How to Write The Perfect Headline

So many different variables go into a viral post—timing, emotion, engagement, and so many others that you cannot control. There is no viral blueprint. The greatest chance we have to understand viral content is to study the posts and places that do it best, figure out what worked for them, and try it for ourselves.

Thanks to some incredible work by the team at Ripenn, we have access to headline analysis from four of the top viral sites on the web—who happen to be really good at headline writing. Based on this information—plus a little extra from our own Buffer favorites—we can get a glimpse into the science of how to write a great headline and what words to choose.

The top words used in viral headlines

The headline data from Ripenn came from four of the most click-worthy sites on the web—BuzzFeed, ViralNova, UpWorthy and Wimp. Each of these sites receives more than 4,000,000 monthly unique visits, and headlines are a big reason why.

To give some variety to the list, I added the top headlines from 20 different tech, social media and productivity sites that we find ourselves reading and sharing often here at Buffer—sites like Seth Godin, 99u, Social Media Explorer and more (the full list is available in spreadsheet form)—for an additional 400 headlines to be analyzed.

In total, I examined 3,016 headlines from 24 top content sites. Here are the most popular words found in their headlines.

(The table at left shows common words—articles, prepositions, pronouns, etc.—and the table at right shows less common, more specific words—nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc.)

Top words used in viral headlines  Most popular uncommon words in viral headlines

Click here to see a more complete list of top words beyond the 50 mentioned above.

Let’s dig in, shall we?

Analyzing top headlines: Which words stand out?

There’s a lot to glean from here, and everyone has a unique way of implementing data like this on their site. Although you can interpret this data any number of different ways, here are my top observations.

You and Your

Content’s No. 1 goal is to help other people. This is evident in the viral headlines examined here. “You” was the No. 5 most popular word, and we find “your” in the Top 20 as well. Combined, these two pronouns appeared in 16 percent of all the headlines in this study.

What does this say about viral headlines? They seek to add value for you, the reader. Make content about the reader, not about the writer.

You and Your examples from the study include:

  • What Would You Buy With an Extra $12,000?
  • A Chart About Silence That Will Leave You Speechless
  • 6 Things You Need to Know Today

Academic research supports this concept. A Norwegian business school experimented with different headline structures, including referential headlines, rhetorical headlines, and declarative headlines. They found that question headlines referencing the reader were the most effective.

This

The power of “this” is in its specificity. When you use “this” in a headline, the reader’s mind switches to a concrete view of whatever you’re talking about, as if the object in question were imminent and attainable. There is an immediacy to the word.

See these three examples of headlines from the study:

  • This Guy Sticks Household Objects in His Beard and It’s Weirdly Mesmerizing
  • This Woman’s Massive Instagram Following Helped Her Launch a Business
  • Is This the Airport of the Future?

What, Which, and When

What do all these words have in common? (OK, I kind of gave away the answer.) They are all about questions.

Here are some examples of question headlines from the study:

  • Which Countries Pay Its Teachers What They’re Worth?
  • Which Old-School Pro Wrestling Legend Are You?
  • What Happens When a Dump Truck Going 50mph Hits a Military-Grade Concrete Barrier?

Copyblogger’s Jerod Morris has preached the value of question headlines before, and his conclusions are definitely supported in this study. What are the advantages of headlines as questions?

It turns out that phrasing headlines in the form of a question … does indeed increase click-through rates. In fact it more than doubles them, on average.

Why

This one, too, could be about questions, but digging deeper into the individual instances of “why” in viral headlines revealed that there’s more here: “Why” promises an explanation. Here are some examples:

  • Why Your Brand Shouldn’t Fear Assigning Authorship
  • Why So Many Creatives Love Working on Trains
  • Why the Best Social Media Education Might Be Right Under Your Nose

Finding out “why” is satisfying to us because of a phenomenon called the curiosity gap. Carnegie Melon University professor George Loewenstein coined this term to describe the gap between what we know and what we want to know. This gap creates something like an itch in your brain, and it can only be “scratched” by learning more (and thus, clicking on the post).

Upworthy cofounder Peter Koechley says the site uses the curiosity gap to create headlines that tells the reader enough to pique curiosity but not enough to give the whole story away.

And these headlines play a huge role in the virality of Upworthy content.

Viral content formula

People

As the number one uncommon word in the headline study, “people” came up a lot and very often in a similar fashion:

  • The most successful people
  • The happiest people
  • The most interesting people

The superlatives in these headlines make promises that the reader finds intriguing. We want to know what the most successful people are doing, how the happiest people live, and what makes the most interesting people interesting. Similar to some of the single words listed above like “why” and “this,” readers enjoy discovering, learning, and challenging the details behind blanket assertions like this.

Video

You likely know the value of video in content marketing, but in headlines specifically? Turns out that being up front that your post contains video is a good tactic to use when writing your headline. Many places find a way to stick the word “video” into the headline naturally, but when a natural fit can’t happen, there was no hesitation to place the word at the end surrounded by parentheses or brackets. Some examples:

  • Why You Should Listen First, Market Later (Video)
  • Superstars of Psychology: 10 Best Short Talks (Video)
  • Everything You Need to Know About Facebook Buttons [Video]

The most common viral headline phrases

To take things one step further, I also looked at the top phrases that appeared in these popular headlines. The numbers were smaller here compared to instances of single words, but some patterns did develop. Let’s start with the two-word phrases.

Two-word phrases in viral headlines

Top 2-word phrases in viral headlines

The Most

Like the phrase “this is,” there is a certain level of authority when you say “the most.” It also taps into a reader’s argumentative side, giving them an opportunity to challenge you as to whether or not your superlative really rings true.

Previous headline studies—like this one at Startup Moon—show that other words that indicate a comprehensive or superlative resource can lead to success.

The most viral posts also tend to include the following in their titles: Smart, surprising, science, history, hacks (hacking, hackers, etc), huge/ big, critical.

How To

You’ve probably seen and used this one many times over, and for good reason: “How to” is popular because it’s effective. These how-to posts promise a certain level of education, and provided the subject matter has value to the reader, you can expect lots of clicks.

Startup Moon also noticed positive results for posts titled with “beginner’s guide,” “introductory,” and “in 5 minutes,” showing that the blog reading audience loves to learn how to as quickly as possible.

Three-word phrases in viral headlines

Top 3-word phrases in viral headlines

The notable ones for me from this list were “what happens when” and “this is what.” Both are explanatory and promise a certain level of discovery.

(And for an even deeper level of phrases, here is a chart of the top four-word phrases.)

Even more viral headline stats

I went ahead and pulled some additional numbers of elements that intrigued me. Ripenn was nice enough to open the data up to a creative commons license for anyone to use with attribution. Dig in. It’s neat to be able to see what kind of insights you can draw from such a deep well of viral data. For instance …

The average length of a viral headline is 62 characters.

To give you an idea of what that might look like, here’s a headline that is 60 characters: The Best Time to Write and Get Ideas, According to Science.

The percentage of headlines with a number was 19%.

This shows both the draw of the listicle and the ability of other headlines to still pull big numbers.

Takeaways

After looking at the initial data, Ripenn found seven key commonalities. I’ve reworded them here into some helpful headline tips:

  1. Make the most of current events: Tie your headline to news and newsmakers
  2. Break some “rules” of headline writing, like length
  3. Seek to pique the reader’s curiosity
  4. Never underestimate the emotional factor of a headline
  5. Call the reader to action with direct action words
  6. Make bold claims
  7. Sound like a human, not a robot

Play around with some of the most popular headline words mentioned above to test some new, unique combinations in your own content.

What words stood out to you in this headline study? How do you plan to integrate this with your next headline? Shoot me some links of what you come up with. I’d love to see what you come up with!

written by: Kevan Lee

reposted from: http://blog.bufferapp.com/the-most-popular-words-in-most-viral-headlines

7 Tips to Create Visual Presentations

Presentations are crucial for people who work in advertising. Aside from having great presentation skills, it is also important to know how to create visually pleasing slides to aid you in narrating your big idea to potential clients. Walk them through your slides like a tour guide during a leisurely field trip. Feast their eyes with captivating landscapes, and tell them exciting stories! That’s the goal.

Dealing with Nasty Reviews on Social Media

Social media marketing has its perks. With millions of people tuned in to the internet several hours a day, using social media as a channel to connect and reach potential clients can be beneficial to marketers. However, like with everything in this world, attached to advantages are disadvantages as well.

Borrowed Identities: The Problem With Logo Clichés

A company’s logo sets the tone of its brand. The most successful companies have perfected their logos throughout the years and some are even constantly updating their logos to keep up with their brands’ evolving identities. But with the landscape of today’s market, logos are becoming more and more generic, to the point that the use of logos becomes more of a requirement than a tool for recall.

According to Designer Giovanni Tondini of GT Graphics, instead of giving the brand a unique identity, generic logos give the company an anonymous image, eschewing the brand’s strong points and history. Tondini also compiled a wide database of generic logos grouped according to clichés. Here are some examples:

Logo 1

  1.) “Satisfaction” Not Guaranteed

 

The use of the font style “satisfaction” has been a common fixture for brands trying to project class with a personal touch, but instead of appearing as a personalized signature, these logos are so similar that the font has become much more like the font style “papyrus” for brands trying to project “mystery”.

Logo 2

2.) Under One Cliché

Every industry related to real estate: sales, leasing, construction, or even repairs, has probably one company with a logo under a roof. In an industry where renovations are considered as routines, brands should not be built on outdated clichés.

Logo 3

3.) Naturally Unnatural

Seeing a logo under this trend can give a consumer an eerie sense of familiarity, because most of the companies in the health industry have been using logos of trees with people or hands as their trunks. The companies who follow this trend have initially planned to project belongingness and being natural, but the similarity of these logos is unnaturally overwhelming.

Logo 4

4.) Mixed Cliches

Logo designing is an art, but trends only tend to cloud a brand’s identity. A good logo does not need to follow a trend, and since it should reflect the company’s strongest points, borrowing from other brands is never a good idea.

 

Source:

GT Graphic.com (http://www.gtgraphics.org/genericlogos.html)

Know your Alphabet: The A-Z of Personal Branding

Personal Branding has been one of the trickiest and most confusing components of marketing. With most of the interactions taking place in the constantly evolving web environment, a wide arsenal of marketing tools and an ever-growing population could become more of a challenge instead of a free marketing ride.

Luckily, renowned blogger, author, and strategist Jeff Bullas has created an alphabet for personal branding tips which can help both businesses and individuals. Here are some examples of Jeff Bullas’ Personal Branding tips:

Personal Branding 1

Define Your Audience
A well-executed market research on your prospective clients would come a long way. For decades, the myth of the “general audience” has lead to vague marketing campaigns and conflicting messages. If you want your brand, or yourself, to be recognized, you must find first your ideal audience, and you might gain a loyal and consistent marketing niche.

 

Personal Branding 2

Authenticity
Competing with thousands of brands could only be done right by staying real. In the realm of branding, keeping up with others only means that you are placing your brand in a weaker position. Never keep up, always play your best cards by emphasizing your brand’s strengths and by never trying too hard to be like your industry’s leaders.

Personal Branding 3

Keywords
In the ultra-competitive world of SEO (Search Engine Optimization), two things could happen: your ideal readers will find you, or you will get buried in the last pages of search engine results. Being consistent with keywords to optimize your blog or webpage will draw in both casual and interested readers, since you are positioning yourself to be the “go-to” when it comes to your chosen subject.

 

Personal Branding 4

Opine
Calibrating your content to be 100% information would make you a mediocre brand at your best. Even if we are living in the “information” age, consumers are becoming more and more sophisticated that most of them are looking for brands with strong opinions, brands with advocacies. This last tip is one of the easiest personal branding objective to accomplish. You are only asked to stand for your beliefs, but making your actions reflect the things that you say? That’s a different matter.

 

Source:
“26 Tips for Creating a Powerful Personal Brand Online”, Jeff Bullas (http://www.jeffbullas.com/2014/04/30/26-tips-for-creating-a-powerful-personal-brand-online)

5 Tips on Writing Copy That Sells

Copywriting is defined as the art of writing to promote a brand, product, service or idea. Copywriters are in charge of coming up with creative concepts and writing content for the purpose of marketing. If you want to be one, knowing how to write in various styles, and for different media (TV, radio, print, etc) is a requirement.

Creating ads require creativity. But as much as most creatives in advertising would love to turn his or her ad into something museum-worthy –it should be understood, at the end of the day, that copywriting is still simply an art of selling. To quote advertising professional, Judith Charles, “a copywriter is a salesperson behind a typewriter.”

This is a good insight to take note of, if you aspire to be a copywriter. However, let us also clarify that this statement does not warrant lazy or bland copies. Advertising, as the “rock n roll of business,” requires some magic too!

Here are the basics:

On writing your headline – The first thing read or heard in advertisements. It should immediately attract, then hold attention of readers or listeners. One way to do this is to put forward a reward or benefit that potential customers can avail of, pronto. Are you offering a discount or something free? Do you have facts to backup an impressive claim? Let people know. Aside from straightforward lines; arousing curiosity, asking questions, injecting humour/ puns, and news-worthy headlines also work.

On writing the subhead and body copy – A subhead should support your headline. Body copy should elaborate on the details. Always keep it short and simple with these two. Say it in the fewest words possible. In fact, there are ads that don’t need these sections anymore. Sometimes, headlines alone would suffice. But if your ad is information-heavy, why sure, go ahead and explain the offer some more.

On writing calls-to-action – Actively invite them to take on the offer. Or direct them on to the next step in the buying process. Think Home Shopping Network ads. They’re big on phrases like: “first few callers get free limited-edition this or that. Hurry while stocks last!! ” And before you know it, you’re already scrambling on the phone to make reservations.

On Visuals –When certain things can’t be said by words, pictures can and will save the day. Art directors are in charge this. As a writer, you normally partner up with them, to come up with ways on how his or her image, paired with your words can work together to make the ad more clear and interesting.

Last but not the least: edit, edit and edit. Omit needless words and lines. Make it as neat as possible. Have it proofread by another person. Sometimes, even so-called grammar nazis can miss out errors, no matter how much they reread everything, especially if it’s their work. A fresh pair of eyes is the key.

That’s pretty much it! Don’t forget to have fun while doing it, as pressure kills creativity. In the end, when you’ve written an ad that hits the spot in terms of both strategy and creativity (meaning, you’ve communicated why the brand/ product/ service/ idea is worth buying and said it an away that’s inventive, smart and clear) –it’s going to feel like hitting bulls eye. And that’s satisfying. Good luck!

 

References:

Robert W. Bly (1986), “The Copywriter’s Handbook” Updated Edition, Henry Holt and Company Inc., pp. 3-4

Luke Sullivan (2008), “Hey Whipple Squeeze This”, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., p. 25, 38

 Image from: http://bit.ly/1yqlKsD

InstaScience: 5 Expert Tips to help you gain more followers and engagement on Instagram

More marketers and advertisers are turning to Instagram, with its ability to market products without being over-the-top, and with the consumers’ rising demand for great visual content. Due to the increasing popularity of Instagram, social media expert Dan Zarrella collected a large database of 1,494,175 Instagram posts and analyzed them to identify the components which make images on Instagram more likeable and engaging.

Win on a Budget: The 3 Most Important C’s of Guerrilla Marketing

Guerrilla marketing draws inspiration from the art of irregular warfare, with small tactic strategies at its core. Like guerrilla warfare, guerrilla marketing uses the elements of surprise and timing.