Ever read a monster article you’ve spent hours on after completion and thought to yourself “This is going to be an awesome resource which people will like to share”?
Fast forward six months and many paid campaigns later, you find that your blog post hasn’t performed even close to expectations.
It’s quite natural at this stage for people to wonder if their audience doesn’t like the content and forget how significant a role an awesome headline plays.
Headlines are sometimes the thing that readers tend to share rather than the article. With that in mind, it’s pretty hard to exaggerate how big a role headlines play.
At the heart of a successful headline is emotion.
If you are thinking “Why emotion? Isn’t a headline that is in tune with the content enough to have a positive impact on the reader?”
Having a headline in tune with the content is a positive but having phrases that get responses from the readers are just so much better.
It’s pretty easy to think that we are talking about click-baiting, but we are not!
According to the Advanced Marketing Institute’s emotional marketing studies that date back to the 60s and 70s “emotional language creates a predictable response, something that can be advantageous to marketers.”
In this article, we are going to run through some of the emotions bloggers evoke and ones they should avoid at all costs.
To write sensational headlines, here are some of the things you can do:
Match Your Phrases to the Platforms
Social media is key to helping any post go viral. It’s important to note that phrases that work on Facebook might not work on Twitter and vice versa.
Phrases that arouse curiosity or a sense of belonging work well. (Depending upon the niche)
According to a study by Buzzsumo where they reviewed 100m articles on Facebook, some of the most shared headlines contained the following phrases
- Will make you
- This is why
- Can we guess
- Only # in
- The reason is
The top sentence “will make you” outperformed the others by more than double. Why are these so successful? Well, it’s more to do with the fact that they provoke an emotional reaction from the reader. Which is ultimately what marketers like us need.
Similarly, in the same study, it was found that phrases like
- This is what
- For the first time
- Things to know
- Will make you
- Is the new
Tend to perform exceedingly well on Twitter. So is there a difference?
The mechanics may be different but the underlying principle employed is the same. Despite the phrase “will make you”seems like the only commonality, all of the above can evoke an emotional response.
This is why it’s imperative to vary your headlines when you share or find something that works on multiple platforms.
Be Positive Rather than Negative
Negative headlines tend not to do well. This is an emotion you need to refrain from evoking irrespective of the platform.
Like Neil Patel says “scientific experiments show that most people anticipate future positive events, as opposed to future negative events.”
If you want further evidence of this, you can explore pages on Buzzfeed and other content sites and the shares their pages receive. It’s very rare to find negative emotional sentiments on them.
Analyzing the headlines your competitors employ can teach you many lessons. If their headlines seem emotionally flat to you, then this is an opportunity for your business.
If they do a good job, then it’s a strategy you can copy.
Not everything in business is black and white. There can be phrases that are neutral that have no positive impact regarding engagement. Some terms like:
- Into the future
- Simple way to
- What’s new in
- The nature of
- How to move
Have proven to fall flat regarding engaging users on social media at least.
“Why you need to build a community before launching” – This is a headline we used on a post on the Setapp blog. As you can see, we tried to get an emotional response from our readers, and we needed it to be gender neutral.
Power words such as “how to” and “bottom line” are especially good at triggering an emotional response from readers. You can find some here.
Facebook has recently announced their intention to demote posts that employ tactics such as click-baiting, so this is yet another reason for marketers to make sure the emotional reaction they provoke is consistent with their content without too much exaggeration.
Leverage Online Tools
Initially, you can take advantage of EMV tools to gauge the emotional value of your headline. It’s important to not rely entirely on the EMV score.
Whilst, this can help, the intent of your article, the niche you are in all play a significant role in determining which type of emotion gets you a better response.
Here’s an example of a headline that scores high in the travel niche: “Airlines are losing less luggage. Here’s why”.
This headline is compelling as it appeals to a person’s intellectual sphere which in turn arouses the reader’s curiosity.
Before viewing the headline, if you were told that you are about to see an article about airlines and luggage. You definitely won’t be wrong in assuming that the article contains statistics.
The example above is good because the content and the headline both resonate with an intellectual sphere of a person’s emotion.
That consistency will also ensure they have a positive experience on the post rather than the feeling that they are the victims of click bait.
Don’t Ignore Other Elements
Aspects of word balance, character length also play a significant role in determining the success of a headline. These can vary from across platforms like Google search, Facebook, Twitter and the likes.
Hence having separate headlines for when you syndicate rather than employing a basic setup which shares a single headline on all your social media platforms, can go a long way in ensuring you get the best results.
SEO, especially on-page SEO has growing importance among many users. A/B testing your title tags and H1s help in telling users and Google exactly what the topic of your content is.
There is Headline Optimizer plugin that allows you to split test your headlines (and various other elements) which can give you concrete data about which headline attracts more clicks.
You can opt to permanently use the better performing headline and work on further tests. It’s important to note that the different headline variants need to be exposed to a reasonable amount of impressions before you jump to any conclusions about its effectiveness.
It’s quite common for writers to be told to talk to their readers when they write. This can be a good practice when writing headlines too.
Yes, these points can be wide-ranging, but the standard element is your willingness to test. Try different headlines, repost some of your old articles on Twitter or Facebook and run new campaigns with different headlines to see which gets more engagement.
There surely isn’t any magic formula for making a post go viral. There are many phrases we can use and emotions we can evoke that improves our chances of attaining more meaningful engagement.
Try to incorporate A/B testing into your practices so you can find the best phrases and emotions that work in your niche.