10 Tips for Creating Great Headlines that Go Viral

Why make such a big fuss of headlines instead of concentrating on the body of your article – you know, the one where you can actually show your penmanship? Because it turns out that 80% of blog visitors only read the headline. Yes, that’s true: only 20% of visitors will actually read the post itself.

This is why you need great headlines.

In the era of short attention span and tons of content fighting for it, true penmanship is first and foremost seen in great headlines that catch the eye and make people click on them. And no, I’m not talking about clickbait.

“You won’t believe what this woman did after she bought food from McDonald’s” is definitely not what I would call a great headline. There are other factors for this.

Check them out below.

How to Create Great Headlines that Rule the Internet

First off, you need to know that there is no one rule for creating amazing headlines. You will need to try, test, measure and compare what works best for your audience. Every type of audience has different preferences.

But there are some triggers that work on most people. According to research done by BuzzSumo, there are quite a few elements common to most viral headlines.

writing great headlinesImage via BuzzSumo

According to Steve Rayson, the author of the BuzzSumo article, the best headlines employ more than one of the characteristics in the above table. He states that a combination of three or four of the elements above is the key to creating the perfect, attention-grabbing headline.

Let’s take a look at 10 elements that create great headlines:

  1. Numbered Lists

Yes, just like this one here. Why are numbered lists so powerful, you ask?

Well, it’s quite simple: because they let people know exactly what to expect, according to BBC. For instance, when you clicked on this headline, you already knew that you were going to get 10 tips to help you create viral headlines.

(By the way, if the article itself doesn’t deliver on the promise in the headline, then it’s clickbait.)

Back to the matter at hand: lists are also great because they are easy to scan instead of read word by word. If you trust the author of the article, you don’t need to read all the explanations between the subtitles. You can get the gist (and apply it) by scanning the text in less than a minute.

Of course, if it’s properly formatted. But that’s another discussion for another time. Let’s just assume that most people know the proper use of headings.

  1. Get Personal

“Your Complete Guide on Summer Skin Care”, “The Best Way for You to Enjoy Flawless Skin without Spending Ages Caring for it”. According to Moz, no less than 21% of Internet users will click on headlines similar to these.

Addressing the reader directly, especially with a solution to their problem, is one of the best ways to get their attention. Using “you” makes it even more personal and increases the chances of readers opening your article. In other words, “The Best Type of Food for Your Cat” will always work better than “The Best Type of Food for Cats”.

The latter makes the user instantly think about their own cat, which makes them emotional and more likely to want to open the article. Instead of speaking about cats in general, you tell the reader that you can make their cat’s life better. Who wouldn’t want to know how to better care for the master of the house?

  1. Point out to the Valuable Information You Are Offering

Great headlines are those that, in just a few words, show the value of the entire article. If your post is not written by SEO copywriters you hired just to spam Google and it actually offers something that brings value to the readers, then let them know from the headline.

“6 Ways to Ace Facebook Ads for Your Small Business in just 5 Minutes per Day”

This headline has all the elements above: it is a numbered list, it’s personal and it speaks of the valuable information you have to offer. Better yet, it addresses one of the major pain points of small business owners: the lack of time.

  1. Use Superlatives (but no more than one)

The best, the funniest, the smartest, the bravest – words like these can make great headlines. But not if you abuse them.

According to the same Moz study, 51% of Internet users wouldn’t click on an article than has more than one superlative.

“The 10 Best Ways to Have the Perfect, Amazing Vacation” – this is the very definition of too much. If you go all out, readers will quickly label your headline and clickbait and move forward.

  1. Offer a Single Solution

Instead of a list, offer a single solution. When you see a headline that lets you know that Warren Buffet and Tony Robbins agree on what the best way to invest your money is, you click that headline.

Unlike a list, this type of headline promises a single, quick fix for your problem or, why not, your dream. Plus, it lets people know that the solution isn’t complicated by inferring it only entails a single step.

  1. Back up Your Claims

8 Things That Are Scientifically Proven To Attract Women” – now that’s a headline that is bound to get some clicks. Why?

Because people may take your word for it if you’re a well-respected authority in your field. But nothing can beat science.

Think about it: even Neil deGrasse Tyson backs up his claims with science. Whenever he makes a statement, he also shares the science behind it. How can you not trust such arguments?

  1. Let’Em Feel the Feels

10 Hard Lessons I Learned from Losing my Father” – when you see such a headline, you know you’ll be in for an emotional trip. The openness of such a headline lets you know that the author will speak from the heart and from experience.

Better yet, such a title is very easy to relate to. Most people have lost or will lose a parent. Articles like these have great healing potential and most readers can draw actual value from it. But in order for that to happen, you need a headline to make them click and read the entire thing.

  1. Concentrate on what Matters

According to Kissmetrics, people only register the first and last three words. At the same time, the article suggests you keep the title as short as possible.

However, most often you won’t be able to keep your headlines at or below six words. This is where the Kissmetrics research comes handy: make sure you use your “best” words in the beginning and in the end.

  1. Don’t Forget about SEO

Your great headlines have a better chance at being discovered if you use your main keyword in them. However, you shouldn’t force it: if it doesn’t sound natural, rephrase instead of using the keyword as is.

I’ve said it again and again, every time I’ve written about SEO writers or SEO in general: never sacrifice the value of your content for the sake of search engine optimisation. It literally won’t get you anywhere. Just like human readers, search engines also hate it when you spam them.

  1. Add Emotional Value to Your Headlines

According to CoSchedule, headlines with emotional value get a lot more shares.

viral headlines

And no, emotional value doesn’t just refer to articles that are heart-wrenching or written from a past unpleasant experience.

Briefly put an emotional headline is one that makes people feel something. Anything, really.

Best, free, win, emotional, DIY, confidential, professional, secrets, rare, famous – all of these are words that inspire emotional reactions in readers. Use them with confidence, but don’t abuse them. As always, moderation is the key.


Want to work with professional copywriters who can craft great headlines that will make your posts go viral?

Excellent! We’d love to meet you and make that happen for you! Fill in the form below and we’ll take it from there:

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Adriana Tica is an expert marketer and copywriter, with 10 years in the field, most of which were spent marketing tech companies. She is the Owner and Founder of Idunn. In October 2019, she also launched Copywritech, a digital marketing agency that provides copywriting, SEO content writing, and strategy services to companies in the tech industry.

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