In today’s blog-filled world dominated by catchy headlines, viral blog titles, social media updates, and email blasts, it has never been more critical than ever for businesses to win the attention of their target audience. One proven and classic way to do so is to learn how to write an attention-grabbing headline.
For generations, journalists and copywriters have known the true value of writing the perfect headline. Advertising legend, David Ogilvy, said that he changed the title of one of his most effective headlines, ‘At 60 miles an hour, the only thing you hear in the new Rolls Royce is the ticking of the dashboard clock …’ 104 different times.
Today many writers find it difficult to come up with just one catchy blog title or creative idea. Below we provide you with structure, highlighting six proven methods known to help craft an effective blog title, featuring copywriting elements used by the most viral websites out in the market today.
Check it out and let us know what you think in our comments section below.
Write your next blog title, so it invokes the element of surprise. When your blog titles prompt for a surprise, you get the brain to release dopamine, which amplifies the reader’s sense of awareness, inspiring them to look at the current situation in a new way. Research suggests that we may subconsciously desire the unpredictable experience of ‘surprise’ over the experience we consciously believe we prefer.
Also, blog titles that use the element of surprise, appeal to the human’s natural habit to notice unpredictable and surprising sequences. Our hippocampus acts as a prediction and comparison mechanism and reacts when there is a discrepancy between what is expected and reality.
An example of a surprising headline is Ashely Ambridge’s title: ‘Caution: Stop masturbating with your money.’
It uses shocking language like ‘Caution’ and an unpredictable phrase like ‘Stop masturbating with your money’ that surprises readers, instantly showing a lack of similarity of what is expected.
Using a question headline for your blog title is effective because it automatically triggers a sense of mystery that prompts the reader to click through. Question headlines work well for blog titles because they appeal to both the user and search engines.
Here’s an example of a popular question headline: ‘Are you paying too much for home insurance? How to tell.’
Question blog titles work best if it is crafted to ask a yes or no question that also answers itself immediately, or, when the question implies an answer and benefit, like ‘Want to learn how our blog went from 0 to 2.5-million page views in 8 months? Here’s how.
Give it a shot.
There’s a famous study by George Loewenstein, a professor at Carnegie Melon University that is constantly parroted in copywriting circles. The study Loewenstein came up with was called the ‘Information Gap Theory of Curiosity.’
Lowenstein defined curiosity as an innate human behavior that’s triggered when people suddenly feel a gap between what they know and what they want to know.
He broke down his theory in two simple steps: 1) introduction of the painful gap in our knowledge bank a.k.a. the headline; 2) the urge to fill in the gap that eases the pain a.k.a. clicking on the blog title.
As per introducing an example known to work, the famous 1926 headline comes to mind, ‘They laughed when I sat at the piano, but when I started to play!’
The headline doesn’t necessarily sell or pitch piano lessons, it invokes an emotional curiosity and response, pitching the benefit of learning how to play the piano. The founder of ViralNova has it framed at his office as a source of inspiration.
There’s a reason why doom-and-gloom headlines are pushed through media channels and outnumber positive headlines by a ratio of 17-1, they get our attention.
Negative superlatives appeal to our natural instinct of self-preservation and the messages that trigger that primal instinct immediately is pushed to the front, grabbing our attention.
In a study conducted by Outbrain that analyzed 65,000 blog titles, they found that negative superlatives (‘never,’ worst…’) recorded 65% higher click-through-rate than positive superlatives (‘always,’ ‘best’…).
An example of using a negative superlative in a blog title is writing a blog post like, ‘Top 50 worst pieces of advice ever given on writing blog titles ever.’ Try it out and test for yourself.
List posts do famously well online. When you add numbers to your blog title, you give users a promise list and an overall understanding of what to expect when clicking through and reading.
This helps pacify the user and offers an expected experience. It is like going to the emergency room and having the nurse inform you that the doctor will see you in 30 minutes, rather than telling you to, “Wait and see.”
So how do you write an effective blog title that includes numbers? Many copywriters trumpet Jeff Goins and his ultimate headline formula:
number + adjective + keyword + rationale + promise = The Ultimate Headline.
Also with listicles, you as a publisher will get the search and share value. The longer your posts are, the more likely it is for your article to index high as a reliable resource on search engines.
Longer blog posts measured at 3000 to 10,000 words long registered 16 times more shares than posts that were 1000 to 2000 words long as well.
When you add numbers in your blog titles, you have an opportunity to introduce ‘ultimate lists’ for a niche industry, a one-stop shop resource for that query.
6. Use the word, ‘YOU’
According to copywriters like Drayton Bird, the word, ‘you’ is arguably the most powerful word a copywriter can use today. People are interested in themselves and want to know how articles and content benefit them.
Here’s a case study that shows the power of ‘you’ and how it registers as one of the most popular words used among viral articles, making it one of the most viral words online. The data also suggests how powerful the internet reacts to the word ‘you’ in blog titles and social media headlines.
An example of how you can leverage the power of ‘you’ is writing a blog title like, ‘6 VIRAL Blog Titles You’re Probably NOT Using.’
Just about anyone can write an effective blog title. Headlines make all the world of a difference and play a major role as to why websites like Upworthy, Buzzfeed, and ViralNova go viral compared to sites that do not.
If you have a website that needs a content facelift, try testing out our six tips and see if you can get one of your blog posts to go viral.