“The headline is the ‘ticket on the meat.’ Use it to flag down readers who are prospects for the kind of product you are advertising.” – David Ogilvy
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Twitter is one of the greatest tools you have at your disposal to promote your blog or any other content. It’s short and concise and that attracts viewers. But writing good Twitter headlines is more of an art than a science. When starting out, you have no idea what to do in order to get people to click your link and read your article.
Still, there is a way to use science to determine this. That’s what the great thing about science is – you can apply scientific method to virtually anything. In this case, the scientific method applied is mostly statistics.
So you want to know how to get people to read your article after they’ve read your headline. That’s an admirable goal, but, before we dive into that whole discussion, let’s take a detour into a less popular idea that really works.
1. Test Your Content Before You Write It
Instead of using Twitter to promote the article you’ve already written, why don’t you use it to test whether your article idea is interesting enough to warrant further elaboration? It’s a simple, three step procedure:
Step 1: Tweet your idea as a headline.
Step 2: See how many retweets you get.
Step 3: If it’s popular enough, elaborate your idea into an article or blog post.
This is a great way to generate relevant content and it works because the headline is possibly the most important part of your article or post. Why is that? Well, for one thing, because if you have a good headline, it means that your article actually has a thesis. It’s important to have a thesis or a central argument, because, if you don’t, then your article or post will, most likely, not be interesting. Being able to sum up your idea in a short and concise manner will make your article better.
Why does this approach work? Well, because you’ll no longer be wasting your time writing material people may not want to read. When you only write articles based on ideas that have proven to be interesting to your audience, then you’re essentially cutting the risk factor in half.
That being said, let’s take a look at how you can engineer your headline to be more attractive.
2. Use ‘Freebie’ Rather Than ‘Free’
People love free things. This is a fundamental truth of human nature and one that Internet marketers have known since day one. That’s why they’ve used it so much that it no longer generates any interest in the casual Internet user. It has virtually no impact on improving your conversion rate. Freebie, on the other hand, is more than 10 times more effective than free towards this goal.
More so, while there are some industries where the keyword generates more clicks, like restaurants and the entertainment sector, there are others where using the word will actually hurt your conversion rate, like healtchare, retail and real estate.
3. Action Words Work
You should use more verbs and adverbs and fewer nouns and adjectives. This certainly makes sense. When reading action words, like verbs and adverbs, people are more likely to be interested than when reading nouns and adjectives. If anything, adjectives hurt your conversion rate the most, but nouns are also pretty bad. So try to populate your tweet with more action words and watch the retweets flow.
4. Use Retweetable Words
Dan Zarella posted a list of the top 20 most retweeted words and phrases on Twitter. These words are:
- please retweet
- social media
- how to
- blog post
- check out
- new blog post
Now, personally, I don’t advocate asking for retweets as I find it a tad unprofessional and I always have, but it does work. It all depends on what you’re trying to accomplish: if you’re trying to create a serious, stylish blog and online profile, then I advise against it. If you’re after maximizing your visibility at all costs, then, by all means, use the “please retweet”/“please RT” word combination, it is one of the most powerful weapons you have.
While we’re not necessarily interested in retweets, but in visits to your site, the two are definitely tied together. So do try to keep this list in mind when creating your headline.
5. Create a Sense of Urgency
People will click more on links that they have associated with a sense of urgency. Use words like “urgent”, “important”, “breaking” and “alert” in order to instill this sense of urgency in your readers. This works because these words grab attention from your reader.
6. Numbers Work
Take a look at Cracked.com. They’ve created an entire website around the list-based article format. It’s now one of the most popular comedy websites on the Internet with a net worth of 2.64 million USD. Sound like a lot? Well it is. That is the power of the list based article.
Write top 10 lists. A number in your headline makes your article sound more diverse and easier to read. Use digits rather than numbers. ’10’ will generate more clicks than ‘ten’. Make the number more visible by placing it at the beginning of the headline.
7. Promise Them Something
The best headlines have always made a promise to their readers. They can promise knowledge, entertainment, information or well being of another kind. Promise people that they’ll be better off for reading your tweet.
You can do this by writing a headline that generally describes what your article is about and then reveals that there’s also a selection of tips at the end. Or do it by using certain buzzwords that give people that idea, like ‘fascinating’, or ‘insane’.
8. Increase Virality With Buzzwords
Ever wonder why “life hacks” are so popular? Well, Iris Schoor posted a list of generic buzzwords that help increase the virality of posts. In no particular order, these words are:
9. People Love Being Taught Things
Many of the most popular blog posts and headlines include keywords that imply that there will be teaching involved. This teaching is usually implied to be quick and effective. Use words like ‘introduction’, ‘beginners guide’, ‘DIY’ and so on to imply that you’ll be teaching your reader something. This goes hand in hand with promising your reader a payoff for reading your article, which we have discussed above.
10. For the Love of God, Include a Call to Action
If you’re not doing this yet, then start right now! Remember how the most retweeted word turned out to be ‘you’? Well that’s because good headlines involve the reader in some way. Tell your readers to do something and they will. Or, at least, more of them will than if you don’t. Tell them to click, tell them to vote, tell them to retweet, tell them to do anything you want to get them to do, just tell them.
11. Make It Interesting
Use atypical phrasing and language in order to catch your readers attention. Ask them something that they didn’t expect you to ask them. This is something we all should learn from tabloids. Of course, you shouldn’t ask them things that are too far-fetched, like “Aliens amongst us?” unless you’ve actually got a great bit about aliens that is ironclad. But feel free to ask them whether nerdy is the new sexy. What you’re going for is the double-take. You want them to read it, scroll down, scroll back up and click your article to find out more.
12. Violent Language Is Your Friend
Use violent words, like ‘kill’, ‘war’, ‘fear’, ‘bleeding’ and so on. These words will generate more interest. Instead of telling people that “Apple and Google Are Competing”, let them know that “Apple and Google Go to War”. If a product has been discontinued, let people know that it’s been killed. If a company has lost some of their market share since last year, tell people that they’re bleeding. Violent language such as that generates interest, use it to your advantage.
That pretty much wraps up our look into how to write good Twitter headlines. Do you have any tips for our readers? Please don’t hesitate to let us know in the comments section below!