3 Tips for Amazingly Sharable Headlines from KissMetrics’ Blog

November 27, 2012

Headlines are important; we all agree on that.

Without good headlines, you don’t get clicks, and then nobody even reads the rest of your content.

So I’ll cut to the chase...

3 Tips for writing killer headlines:

  1. Use a number (preferably at the beginning)
  2. Promise actionable info
  3. Tell me I’m “doing it wrong”

Litmus test: A good headline convinces me I…

  • …don’t already know what you're promising I’ll learn (it’s fresh content)
  • …am currently missing out on an opportunity (bonus points if it’s because I’m “doing it wrong”)

Now prepare your brain for headline writing brilliance!

Here are the top 10 most shared articles on the kiss metrics blog (out of the 50 most recent posts at the time I began writing):


Total SharesHeadline
2052Why The Fold Is A Myth And Where To Actually Put Your Calls To Action
1765Personal SEO: 14-Point Checklist to Dominate Your Personal Brand on Google
1614Beyond the Basics: 30 Fresh Social Media Tips for 2012
15926 Copywriting Mistakes That Shatter Conversion Rates
116010 Branding Lessons That Every Business Graduate Should Know (But Doesnt)
107910 Ways To Increase The ROI Of Your Thank You Page
896 29 Companies Tell You How To Rock Social Media
892 79 Link Building Resources for 2012
860 What Customers Want in an eCommerce Site
834 3 Obvious but Overlooked Elements to Test on Your Landing Pages Right Now!

Those are some pretty impressive share counts!

Let’s look for trends (I looked at the top 50 to find these, but the top 10 really exemplify them).

8/10 use a number in the headline (6 of which start with the number)

4/10 Tell you you're “doing it wrong”

8/10 directly promise information on how to do something (or how not to), and the remaining 2 imply it.

OK, so let’s see how this compares to the Tournament I ran on headlines for this very blog!

Whicher ScoreHeadline
138Case Study: 12 Pricing Plans Ranked
137The 7 Deadly sins of A/B Testing
124Top 5 Programming Languages for New Projects
117What is Tournament Testing & Why do I care?
104How to Write Effective Survey Questions
93When A/B Testing Fails
903 Headline writing Strategies you need to know yesterday
81Hacker News voting: Flawed from the Start?
80The Most Hated Companies in America
35The 3 Most Desired Gifts this Christmas

The trends roughly match what we discovered above, but there are a couple things worth digging into.

First off, “3 Most Desired Gifts” follows the “use a number” tip, but it’s a massive FAIL on the other 2 points, as well as the litmus test. The info isn’t actionable, and it’s not on a topic interesting to my audience at all.

It also doesn’t strike you as likely to be fresh content (I’d give it a 90% chance of having 2 apple products in the list).

And the whicher score reflects that. (100 is always the average score, so this is very, very low).

Also notice that all of the top 5 headlines pass the litmus test with flying colors.

On the other hand, none of the top 5 are HUGE winners (I’d like to see scores above 150), which means one of 2 things:

  1. The headlines are all good so the winners aren’t much better than the losers
  2. I haven’t come up with a big winner yet.

I’m betting on the later

With this data in hand, I think I’ll see a boost in search traffic on my future content marketing efforts :)

If you want to rank your headline ideas, the Whicher is a powerful ranking tool!

I want to rank my headlines using the Whicher

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