Every day, people work really hard to create quality content, but then they shoot themselves in the foot by slapping on some crappy headline onto it.
Your headlines shouldn’t be an afterthought – content that has a catchy headline is more likely to be clicked on and read.
Content that gets more clicks and engagement gets rewarded, especially in Google’s search results and Facebook’s News Feed.
A boring headline pretty much guarantees nobody will read that piece of content you spent so much time writing.
When it comes to writing headlines, there’s no shortage of advice, but I prefer to let data be my guide when it comes to writing engaging headlines.
And there’s some awesome new data out from BuzzSumo, a popular tool that shows you the most popular content by topic, or from an individual website.
Steve Rayson, director at BuzzSumo, analyzed 100 million headlines to see which posts earned the most Facebook engagement.
Here are 10 insights from that research which can help you write better headlines that attract more likes, shares, and comments on Facebook.
“Will make you” was far and away the most popular word combination in headlines. For example: ’60 Keyboard Shortcuts That Will Make You More Productive’.
“This is why”, “can we guess”, “only X in” and “the reason is” were also incredibly popular three-word combinations in headlines.
Emotions make people click and engage. That’s why emotional headlines are so powerful.
Among the most popular phrases: “make you cry”, “melt your heart”, “give you goosebumps”, and “can’t stop laughing”.
Better headlines make people curious.
This explains why phrases like “this is why” and “the reason is” attracted tons of engagement on Facebook.
Quizzes. BuzzFeed is known for publishing quizzes like “Can We Guess Your Age and Location With This Food Test?”
As Rayson noted in his research:
“These quizzes appeal to our desire to know more about ourselves and to prove we’re smart, we did grow up in the 80s, we are living in the right city, or whatever it might be. These quizzes are like mirrors, it’s hard to walk past with out looking at yourself. They are hard to ignore.”
Tribal headlines work, and this headline trend is growing, according to BuzzSumo.
Basically, a tribal headline includes the words “that only”. For example, “17 Slightly Terrible Things Only People Named Sarah Understand” or “14 Things Only People Who Adore Print Books Will Understand”.
“Control of your” was the least engaging headline. So you’ll want to avoid this three-word phrase.
Others word combinations that failed to generate engagement: “your own business”, “work for you”, “the introduction of” and “what new in”.
“X reasons why.” For example, ’26 Reasons Why ‘Personal Brand’ is NOT a Dirty Phrase’.
Other engaging headline combinations: “X things you”, “This is what”, “This is the”, and “This is how”.
The most popular phrase at the end of a headline is “the world”. As in, “Why South Korea has the highest concentration of robots in the world.”
Some of other words you’ll see at the end of the most engaging headlines: “X years”, “goes viral”, “to know”, and “X days”.
The word “this” is the most popular first word used in headlines. Now you know.
Listicles are as hot as ever – and 10 is the most engaging number.
In fact, multiples of five accounted for four of the top five most engaging headline numbers (10, 5, 15, and 20).
List headlines featuring the number seven attracted the fourth most engagement.
Why produce content that will never be consumed?
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with using catchy phrases. They work. Stop fighting them.
Hopefully this data will help inform your content strategy in 2018.
A version of this post was first published on Inc.com.