Buzzsumo recently conducted a study on 100 million blog headlines to discover what it takes to create blog titles that pull engagements in social media; Facebook and Twitter.
1. Emotional headlines
Back in 2017, emotional words in headlines attracted a lot of engagement, with one particular headline raking as much as 1.7 million shares of Facebook. Phrases such as
- Will make you
- Tears of joy
- Give you Goosebumps
- It’s so cute
- Shocked to see
However, it seems people have grown past them, with the latest emotional headlines getting ten times fewer shares. Nowadays, emotional headlines only go viral when they’re referring to exceptional content.
Lesson: Use emotional words in headlines with content your audience cannot afford to miss.
2. Quizzes and Tribal headlines
There was a time when identity was a major thing online, and quizzes allowed people to get that feeling. So did tribal content such as articles for stay-at-home mums or Drag Racing Fans from Florida.
Blogs and publications published numerous Quizzes to leverage people’s desire for inclusivity. And this interactive content was viral.
It turns out quizzes now seem archaic.
Yet, I still believe their virality is yet to sprout again once the younger generation gets older.
Lesson: I would do less of these but won’t dismiss them yet.
3. Headlines length
At this age, people want need information fast. There’s so much online to distract us from meaningful work, and our goldfish memory makes it no easier.
That’s why people now prefer snappier headline; 11 words and 65 characters, four words and 30 characters less than it was in 2017
This graph shows how the performance of headlines fair with their length.
Lesson: Be precise and use the most important words first.
4. Social Media Engagement
Headlines are getting shared more on Facebook than on Twitter.
Over the past three years, Facebook shares of the most engaged trigram “will make you” have grown threefold, while general shares on Twitter have dropped by 14 % based on an analysis of 11 million engagements.
Just when I thought of dropping Facebook from my marketing strategy for contributing less than 1% of traffic, I guess I should rethink.
Let’s not forget Facebook updated its algorithm to promote content from family, close friends, and associates.
Lesson: It’s time to rethink Facebook and find out how you can make use of these improved engagements.
5. Most powerful Headline Phrases
Most of the top shared headlines follow the rule of three, a combination of three words that humans find satisfying, impactful, and memorable.
This pattern of communication has been used for centuries in religion, poetry, and advertising.
- of the year
- in x years
- for the first
- the first time
- one of the
- you need to
- need to know
- x years in
- on social media
- to know about
- at least x
- of all time
- of the most
- is not a
- x of the
- here are the
- of the best
- how to get
- how to make
- what your need
For instance, using the ‘of the year’ award causes a big discussion on whether people agree or disagree with the list of awardees. Proponents will then share in solidarity while opponents share in mock, both generating immense engagement.
If there’s one thing that always gets people to play the First Amendment card, it’s controversy.
Lesson: Print the list above and have the phrases in mind when creating content.
6. Most popular types of Headlines
These headlines attracted the most engagement on Facebook. Buzzsumo analyzed, categorized, and ranked the top 60 trigrams based on the most common combinations.
- Ranking – Headline with awards and public votes
- Newness – Phrases that centered around unique and rare events
- Hyperbole – Exaggerated statements, e.g., ‘one of the.’
- Instructional – Phrases that gave a sense of obligation or urgency: ‘need to know.’
- Surprise – Shocking or challenging standard views
- Curiosity – E.g., ‘ here are the.’
- Guidance – ‘How to’ tutorials
- Story – Centered on a person or topic. E.g., Inside the story of how H.E.B planned the pandemic – 357k shares
Lesson: Evoke curiosity, urgency, and surprise through your headlines.
7. Headlines Start Phrases
The top 20 most effective phrases at the start of a headline are
- X ways to
- X of the
- How to make
- The x best
- X reasons why
- What is the
- X things to
- X thing you
- How to get
- Everything you need
- This is the
- Why you should
- The top x
- This is how
- X reasons to
- What you need
- The X most
- The story of
- What are the
- What is a
With 6 phrases starting with a number and 3 others featuring a number out of 20 terms, its clear listicles are popular.
They make headlines more specific and promise a reader actionable takeaways. No wonder they are more clickable.
Lesson: Shift gears towards listicles and witness growth in social media engagements.
8. Headlines End Phrases.
How you end your headlines also matters. These are the top 20 headline end phrases from the study
- in 2020
- the year
- this year
- in 2021
- first time
- and more
- social media
- to know
- right now
- all time
- x minutes
- for you
- the future
- and beyond
- is here
- x seconds
- coming soon
- should know
- to do
- the best
The first 4 ending phrases were mainly attributed to the COVID 19 pandemic, so they can generally be overlooked.
From the rest, we can pick up a few lessons
- General time-centric headlines work well
- Numbers work well as elements of surprise. E.g. Detect Coronavirus in 45 minutes.
- Numbers also work well to highlight speed to insight. E.g., Lemon Icebox Pie in just 5 Minutes
- Using social media trends to fuel content works: Latest Beauty Trend Taking over Social Media
9. Headlines for Facebook vs. Twitter
First, Buzzsumo discovered that the most shared headlines on FB had 590x more shares than on Twitter.
They also analyzed the top 60 headline phrases on Facebook and Twitter and categorized them as below.
- Curiosity headlines faired a lot better on Twitter than on Facebook
- Instructional headlines work best in both FB and Twitter combined
- For “story” headlines, Twitter is the best place to share.
The days of clickbait headlines are going past us. People online have matured and can sniff BS from far. Now you have to build trust and offer real value for people to share your work.