Majority of people exposed to your content will see the headlines only in their Facebook news feed or in Google’s search results.
Without a compelling and eye-catching title, not many will actually click to visit your blog.
This guide will teach you everything you need to know to come up with catchy and attention grabbing post titles to make people curious and generate clicks and shares.
You’ll learn trigger words to use and get a list of proven headline formulas from the top sites to make your content unstoppable in the crowded feeds.
Let’s get started.
The most shared post headlines in the year 2017
Front pages of newspapers, magazines and popular sites are great sources of inspiration for your headline writing.
Explore them, learn from them and borrow interesting styles and title formulas.
Here’s the list of some of the most shared posts in 2017 from some of the top sites online.
- Only People With Perfect Color Vision Can Read These Words from March 2017 with 1.4 million shares.
- 18 Undeniable Signs You Went To High School In A Small Town from February 2017 with 800,000 shares.
- You’ve Been Making Apple Pie Wrong This Entire Time from November 2016 with 600,000 shares.
- 100 Parenting Memes That Will Keep You Laughing For Hours from February 2017 with 550,000 shares.
- 21 Photos That Show Just How Bad The Flooding In Houston Really Is from August 2017 with 500,000 shares.
New York Times:
- President Trump’s Lies, the Definitive List from June 2017 with 1 million shares.
- Pictures From Women’s Marches on Every Continent from June 2017 with 400,000 shares.
- You May Want to Marry My Husband from March 2017 with 400,000 shares.
- How to Raise a Feminist Son from May 2017 with 400,000 shares.
- Why Nobody Cares the President Is Lying from February 2017 with 350,000 shares.
- Couple Asks Internet To Photoshop Out Shirtless Guy From Engagement Photo, Regrets It Immediately from June 2017 with 1.5 million shares.
- Man Who Saved 669 Children During The Holocaust Has No Idea They’re Around Him, Watch His Reaction from February 2017 with 1.4 million shares.
- 10+ Animals That Look Like They’re About To Drop The Hottest Albums Of The Year from February 2017 with 1.4 million shares.
- If You Ever Feel Sad, These 10+ Highland Cattle Calves Will Make You Smile from October 2017 with 1.1 million shares.
- 10+ Genius T-Shirt Pairs You Will Be Mad You Didn’t Think About First from June 2017 with 1 million shares.
- Ultimate PowerPoint template to save hours on your next pitch or deck from February 2017 with 400,000 shares.
- 13 Things You Should Give Up If You Want To Be Successful from December 2016 with 370,000 shares.
- This Study Reveals The 5 Biggest Regrets People Have Before They Die from January 2017 with 300,000 shares.
- Must read article on how our lives will change dramatically in 20 years by CEO of Mercedes from July 2017 with 300,000 shares.
- How to Identify a Weak Manager from February 2017 with 260,000 shares.
- You Absolutely Need These Prosecco Popsicles This Summer from May 2017 with 275,000 shares.
- You Can Get A Scary Clown To Deliver Doughnuts To Your Friends from September 2017 with 260,000 shares.
- This Wine Train Takes You Through America’s Top Vineyards from August 2017 with 175,000 shares.
- How to Conceal Alcohol – Creative Flasks from April 2017 with 120,000 shares.
- How to Make Paleo Breakfast Sandwich from February 2017 with 95,000 shares.
- This antibiotic will ruin you from March 2017 with 1.8 million shares.
- 12 Things I See Happy People Do (that unhappy people do not) from May 2017 with 750,000 shares.
- I Know You’re Mad at United but… (Thoughts from a Pilot Wife About Flight 3411) from April 2017 with 500,000 shares.
- A Children’s Guide to Being an A$$hole from July 2017 with 230,000 shares.
- You Are Worth Standing in the Altar With from July 2017 with 125,000 shares.
- The 30 Cheapest Places To Travel In 2017 from December 2016 with 460,000 shares.
- Intuition Is The Highest Form Of Intelligence from February 2017 with 300,000 shares.
- The World’s Most Powerful People 2016 from December 2016 with 250,000 shares.
- 83% Of America’s Top High School Science Students Are The Children Of Immigrants from March 2017 with 200,000 shares.
- 9 Things That Make You Unlikable from January 2017 with 200,000 shares.
Attention grabbing headline formulas you should borrow
Most winning headlines can be distilled down to a fill-in-the-blank formula template.
You can adapt these when writing your own post titles but don’t overuse any one of these as that would make them less effective. Mix it up.
Characteristics of headlines guaranteed to get you clicks
Here are the characteristics of the attention grabbing post titles.
Not all of these characteristics are required for each headline, but each successful headline does include at least one of them.
- Add benefits. Know who you are targeting and what problem you are solving and directly address the need of your audience in the title. Tell people exactly what the article is about and what is in it for them so they know right away whether or not it is something they would like to click on. Talk about “secrets”, “hacks”, “techniques”, “strategies”, “warnings” and “mistakes”.
- Promise quick and easy to follow solutions to challenges your audience is facing. People love “simple”, “easy”, “fast”, “instant” and “quick” how-to advice, instructions, and other practical guidelines.
- Create a great resource of information. Make it the “ultimate”, “most complete”, or “definitive”. Everything your audience needs to understand about one topic in one single post.
- Try adding numbers or post top lists. Talk about “top”, “best”, “most successful”, “most read”, “most downloaded”. Some of the most engaging numbers are 10, 5, 15 and 7.
- Namedrop celebrities, events, brands and trending topics that your audience recognizes. I’ve compiled lessons learned from names such as Stephen King and Steve Jobs with great success.
- Work in curiosity. Tell a story and make people curious in your headline but don’t give everything away. Give them a sneak preview by including statements such as “You won’t believe what happened next” or “Number 7 has worked incredibly well for me”. Make people feel they will miss out on something amazing and important unless they click on your post.
- Ask questions. Write headlines in a question format. Just make sure to break the Betteridge’s law that says that every headline that ends with a question mark can be answered with a word “no”.
- Be conversational, direct, informal and personal. Refer to the audience. Make your headlines self-referencing to your visitor by adding “You” or “Your”. After all, you are competing in Twitter streams and Facebook news feeds amongst posts from friends and family.
- Condense your headline. Examine your headlines with a critical eye to make every word count. 12 to 18 words with 80 to 100 characters in total is the optimal.
Use emotional trigger words to engage people
Trigger words engage people on an emotional level and they work exceptionally well in headlines.
They are also some of the most persuasive words in the English language.
Here’s a list of some power words you can start with:
Come up with at least 5 headline ideas for each blog post
Most writers spend majority of their time on the body of content itself and then just create a last-minute headline to finish it off before publishing.
This is not the best approach.
A headline that comes first to your mind might not be the winning one.
Not many will read the body of the content unless the headline attracts them to click it in the first place.
Spend much longer time on figuring out the best headline and come up with several different alternative title ideas for each of your posts.
Making yourself think of five or more headlines gets you in a more creative mindset. It forces you to think more outside the box.
Eventually you’ll get to an idea that is not your typical headline and that might just be the one that works best.
Don’t resist this.
Five headlines are not much actually, the people from Upworthy recommend you write at least 25!
Optimise the headline for Google’s search results
Google may not be as important in driving traffic to a blog as it was before the rise of Facebook and other social media platforms, but it can still be a very valuable way of getting your content to more people.
You should make sure your headlines display well in the search results.
Google shows between 50-60 characters only – it shows exactly what fits in a 512 px.
If the headline is longer, they will not display the full headline.
In cases where your optimal headline is longer than that, try and do a shorter and more concise version for search engines only.
WordPress SEO WordPress plugin previews your search results snippet the way it will look in search results.
It also allows you to write the “SEO Title”. This is the title that will show in search results while you still keep your original title on your post itself and in social media shares.
Avoid clickbait and deliver on what your headline promises
An important point to make is that you should not oversell in your headlines and that you should always deliver what you promise.
Do your best to write a compelling blog post headline but do also deliver the quality content.
There is nothing worse than clicking on a killer headline and then seeing the content that is not being able to live up to the expectations.
The headline is worthless if the post does not deliver on its promise.
The headline frames the rest of your visitor’s experience on your blog.
Visitors would feel tricked into viewing and nothing is more frustrating than clicking on a clickbait headline but getting a weak article.
Just keep on writing and improving your title writing
If there were a simple solution to headline writing, we would all be getting thousands of clicks and shares.
There is a lot of guesswork and trialing involved.
Some bloggers use social media to test out ideas for posts before writing them.
This also gives you more options and interesting angles when posting and re-posting your content in social media.
You could try this out too.
Send out a tweet with a quote, a statement or a piece of advice and see how people react.
If you see a larger-than-normal amount of responses and engagements, it might be a topic you could expand into a complete blog post.
An important part of the headline writing process is analysing the data and implementing the learnings to improve your future titles.
Some of your headlines will suck and will fail but you have to accept it, move on and keep writing more.
An easy way of doing this is to go through your blog visitor data and see which posts worked well and which don’t.
Here are some examples of my posts that have been quite popular that you could learn the format of and adapt to your own content:
- Best WordPress Plugins: 18 Most Downloaded WordPress Plugins Ever
- 8 Thesis Theme Design Tips To Make Your Blog Better
- From 0 To 200.000 Visitors, 8 Blogging Lessons Learned
- 10 Elements Of Style Of Post Writing
- 24 Plugins That I Currently Use On My Blog And Why You Should Use Them Too
- How To Install WordPress – Step-By-Step Guide
- 8 Things Every Blogger Can Learn By Studying Perez Hilton
I hope that this article has explained you a little bit behind the art of headline writing and inspired you to work on your upcoming headlines or even go back and rework the headlines of some of your existing posts.
All you have to do is explain to people why they should click and read your article and not the next one that is in line waiting on their Facebook feed.