Wednesday, 14 September 2016 23:00

10 Steps to Creating Awesome Headlines that Generate Clicks and Shares

In content marketing and social media, your headline is what will decide if your content spreads. Whether people click on your links and visit your content depends on your headlines – for the simple reason that your headline is often the only piece of your content that people see before they decide to click or not. 

You can invest all your money in your content – if your headlines suck, so will your social media and content marketing results.

1. Why are headlines so important?

On average 80% of the people, you reach with your content will read the headline, but only 20% will actually read the content itself. Still, many content creators invest a ton of time and sometimes money in creating the content and then use the first headline that comes to mind without giving it much thought.


Did you know that often it is not the quality of your content that decides on how much traffic your content gets? Many times it is the headline that makes a piece of content spread – or die a quick death.

That is a mistake! What good will the best content do you if your headline does not do the job of getting people actually to view the content?


Image Source: Quicksprout

2. What does a good headline do?

The question of the perfect headline is a complex one. The reaction of people to a headline varies. Some headlines will get you shares, and some will get you clicks – and some will do both. Not always is the headline that gets you clicks the one that gets you the most shares.

Upworthy, one of the (clickbait) websites whose business model is based on at least some of their posts going viral (or close to viral), nailed down what a good headline needs to achieve: shares AND clicks. Only then your content (or headline) have any chance of spreading (or going viral).

Sept15Image3 Upworthy Math

Image source: Upworthy

3. How good are your headlines?

Do you know how well your own headlines perform in social media? No? On your way to your perfect headline, you need to test it!

For Twitter, you can do that by using the scheduling tool Buffer – or rather their analytics. Simply tweet the same link with two different headlines (or tweet-texts in this case) via Buffer (Buffer’s free account will do for this). Set the tweets roughly one hour apart at a time when a larger part of your audience should be online and active.

Check the analytics:
Did you get any shares or clicks? Did one of the two tweet-texts get considerably more retweets or clicks?

Sept15Image4 Buffer Clicks Shares

Image Source: Buffer Blog

Another way of testing different headlines is to share them with campaign links, where you treat each headline as a campaign and monitor how each campaign is running. You can read more about campaign links here.

4. Some types of headlines that always work well

Now, where should you start to create better headlines? First of all, you need to know that some types of headlines almost always work well. And you probably have seen hundreds or thousands of them on your social channels. Great headlines for clicks and shares are:

  • List posts – Example: 50 Ways To Boost Your Blog Traffic
  • How-To posts – Example: How To Drive More Traffic To Your Blog
  • Fulfill your dreams posts – 10 Ways To Make Money From your Blog
  • Best or worst Posts – The 17 Worst Social Media Tips I Ever Got
  • Predictions and trend posts – Social Media trends you need to know for 2016. If you visit your Twitter account, I am sure you will find variations of these types of headlines all over your feed. The reasons for that is simple: These headlines work! But there is more about creating the perfect headline. There are elements we have not talked about yet, and still, these elements are very powerful for headlines.

5. Power Words

Even if your headline is almost ready, you may have decided on going for one of the headline types that usually work well; you should keep some more aspects in mind. There are powerful elements that you can easily add to almost any headline. And sometimes it is just one word or a simple phrase that will make all the difference.

Image5 Buffer PowerWords

Image Source: Buffer Blog

A single word can turn your headline from boring to standing out. A powerful phrase can inspire curiosity and surprise. There are words that have already proven their power in viral headlines. Simply taking a look will give at the most common words and phrases in some of the most viral headlines will give you an idea which words may do the trick.

6. The Power of Curiosity

A surefire way of making people click on your headline is to make them curious. Claim you are giving them something they really NEED to know – do not forget to deliver in the content itself. The secret to a good headline is often that it hints at something incredibly interesting, but does not tell what it actually is. Do not give everything away in the headline, why should people click if you do?

Upworthy does this to perfection

OrbitMedia Curiosity

Image Source: Orbit Media

7. The power of numbers

Numbers are brain candy. People love numbers. In a social media world of unproven claims and vague promises, numbers seemingly provide some facts and figures that people can easily grasp and trust.

Sept15 Image7 OrbitMedia Numbers

Image Source: Orbit Media

8. Why your Headline should be short

Most people get to see hundreds of headlines every day: On Facebook, Twitter, online magazines, mobile phones, newsstands and much more. We simply cannot actually read every headline we see – so we rather skim them.

At average, a reader reads the first three and the last three word of a headline. If your headline length is close to 6 words, you actually stand a chance of your audience reading the complete headline.

Sept15 Image8 Buffer Headlines Short

Image source: Buffer Blog

9. A proven process to create great headlines

How do others always come up with these great headlines? Well, truth be told, no-one ALWAYS has the best-running headlines. But there are some processes that you can use to help you find outstanding headlines. Often when choosing a headline, we simply take what comes to our mind first. Even if we play around with different headlines: Most of the time, these all follow the same line of thinking.

Upworthy makes sure it is different. They create a large variety of headlines for each post (start with 25). If you have to create 25 headlines, you cannot stick with variations of one and the same headline. You have to do some new and creative thinking. Otherwise, you will not be able to come up with more than 10.

Choose the best 5 from your 25 ideas and start your testing.

Sept15 Image9 Upworthy Process

Image Source: Upworthy

10. Use some Tools

You think you have found your perfect headline? Let’s see what a headline analyzer like CoSchedule Headline Analyzer tells you about how good your headline actually is.

Image10 CoSchedule Screenshot

These headline analyzers know a lot of the things I told you in this post: they know about the power of numbers and that list posts often work well. They know the power of a single word. And they know the optimal length of a headline. What they do not fully get, are the emotions and special requirements of your audience. So, before you ditch your perfect headline because CoSchedule tells you so, you may want to try your headline with your audience.

Of course, every audience and every niche are different. You have to take into account, who you are creating your content for. But if you put at least some of the above tips into your headlines in the future, I am sure you will see more traffic to your content. And the whole process of creating headlines will get easier as you learn more about the preferences of your audience.













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Susanna Gebauer

Susanna is a content and social media marketer. Together with her brother Jonathan she runs TheSocialMs. They teach entrepreneurs and small businesses how to generate traffic from social media. Susanna is a huge fan of huge dogs and loves everything outdoors. You can also follow her on Twitter.

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