn food into all of your headlines if you write about business, but the goal should be to humanize them more. You can do that by using words like ‘you’ and ‘your’ to tell people how your content will benefit them. Don’t be afraid to use colloquialisms and well-known slang. This, too, will make your headlines seem more human.

An example from CoSchedule:

Existing Headline: Social Media and Business Advice and Tips
More Human Version: Tips For Social Media And Business That Will Keep You From Going Broke
Why It’s Better: The new headline connects a fairly straight-laced topic to a very human fear, going broke. (Also, notice the use of slang to make it seem more human.)

2. Measure the emotion value of your headlines (and make them more emotional if necessary)

Use this free Headline Analyzer Tool from the Advanced Marketing Institute to measure how “emotional” a headline is. It works by counting the number of emotional words in the headline. CoSchedule says that headlines with a greater emotional score actually were shared more often than those with a lower score. Posts shared a lot typically scored in the 30-40 range.

An example of improved headlines using the emotional scoring tool:

Existing Headline: Tax Tips for the Second Half of the Year (EMV 0%)
Higher EMV Score: Things You Should Do Right Now To Prepare For Tax Season (EMV 45%)

3. Make your post into a list

It’s no secret that the internet loves it some lists. There are entire websites that just post content in list form and they seem to do pretty well. In CoSchedule’s study, lists format posts accounted for almost 12% of all posts with more than 1,000 shares and were the most noticeable type of post.

They work well because they present a slight element of intrigue for the reader. Most lists start at the highest number and count down, so people are intrigued to find out what No. 1 is. Or, people are curious to see what made the list (and, conversely, what didn’t make the list). And, if you don’t have a ton of time, you can easily skim them, just reading the subheads and still get the basic information, meaning they can be consumed quickly.

So, find a way to turn your post into a list and you’re already making it more sharable.

Another example courtesy of CoSchedule:

Existing Headline: How Customer Service Has Changed Over The Years
As A Sharable List Post: 5 Big Reasons Customer Service Has Totally Changed

4. Customize headlines for different networks

Each major social network has its own quirks.

The breakdown:

  • Facebook: Home-oriented posts like home decor and recipes. Videos.
  • Google+: Home-oriented posts.
  • LinkedIn: Technology and business.
  • Pinterest: Home-oriented posts like crafts and home decor and food, food, food.
  • Twitter: Giveaways, anything for free and technology.

Consider writing different headlines for the different social networks you post on. CoShare uses an iPad giveaway as an example of how you might do this:

A Giveaway On Twitter: Join The Summer iPad Giveaway
A Giveaway On Facebook: Win An iPad For Your Happy Healthy Home!
A Giveaway On Pinterest: Win An iPad For Storing Your Chocolate Chicken Recipes!

5. Use the right headline for steady traffic

If you find that you rarely reach the 1,000+ share mark, don’t worry. Only 1% of content reaches that mark, according to the CoShare research, with 89% of posts receiving fewer than 100 shares and 10% receiving between 100 and 1,000 shares.

But, you have to admit that with all the content available out there, even getting into that 10% range of greater than 100 but fewer than 1,000 is still pretty good if you can do it on a regular basis. If you can hit that sweet spot steadily, you will build up a good base of readers who will propel your really good content into that coveted 1% range on occasion.

One way of doing that is the popular (but not overly popular) ‘How to’ posts, which represented a larger portion of shares in the 100+ share range than they did in the 1,000+ share range.

So, give your readers a steady diet of ‘How to’ posts to get steady traffic and build an audience who will be willing to share your content.

One last example:

Existing Headline: Include a Poll on Your Blog for More Directed Content
As A Sharable List Post: How To Include A Poll on Your Blog

Under those headlines, you still need to have great content, of course. If you do have great content, a dull headline can prevent it from getting the attention it deserves. So, don’t just slap any ol’ headline on your content. Give it some thought. Think of it as the bow on the content gift you’re giving the world … or something like that (something less cheesy, probably).

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  1. […] Marketing Tip: 5 Ways to Make Your Content Pop Off the Screen with Killer Headlines […]

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About Rob Swystun

A former journalist, Rob has been writing professionally since 2006 and now focuses on copy writing, website content, articles, blogging, ghost writing, editing, proofreading and public relations. Currently an Athabasca University student studying for a BA in Communications, Rob holds a Journalism Diploma from Langara College in Vancouver.

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