The old saying of, “Never judge a book by its cover” may prove accurate, but if the title doesn’t generate attention, nobody will read it to discover whether the contents are good or not. An attention-grabbing title is worth its weight in gold. It brings readers to the article. From there, it’s up to the article to deliver, but the title brings readers in through the door. However, with the millions of new posts going live every single day on the Internet, how can a copywriter set his or her content apart from the rest of the pack? These statistics (provided by Buzzsumo, 2017), prove very specific headlines generate the highest return.

Looking At the Information

Buzzsumo recently looked at over 100 million headlines published between March 1st, 2017 and May 10th, 2017.  For articles shared on the social media platform, Buzzsumo considered a post with direct user engagement (like share or comment) a success. The most successful headline consisted of the phrase “Will Make You.” In fact, an article posted on Facebook with the term “Will Make You” in the title received, on average, just shy of 9,000 engagements. The next most popular headline included “This is Why” with just under 4,100 engagements.


Why “Will Make You” is Successful

The very best copywriters understand the power of persuasion. Persuading someone to read an article and, at the end, follow through with the call to action requires finesse. It connects a reader to the content in an almost subliminal manner. The reader’s brain forges connections and thinks about recommended topics due to the phrasing utilized within the copy. This all begins with the title.

The title “Will Make You” comes across as forcible terminology. In a way, it is. It doesn’t mandate the reader do anything, but the brain automatically steps into action. It also connects to a reader’s curiosity. They want to know if they really will do what the article suggests they will do.

Some examples of “Will Make You” titles include “These Pictures Will Make You Laugh,” or “10 Headlines That Will Make You Feel Better About Your Life.” The term can prove useful in a variety of ways, yet it also prods the reader’s overall curiosity.  Additionally, due to the formatting, it instantly points out why a reader needs to care about the included content. The phrase provides a bridge between the person reading the content and an emotional interaction.

Emotional Connections Prove Essential

Many of the top headline phrases include emotionally driven information. Beyond the “Will Make You” headline, other top performing headlines include wording such as “Tears of Joy,” “Make You Cry,” “Give You Goosebumps,” “Is Too Cute,” “Shocked to See,” “Melt Your Heart,” and “Can’t Stop Laughing.” Nearly half of the entire top performing headlines in the 100 million headlines analyzed contains some sort of emotional connection or connotation. It demonstrates the power of emotion and how humans, regardless of their background, where they come from and their current financial or physiological standpoints all want to experience some sort of emotion.

Developing an emotional connection between consumer and product is nothing new. Many of the top companies in the world take advantage of forming an emotional bridge between the company and the buyer. It helps avoid the idea of a faceless corporation and instead develop a bond between individual and enterprise. In 2016, according to Digital Content Next, several of the most viewed commercials on YouTube (customers going to YouTube to specifically watch a commercial) centered on the connection between parents and children. A tribute to the moms of Olympic athletes was the second most viewed commercial on YouTube that year. The first, with over 6 million views in under half a year, highlights the importance of “Asking Dad” and came out right around Father’s Day. What made it more remarkable was this particular commercial had a runtime of 2:30, or a full two minutes longer than the average commercial.

Beyond the similarities in telling a parent “thank you,” Digital Content Next looked at the most used words in the commercials. Great came out on top with each, followed by love and then “I Love.” To demonstrate the importance of forging an emotional connection, the website looked at the fourth most viewed commercial of the year, Google’s “Introducing Voice Access Beta.” The three most used words or phrases in the commercial? “Love,” “Great” and “I Love.”  The best advertisements and headlines don’t need to share the same topic, but keywords and phrases is a must.

Writing headlines showing your personality is a great way to build emotional connections. Readers love content that appeals to their emotions or they can relate to because of similar personality traits.

Starting Off the Title

Emotion, length, and specific keywords within the title are great at improving the quality of a headline. However, there are several very specific ways a writer should begin the headline. The sooner a title grabs a reader’s attention, the greater the chances of someone scanning through articles and scrubbing through their Facebook newsfeed will stop and take in the full title of the article (and eventually the article itself).

When Buzzsumo looked at the 100 million different article headlines, it also analyzed the top phrases to start a headline. These headlines generated the most Facebook engagements, on average. At the top of the list is “X Reasons Why…” In fact, of the top 10, five of the top phrases to start off a headline include this blank number (5 Reasons Why 12 Reasons Why and so on). While the top “X Reasons Why” receives, on average, 5,100 Facebook engagements, the second most successful phrase is “X Thins You…” (8 Things You…, for example). Other numbers related posts within the top 10 include “X of The,” “X Ways to,” and “The X Best…”


Additionally, Buzzsumo looked at the top phrases to end a headline as well. The top two successful headlines were far and away more beneficial than all of the other headline enders. At the top, with an average of over 10,000 Facebook engagements per post, is “…the world” with “…X years” coming in at second with nearly 9,900 engagements per post. All of this demonstrates just how important every single word is within a headline. The beginning of a headline hooks the reader, while the ending of the headline keeps the reader drawn in and ensures the reader is more likely to move ahead and read the article. The most successful copywriters understand that every single word plays a pivotal role in the overall quality of a headline, so the best way to boost headline results is to not only use some of these suggested keywords and word placements but to place importance on every word of the headline.


Title Length: Does It Matter?

Different writers have different philosophies about the appropriate title length. Some make it whatever length as long as it summarizes the subject, while others believe it needs to fit in a very specific character range. The best way to truly determine this is to look at the number of URL Facebook likes and URL Tweets regarding a specific title length.

According to Hubspot (2017), in general, longer is better, although not always concrete. 14 words are the top performing title, with the most tweets and Facebook likes. 15 and above is right behind it. However, the next best performing title lengths are 11 words (with regards to Tweets), yet 12 and eight-word titles perform better on Facebook.

In reality, the only truth to title length hinges on longer generally is better. Once titles begin to fall under seven words, social shares begin to drop dramatically. Five, six and seven letter titles perform half as well as 14 letter words on Facebook. Anything under four words shouldn’t even be considered. These titles receive less than 10 percent of what a 14-word title. Shorter titles simply don’t educate the reader on the article’s context. It also doesn’t forge an emotional connection.


According to the same research conducted by Hubspot, regardless of the number of words, a title should sit under 56 characters. This is because anything longer than this and part of the title will end up cut off while displayed. It should also include keywords at the beginning of the title (to help with tagging and social searches), plus it should provide a human element to it. More research suggesting developing an emotional connection is vital to a great headline.

Words and Phrases to Avoid (Usually)

Important to understand words and phrases not to use within a title. Using these words may end up preventing a customer from reading the given content.

According to the same Buzzsumo (2017) research, the words performing long tail keyword is “Control of Your.” This, on average, received 24 Facebook engagements per post (as opposed to the top performing keyword phrase, which received over 8,900 on average). Other poor performing titles included the phrases “Your Own Business,” “Work For You,” “The Introduction Of,” “What’s New In,” The Nature Of” and “The Risk Of.”

All of these poor performing long tail keywords share a few different similarities. For starters, there’s no emotional connection formed between reader and the text. “On a Budget,” does not have any emotional connection, which automatically makes it difficult to connect with the reader. The words don’t excite the reader either. Keywords such as “Introduction,” “Risks” and “Control” are not sexy keywords that increase the average reader’s interest. In fact, these keywords either have a neutral or negative connotation. Individuals online are already exposed to a considerable amount of negative material on a daily basis. They do not want to openly and actively seek out more potential negativity. That is exactly why these keywords and phrases usually should be avoided. Although there are occasionally reasons as to why a writer can implement the words and still prove successful.


Understanding Where to Post Content

Content doesn’t always perform the same on one site over another. When sharing a post on social media sites, what works on one may not work well on another. As Buzzsumo (2017) points out, the key phrase “on a budget” does not perform well on Facebook. When looking at three different articles shared on Facebook containing “On a Budget” within the title, one post received 143 engagements, another 800 and a third with 1,400. However, when shared to Pinterest, each of these posts received over 600,000 shares. These numbers prove it is important to know what to share where. The top-performing “On a Budget” on Pinterest, with just under 645,000 shares, received a total of one share on LinkedIn, 31 on Google_ and 143 on Facebook.

What does all of this mean? It suggests when uploading content to Social Media, it may prove better to alter the title of the post. Users on Pinterest utilize the social media site for craft ideas and for making items on a budget. Understanding this should help drive the title. Just like a writer needs to understand the key demographic they are writing to, they need to understand the social outlet method they’re using as well.


When Using a Number

Numbers in headlines, especially at the beginning of the headline, does generate additional attention and interest from the average reader. It boosts user engagement, which in turn helps spread the word and reach additional customers. However, not all numbers are created equal. Buzzsumo looked at the most engaging numbers in headlines and found some really do perform better.

At the top is “10.” It performs better than any other number by a long shot, with over 22,000 Facebook engagements on average. The second most successful number is “5” with just over 16,000 Facebook engagements by post. “`15” and “7” both perform well at over 12,000 Facebook engagements per post, with “20” and “6” coming in next at over 9,000 Facebook engagements per post.

Outside of 15 and 20, most upper teen and higher numbers do not perform well. In fact, the lowest performing numbers are 30, (at 2,800 Facebook engagements per post), followed by 18, 25, 17 and 14.


In Conclusion

Not all headlines are created equal. Even the slightest difference between words, numbers, and phrasing can make all the difference between a successful headline and one few people read and engage with. From focusing on the number of words used within the title to how it begins, how it ends and even what number is mentioned within the title, all of this goes a long way in creating the best headline possible. Beyond this though, a writer needs to understand his or her audience and where they are accessing the content. They may want to alter the headline, based on the publication location. By taking these statistics into consideration, a reader has the necessary tools to instantly improve their headline and see a dramatic increase in user interaction and engagement.

Leave a comment