You’ve written an amazing post.
But everybody knows that it’s not (only) about the quality of your content.
It’s how you sell it.
How do you sell a blog post, a book, a video—any content?
By writing an amazing headline that sucks the reader in immediately.
Big sites like Buzzfeed, Viral Nova and Bored Panda do it.
Upworthy does it. Huffington Post does it.
Their articles go viral WAY more often than yours do.
There’s no way you could write viral headlines for each of your posts like they do, you might think.
Here are 10 proven tips to help you write better headlines. Think of it as kind of a cheat sheet for viral success delivered to you on a silver platter.
Somewhere in this list is the one tip you need to write headlines that go viral. The missing piece to make your writing complete.
Ready to dive in?
Which of These Tips Will Make Your Content Go Viral?
Let’s start by thinking about your content, whether or not you’ve written it. What’s the main issue of your article?Scale it down to the essential one sentence.
This sentence might not be a literary masterpiece, but it gets the point across.There are easy ways to transform this rudimentary sentence into a viral headline.
1. Make it a list
This one is an open secret. List posts work like crazy.If you’re about to write an article, think about how you can turn it into a list.
Creating your headline is now easy, using this proven formula:
Number + adjective + topic + item (optional: + benefit/urgency/curiosity) = viral headline
Here are some examples.
10 Best Nutrition Bars to Increase Health Today
7 Famous SEO Gurus to Learn From for Free
23 Amazing Sources for Food Stock Photos
I guess you’ve seen these, or similar ones, before.
According to research by rjmetrics, list posts work best when they have 10, 16, 21 or 25 items.
Relate to your audience
It’s important to know who you write for.
Make sure to define a specific group of people for whom you want to produce content, before actually beginning to write.
You could write world-class articles about the latest trends in women’s fashion. Present it to male death-metal fans interested only in music and you’re toast. Deliver it to a group of female models and it goes viral.
This means you must stay focused and stay true to your blog’s main goals.
3. Do the wrong thing
Surprise your readers by writing an unconventional title they don’t see five times a day. The key here is to be different.
Try to spin a movie or song title and make it your header.
Tell them ten things to NOT do.
You could even make it one word only.
Don’t overdo it, but every now and then, it can make for an interesting variation.
4. How to be the expert
Experts like to share their knowledge.
Maybe your post is titledTips to Repair Your Bike.That’s a title, not a viral headline.
Improve it by transforming it into a “How to” phrase.
Easy to do, and you immediately have a highly shareable title: How to Repair Your Bike.
Add an adjective and a benefit, and you get How to Quickly Repair Your Bike In Under 5 Minutes.
That’s a different ballgame, isn’t it?
5. Let your content SHINE
Bnonn, who wrote for KISSmetrics, introduced me to a really helpful formula.
The key aspects to keep in mind while developing a headline are:
S – Specificity
H – Helpfulness
I – Immediacy
N – Newsworthiness
E – Entertainment value
This fits perfectly with the examples above. Here’s another:
10 Funny Things (Entertainment) Research Revealed in 2014 (News) About Pregnancy (Specificity) That You Need to Know Today (Helpfulness and Immediacy) .
SHINE – easy to remember, and effective.
6. Keep it simple
Sometimes you don’t need all the urgency and sales-y words and crazy numbers to make a headline work.
Like this example from an English newspaper:
Man Bites Dog
That’s all they wrote. And people loved it!
So if you have a really good angle for your story and can condense it to a few words, do it. No need to blow it up just for the cause of doing it.
7. Follow hot trends
To have articles go viral sometimes means finding the right topic at the right time.
One easy way to do so is to know what’s going on in your niche.Use the following tools to follow popular trends:
- Google/Talkwalker/Ahrefs Alerts
- Industry blogs
- TV News
For example, I wrote a recent guest post called 77 Resources That’ll Get You More Traffic Than Naked Pictures of Kim Kardashian.
I leveraged the popularity and trending rise of starlet Kim Kardashian.
She was mentioned in my article zero times, yet she helped my post get some amazing traction and hundreds of social shares.
8. Offer a sneak peak (read below why that works)
Big sites and newspapers often use this technique to draw the reader into any given article.
Focus on one fact.
They only mention one word or topic in the headline, and you feel like you must read the rest.
Why A DeLorean Wouldn’t Work In 2015
Yes, why wouldn’t it work? I want to know this, even as I’m typing these lines.
That’s just human psychology.
Raise curiosity, and deliver the (sometimes useless) answer in your content.
9. Test like crazy
Never rely on other people’s wisdom.
Learn what works for your headlines by testing and writing multiple headlines for each article.
Jon Morrow, one of the most respected writers in the blogosphere today, cranked out dozens of headlines for each article during his time at Copyblogger.
Viral headlines aren’t written by the lazy.
And compare how they perform against each other to know which ones work best for your audience.
10. Write for humans
This may be the most important tip.
You don’t want to be a title-robot writing for SEO, or never stepping away from your formula.
Content is still produced by humans for other human beings.
- Don’t do keyword stuffing
- Never be boring
- Involve psychological triggers
- Write what you’d like to read
Writing viral headlines is a skill that can be learned.
Sometimes, writers underestimate the effect of a great title.
Don’t. Be. That. Person.
In some cases, it can be even more important than the article itself.
If you follow the tips above it’s only a matter of time and practice before you get it done.
But remember–you need to have both: a great article and an attention-grabbing headline to go viral.
Take your time and master the skill of viral content. It can be done, and it IS worth the effort.
And as you think about your next headline, why not share this article?
Have you come across any irresistible headlines recently? Share them in the comments, please!