Building Blocks of a Viral Headline
Here are some expert tips to help you build a viral headline:
Use a superlative in your blog post title
A superlative is a special strong kind of adjective used to compare several items. Using superlatives will make your title pop.
Using a superlative will give your blog post title some extra emphasis and should reward you with a higher click-through rate.
Some examples of superlatives that drive emotion and pack a punch include: biggest, finest, best, newest, quickest, most.
Be sure to only use one superlative though. Anything else is overkill and will look like clickbait.
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The content may be the same, but only the second headline will get traffic. The reason? You're using an absolute word: best. Who wouldn't want to know what the best is?
Browse through BuzzFeed to see the type of article headlines they write. They are well known for their superlative-type headlines and they get a bad rap for it.
But as long as your article delivers what's promised in the headline, I have no problem with a headline built for clicks.
Use a negative superlative in the headline
You can also "scare" the user into clicking by using the opposite - a negative superlative.
This psychological concept will alarm the users’ brain, ringing the alarm bells, and thus you’ll draw more attention to your title and your article.
It’s important not to do this too much as you’ll be seen as the boy crying wolf. But a good mixture of negative superlatives won’t hurt anyone.
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The second example is superior since it builds a sense of urgency, while not going totally overboard.
Talk directly to the reader
Get personal and talk directly to your ideal reader.
When people read a how-to article, they want to know how it will help them specifically. You can do this by including the word "you" or "your" in the headline.
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Use a number in the headline
List-based blog posts are easy to write, easy to read, and their headlines are very clickable.
Let me give you an example of why list posts get higher click through rates.
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A basic "how to" headline sounds boring and hard to read. But with a number in the title, the article seems so non-threatening, like a casual easy read I can scroll quickly through.
Make it quick
People always want to do something faster. Take advantage of this and present your topic as the "quick way" of doing it.
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Ask a question
When you ask a question in a headline, people will try to answer it. Even if they don't click, they are naturally going to answer it.
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When you have secret insider information, people want to know what that secret is.
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Be persuasive, but not pushy
You don’t want to come across as being pushy in your headline.
The most important part of a headline is the topic, what your post is about. That’s the meat. Think of the surrounding text as the seasoning.
Come on too strong and it’ll leave a bad taste in the readers’ mouth. Avoid using pushy headlines such as:
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Doing This 1 Exercise Daily Will Improve Your Health
Use odd numbers in your titles
We already know that using numbers in your blog post titles is an effective way to get your articles clicked on.
But some numbers work better than others. For example, the number 10 is so common that it is virtually ignored.
Compelling numbers are those that stand out, it’s those numbers that you normally don’t see every day.
And this might sound "odd", but odd numbers generate a higher click through rate than even numbers in your headlines.
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Use [brackets] in your headline
You can identify certain types of content by using brackets. It is universally understood that words in a bracket will define the type of content you are delivering.
For example, if you are presenting an infographic it is useful to use the word [infographic] in brackets in your title.
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Shopping Habits By Gender [Infographic]
Other examples of bracketed words you can use include [template], [interview], [guide] [pdf download] & [checklist inside]
Don't be ambiguous
When you are looking through a series of titles in Google search you want to know exactly what the article will deliver. As you scan through the search results, you will only click on the link that is going to answer your question.
You might think that it is cute to write a suspenseful title because it will tease the reader into clicking. But this has the opposite effect.
Let me give you an example.
Do THIS Before Every Workout... Or Else
7 Scientific Reasons to Stretch Before a Workout
The first example may pique someone’s curiosity. But they would have to be awfully bored and gullible to click on that link.
The second example clearly states what the blog post will be about - and does this while not “giving away the farm”.
The reader is much more likely to click on a title which gives the readers clarity on the content rather than an ambiguous one.
Use emotional headlines
Headlines that push emotional buttons will have the highest clickthrough rate. There's a couple of problems with this.
It's difficult to write an emotional headline without it sounding like clickbait.
And depending on your niche, it can be difficult to write emotionally-charged titles.
The quick, easy way to add emotions into your headlines is to add the phrase "will make you" and the emotion to the end of your headline.
This phrasing works so well because it states the benefit the reader will have, often an emotional one.
For example: will melt your heart, will give you goosebumps, will make you tear up, will make you laugh out loud, will surprise you.
If these phrases don't fit with your niche and tone (like in my blog), then you should try my next suggestion.
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Use power words
Power words deliver the benefit to the reader in a powerful way.
Rather than say "Get Better At Reading," you can say "Boost Your Reading Speed" or "Become a Reading Champion."
Examples of power words: Definitive, killer, ultimate, proven, undeniable, life-changing, new, surprising, hack, transform, ignite, supercharge, immediately, awesome, epic, legendary, dominate.
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Address an objection
When you make a bold claim or promise in a headline, people are naturally skeptical. Address that doubt right in the headline.
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Add a time constraint
Let the reader know what they can achieve in a certain timeframe.
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Use specific numbers in your headline. People prefer facts based on data more than theories.