How to Write Headlines That Get Shared And Drive Traffic

Headlines make the blog post. Flub your headline, and even if the rest of the post is great, you’ll see far fewer results from your efforts.

Posts with weak headlines get drastically fewer shares, fewer clickthroughs, fewer readers. And while all that might sound like a dread warning, there’s a sunny upside here: Get your headline right, and you’re halfway to success.

It’s just a few little words – how hard could that be? Well, good headlines don’t have to be hard to write, but every extra minute you can put into making them great will pay off. That’s why old-school copywriters – of the postal mail era – spent half their writing time on their headlines.

As David Ogilvy said, “On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”

Ogilvy might even have underestimated how valuable headlines are. In the world of social sharing, your headline may be the only part of your post that people read. That’s because most of us aren’t reading the articles we’re sharing. We just see the headline, the source, and maybe a catchy image. And we share.

This idea of sharing without reading generated a bit of a storm a few years ago. It started when Chartbeat’s CEO Tony Haile posted this tweet in response to a scuffle over Upworthy’s “curiosity gap” style headlines.

tony halle twitter post

Several other sources immediately chimed in that they had seen a similar trend.

This sharing-without-reading habit makes headlines even more critical. That old adage about people judging a book by its cover has only become more true. Except now, more and more people aren’t even opening the book. Ever. They’re recommending it based on the jacket.

I doubt you need any more convincing about how important headlines are. You get it. They can make or break a blog post, an eBook, a webinar – you name the content format.

So how do you get them right?

Well, there is no perfect system for crafting a killer headline. If there was, we’d all be using it … and we might all be using the same headlines. But there are some tricks of the trade. I can’t guarantee miracles, but these techniques will put you ahead of the pack.

1. Write 25 headlines for every one you need.

This is advice from the king of viral content, Upworthy. They have a fantastic SlideShare titled “How to Make That One Thing Go Viral.” It’s the single best headline resource I’ve ever come across, so I’m including it here.

How To Make That One Thing Go Viral from Upworthy

This SlideShare hammers home a number of content creation and promotion principles, but the two major ones are:

  • Good luck with trying to get something to go viral. Even the likes of Upworthy has only a .3% success rate for truly viral content.
  • Write 25 headlines. No, really – 25 headlines. No excuses.

Very few content creators ever write 25 headlines for their content. We should, but … it just seems so darn hard. Even I have to admit that I’m lazy – I only write 6-10 versions of each headline I use.

But for your edification (and mine) let’s run an experiment. Here’s how long it took to write 25 headlines:

  1. How to Write Better Headlines
  2. Want More Shares? Write Better Headlines
  3. 10 Headline Hacks for Dramatically More Shares
  4. Time-Tested Headline Secrets from Master Copywriters 1 minute
  5. 10 Tricks for Better Headlines
  6. 7 Easy Ways to Write Headlines That Get More Clicks and Shares
  7. What Every Content Marketer Needs To Know About Writing Headlines
  8. Data-Based Tips for More Effective Headlines 2 minutes
  9. What Your Readers Wish You Knew About Writing Headlines
  10. How to Write Headlines That Get More Clicks and Shares
  11. 7 Easy Ways to Write Better Headlines, Faster
  12. Want an Edge for Your Content? Write Better Headlines 3 minutes
  13. Why Your Headline is 5 Times More Important Than The Rest of Your Content
  14. Simple Tricks to Write Headlines That Triple Your Results
  15. Headline Hacks For More Effective Content 4 minutes
  16. 10 Tricks to Write Better Headlines Based on Recent Research
  17. New Research on How to Write Better Headlines
  18. 7 Ways to Improve the Single Most Important Aspect of Any Content 5 minutes
  19. Headlines Make the Content: How to Write More Effective Headlines
  20. How to Write Killer Headlines
  21. 10 Easy Ways to Write Irresistible Headlines 6 minutes
  22. The Scientifically Savvy Way to Write Irresistible Headlines
  23. If You Only Get One Part of Your Content Right, Make it the Headline
  24. Headlines are 5 Times More Important Than Any Other Part of Your Content 7 minutes
  25. 80% of Content Marketing Success Rests in the Headline 7 minutes 20 seconds

There you have it: You can write 25 headlines in eight minutes or less.

Your headline list may have some obvious winners and some obvious dogs. But I’d still run every one of these through two of my favorite headline analyzers. They’re CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer and the Advanced Marketing Institute’s Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer.

Here are the scores each one of those headlines got from each tool:

headline analysis

Now, let’s do some explainin’ about what all the numbers mean. First, CoSchedule: The number there is scored from 1 to 100. That score reflects how long the headline is, if it’s associated with more or fewer shares, and several other attributes. Anything over a 70 is considered very good. If you can clear 80 I’d say you’ve found a seriously strong headline. The grade score after the number refers to “Word Balance”, “An analysis of the overall structure, grammar, and readability of your headline.”

The Advanced Marketing Institute’s tool works differently. It rates headlines based on which industry the headline belongs to. Then it sorts headline types by whether they’re Intellectual, Empathetic or Spiritual.

headline analysis results

Of the two tools, I prefer CoSchedule’s. Just don’t take what it tells you as gospel. These are just tools. They are helpful for picking headlines, but they are really just educated guesses. The only way to tell what’s actually going to work is to either go ahead and publish your content, or try to test the headline before you publish.

2. Test.

Another thing the old-time copywriters knew: If you can test only one thing, test the headline. This example from Upworthy demonstrates the potentially epic power of a headline test:

Upworthy headline test

Who else wants 59 times more shares from their content?

If you’re willing to test your headlines after a post has been published, here are several WordPress plugins that make it pretty easy to do:

Of course, none of those will help you test before you publish. Which means all the promotion you do in the first days after publication will be using an untested headline. This is no good, because – as you know – the bulk of the attention your post will get is in those first few days.

Drat. Now what?

I might have a solution. I’ve been playing around with pre-testing headlines in Facebook. It’s a flawed system, but here’s how it works:

  • Find an existing blog post that’s closely related to the topic of your new post.

This will be the link you’ll use in your Facebook ad. Ideally, you’d be pointing traffic to a page on your site. But if there isn’t a similar blog post, point it to another site in your niche. You want something close enough that the Facebook ad reviewers won’t disapprove your ad because you’re sending traffic to an unrelated page.

  • Make a “Clicks to Website” type of ad. Have one version of the ad use “Headline A” that you want to test. Create another duplicate ad for “Headline B”.
  • Select an audience for these ads that closely resembles the audience you want to attract.
  • Start the ads. Watch how they perform over the next few days. Make sure you pick a winner that’s statistically valid. A simple test calculator like Perry Marshall’s split-tester will do.

Here’s what my ads dashboard looked like for a short test I ran last month. These aren’t statistically valid results, but this shows what your tests would look like.

facebook ads pam neely

It will probably cost you about $20 to test three headlines against each other. It will also add quite a bit of time to your headline writing, and to your content creation. However – what’s it worth to you to find out which headline gets double or triple the clicks?

3. Use Numbers.

Most of the time, when you’ve got a number in a headline, it means you’ve got a “list post,” aka a “listicle.” A typical listicle headline would be “10 Ways to Get More Shares.” This article format is used far and wide online. It’s also been dissed as a shallow way to express ideas.

Shallow or not, listicles work. Look at any list of “top articles on this site” and you’ll see at least a few listicles. Often, the entire roster of top articles will be listicles.

Why do they work? Several reasons:

  • Listicles are scannable. Most people online are scanning, not reading.
  • Numbers are specific. People want to know what they’re going to get before they click through to a page.
  • Listicles frame the information well. They make the information seem more manageable or “digestible.”

There are many studies showing that listicles outperform other content formats – and other headline types. Here’s one from Noah Kagan’s site:

average shares by content type

And another from Conductor’s study of which headlines resonate with readers:

overall headline preferences

4. Use magic words.

What’s the magic word? It’s “you.” Or “free.” Or the keyword you want to rank for.

Use your words carefully in headlines. Always be focused on where your readers’ heads are at – they’re always scanning for what’s relevant to them. If your headline can make that case, you’ll get more clicks. You can see this principle in the graph from Conductor’s study. “Reader addressing” headlines got the second most engagement.

While readers are the most important audience, we can’t very well neglect search engines, either. And because your headline is such a powerful component of a page’s search engine optimization I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention including them in your headline. Don’t go into keyword stuffing, please, but one or two keywords is good.

Buffer did an interesting study a few years ago about which words got the most shares. Here’s the highlights of what they found:

most popular viral headlines

Notice the “you” in the left column? It even beat out “is”. Of course, these words would change a bit if they were pulled from articles for a business audience. They’d change again if they were pulled from articles for your audience.


Headlines should not be added on as a last-minute finishing touch. They have so much effect on the success or failure of our content that we really need to be giving them more focus. Maybe we can’t go so far as spending half our content creation time on the headline. But what about even 20 minutes? If those 20 minutes could get you 20% more shares and results from your content, wouldn’t they be worth it?

This article was written by Pam Neely from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

How To Ensure Your Branded Content Is Still Seen On Instagram

Don’t panic, the end of organic reach on Instagram isn’t as bad as you think. While many have reacted to the algorithmic changes with a “sky is falling” attitude, there’s still a way for your content to appear in people’s feeds without paying for the privilege: just create cool stuff.

That’s right, visibility on Instagram is now dependent on something brands should’ve been doing all along — sharing interesting photos and videos that are sure to score Likes and comments. If you know what your followers want, and deliver it, you’ll have no problem staying top of mind (and top of feed).

Worried that what you’ve been posting won’t make the algorithmic cut? Then emulate the efforts of brands in the following categories:

  • Hospitality
  • Food and beverage
  • Insurance
  • Automotive

Why are these verticals the ones to take your cues from? Because according to a recent report from TrendMaven, companies in these sectors see the highest levels of engagement on Instagram. Here are a few examples of their best practices:

Embrace what people love about you
Kimpton, owner of the Hotel Monaco and Hotel Palomar brands, was one of the first “design” hotel chains. And even though it’s been absorbed by the massive InterContinental Hotels Group, the hotelier hasn’t forgotten what helped them attract guests early on — their bold style.


Understand audience interests
Instead of one boring product shot after another, Pabst’s Instagram feed reflects the creative inclinations of their hipster millennial audience. It’s a mix of retro cool advertising, blue ribbon-inspired art and fun goofs like a person’s Snapchat face swap with a can of PBR.


Tell a story
Allstate could post pics of things people insure and call it a day. Instead, they riffed on their tagline and showcased the untold tales of what people do with their hands. For Black History Month, Allstate focused on the personal achievements of African Americans with three-part photographic profiles.


Tap into a fan base
Nissan’s various models have been tagged hundreds of thousands of times, so it’s a no-brainer that the bulk of the automaker’s posts are photos taken by real owners. When there’s a passionate community talking about your product, “regramming” is the smartest choice you can make.


One caution: when trying to optimize your posts for maximum exposure, keep in mind that Instagram users give out Likes pretty freely, so the algorithm is surely rewarding commenting more as it takes greater effort. In that respect, Nissan’s approach is pretty savvy because they’re co-opting imagery they know people are already chatting about.

If you’ve been wondering how to gain deeper insights into your Instagram efforts, we’d love to show you a demo of our Meltwater Premium Social Package with Instagram monitoring and audience analytics.

This article was written by Chris Boyles from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

All hail the Nutribullet: Why blending is the next big thing for a healthy marketing plan

In the words of The Guardian, 2015 was a liquidiser revolution and 2016 looks to be no different- all thanks to the Nutribullet. The blending craze is widely recognised as healthy because it encourages us to add food groups (and nutrients) to our diet that many of us usually ignore. As it turns out, variety is healthy. I’m here to make the case that the same is true for our marketing plan.

Blending data refers to mixing a cocktail of insights pulled from multiple sources and analysing them to create strong, healthy marketing campaigns. Blending data isn’t a new thing. It’s just that big data analysis has become a lot easier with the use of the right tools, and so we’re seeing more and more companies adopting this strategy. Here are 3 reasons why…

Connect the dots. Pin-point the patterns

Brand reputation can’t be judged by one person’s opinion, whether expressed in an article or a social media post. Blending online news and social media data allows us to connect the dots by identifying patterns to understand how our brand is perceived overall. We can take this a step further by comparing groups of people and channels to identify patterns.This is when a media monitoring tool becomes invaluable.

We can easily compare our brand reach by channel, publication, or geography. We can compare sentiment in the news versus social. We can compare key themes associated with our brand. Making these comparisons offers much more reliable and valuable brand reputation data. When we blend them all together we get a much better sense of where we stand and how we should focus our marketing efforts.

Remain competitive

PESTEL analysis (Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Environmental, Legal) insights are what drive a competitive marketing plan strategy. A lack of attention to such trends in macro data can result in huge losses to the bottom line, a brand reputation crisis and lack of competitiveness. A scan through Sainsbury’s 2015 annual report reveals how one of the biggest supermarkets in the UK has remained at the top, and sure enough PESTEL data is included. Through being aware of technological developments, Sainsbury’s have strengthened their in-house digital and technology capabilities. Trends in the cost of raw material, consumer confidence, employment rates, inflation and buying habits all have direct impact on the company. Ultimately, their marketing plan will need to accommodate such trends if they are to remain a key player.

Tailor campaigns

Blending data is useful for gaining a deeper understanding of the target and identifying their sweet spot. Our audience leaves digital breadcrumbs in everything they do and it’s up to us to track them to help us see the wider picture. We can then tailor our marketing plan and campaigns, for example, by bridging the gap between online and offline shopping behaviour and experience. 2015 was the year of impressive personalised campaigns, each fuelled by understanding how to use data effectively.

Don’t leave a sour taste

Much like fruit, data goes off. It’s best to keep the data as fresh as possible by updating our marketing plan with real-time insights.

Do you have any blending data tips that will help improve marketing plan success? Drop us a tweet @Meltwater