A lot of people ask how to write the best, attention grabbing headlines. The truth is the best titles and ways to execute them will vary for every niche. So testing them yourself is always the best bet.
Buffer put together all of the scientific research they have ever done on this topic and offered their advice below:
What works best on Twitter? Finding the right headline for your Tweet is one of the most important things to do, especially as Twitter only allows for text display. Whilst there is a ton of data out there on which words to use and how to write headlines, the best way to do anything truly scientifically, is to test and learn yourself.
Test it yourself – here is how: For Twitter, we’ve experimented with A/B testing the right headline. A/B testing on social is arguably very hard, in fact easily one of the biggest social media mistakes. Yet we’ve found it’s possible to still get reliable data that way. Here is how we approached this:1.) Find 2 headlines for an article that you think will perform well.
2.) Tweet both of these headlines at roughly the same time, at least 1 hour apart. Here I’ve found that doing the 2 Tweets both in the AM or both in the PM works best – 9am is much more similar to 10am, then say 12pm is to 1pm. So going with clear “morning” or “afternoon” times is crucial.
3.) Compare the data for which headline to settle on.
How to approach FB postings: The power of self-explanatory pictures: Of course, for approaching posting to your FB page or profile, the underlying elements are very similar to Twitter. And yet Facebook couldn’t be any more different as a medium than Twitter.
Test it yourself – here is how
All the research, latest Facebook statistics and sensational headlines aside, the key to knowing what works best for you on Facebook is to test it well again. For example, the saying that “post pictures” isn’t entirely helpful at all.
Instead of pictures alone, which is often one of the biggest social media mistakes, here is one assumption that we’ve found validated over and over again on our own Facebook page:
“Post pictures that are meaningful without having to read any text next to it.”
How to write good blogpost titles – the ultimate science: Now onto the most powerful of all, the headline of articles. If you’d do a quick google search here, you’ll quickly see that I’m not the first ones who has thought to write about that. For another crucial element, what the best time to publish your posts are, we’ve written a separate guide.
Of course, let’s start with a testing method again first:
Test blogpost headlines first on Twitter – The Andrew Chen technique
Here is how he validates which articles he should write and how to name them too:
“Using retweets to assess content virality
Recently I’ve been running an experiment:
- Tweet an insight, idea, or quote
- See how many people retweet it
- If it catches, then write a blog post elaborating on the topic”
Give your readers numbers – the bigger the better: What they found is that the bigger a number in a post, the farther it spreads. Iris puts it more clearly with great examples:
- Make lists : “8 reasons to…”, “15 tips to…” – Indicating a number of items on your post makes it sound more diverse, practical and easier to read. We found these to work exceptionally well.
- Use digits rather than words – “10 ways to…” works better than “Ten ways to…”. This is often a common blogging mistake, that can easily be avoided.
- Place the number at the head of the sentence. “5 ways social networks are changing the world” will work better than “How social networks change the world in 5 ways”.
Of course, we can’t always make a list post for every article we write. In that case, the following might work:
Everyone wants to be taught: Use “Introduction”, “The beginners guide”, “In 5 minutes” and “DIY”: A key idea about writing great headlines that great copywriters have mastered for a long time, that Iris and her team underline also is to teach people something. After all, we all want to get smarter. A common way to think about it is to make a lot of “How to” articles. The bad news is, that whilst they do teach people something, they don’t spread as far.
Instead, change it to something more specific, so people will know beforehand, what they will get.
Instead of: “How to get better at organizing your day.”
Try: “The 5 minute guide to organizing your day for more focus and productivity”
Right now the 7 strongest words to use when creating titles or choosing words to include in your blog are: Smart, Surprising, Science, History, Hacks, Hacking, Hackers, Huge, Big and Critical. So try some of these words when you are testing and see how they preform.
How do you conduct your research to go about selecting titles or words to use in them?