In the late 1800’s, Kaiser Wilhelm wanted to get rid of a number of his associates in the German government. Since many of them were old, he decided to set the age of retirement to 65 and successfully forced them out of their positions. To this day, we still use the same retirement age around the world.
If you’re wondering what the point of sharing that was then let me say this: There was no point. My headline led you to read the post introduction, and my first paragraph was good enough to get you to read the second. Since I have your attention, let me tell you one more thing: You have to keep people hooked on your content if you want to get links. People don’t share things they don’t read.
How do you get people hooked on your content? How do you write posts which people are more likely to share with their audience? How can you guarantee that people will read your blog post?
The answer, is to have an awesome idea and write excellent copy. But that’s such a vague response.
They say that around 80% of visitors to your blog will read your post title, but only about 20% will actually read the accompanying post. This means that the best way to get more links, is to get more people reading your post. Since you always get less people reading your post than you do your headline, you have to make your headline amazing, in order to engage as many visitors as possible.
I’ve analysed dozens of blogs to find out what types of headlines result in posts getting hundreds of links. Before I share the result of my findings, let’s give a quick personal example…
Though I think the following analysis is far more important than my own examples, some people will need some “proof” that I know what I’m talking about. For those people, here’s a few of my posts, with their accompanying link count:
And it’s not just in the marketing niche where I can do it either. Here’s an example for a guest post that I wrote in the personal development field:
Do you notice anything in common with those blog posts? Since I didn’t link to them, the commonality shouldn’t be too hard to spot. For those of you who are confused, they all – at least, in my opinion – have excellent headlines. They have headlines which make you want to read the post, and content which you’ll get value from.
They are ultimately the type of post that other sites naturally want to link to.
Getting links is so important not only for increased search engine rankings, but for the sheer number of new visitors who can land on your website when other blogs talk about you. As these links can decide whether you rise to the ranks of the A-list or continue to write for an audience of one, let’s look at how you can craft headlines which get read, and get links.
The Item:Hype formula is simply the name I’ve attached to a style of headline I see that is both popular and effective. It basically allows you to create a title that catches people’s attention that can work in any industry. The name of this headline style is actually the headline style itself. Item: is the subject you’re talking about and Hype is the follow up which makes people want to read it.
For example, a post I referred to earlier, WordPress SEO: The Only Guide You Need. The start is the item – the topic I’m talking about – and after the colon is the hype.
Other bloggers have successfully used this title, in cases such as:
This simple strategy can even make shoes and conversion testing interesting. Don’t believe me?
There’s an alternative to going barefoot? People actually walk around barefoot? The headline creates questions in my mind, and I want to read the post to get answers. If you get creative, you can even flip this format around.
…could easily have been a suitable headline for this post. It would have been a great example of another headline structure which gets attention, and ultimately links. The aim of this second type of headline is to provide some sort of ultimate ending, or hint of “finality” (I’m sure there’s a proper word for that) in the search for good content on a certain topic.
Based on how it is processed in our minds, it may even lead you to read a post on a topic you wouldn’t normally be interested in, since you don’t want to miss the chance to get the best content on that subject.
“What do you have to lose? It will only take a few minutes to read. I don’t want to regret not having read this in the future.”
That’s the thought process we want happening in the minds of our readers. Some popular headlines in this category include:
The first headline makes me think two things. One, it’s okay that I missed other Firefox tricks guides posted online. Two, no better post has ever been written on this topic, so I should read it. If I was looking for a productivity system, then the second headline assures me that I’ve found the one I should be following.
Explore how you can use the “end of the search” concept in your post titles. Words like “Ultimate”, “Ever”, “Need”, and “Greatest” should help get you started.
You can’t write a post on attractive headlines that doesn’t include the list post. It’s something that has been around for years and remains popular to this day. List posts are attractive because they give the idea of quality, variety, and a post that is easy to read. You can find them on almost every big blog out there, and they can easily go viral if done well.
Of course, putting a number in your headline alone wont help to make the post a success. Think of using a list headline for an idea that already has the chance to go viral. For example, “Virtually Instant Ways to Improve Your Life” and “The Not-To-Do List: The Habits to Stop Now” are good titles, and brilliant post ideas. They’re simply made more attractive with the introduction of figures.
The final headline concept I’ve found to work well is to invoke curiosity. You can peak someone’s interest so much that they have little choice but to click on your post headline — even if it isn’t clear what your article is about. Similarly, you can “tease” people and give them a taster with your headline. If the bait is tempting enough, you’ll get them to read the post.
Some articles that put this into action include:
The first example is an excellent one in my opinion because it gives us the bait, and promises to solve it with a surprise. Being able to “travel full-time” is going to get anyone’s attention, especially if you couple it with such a low price point. The second headline makes me curious to know what those secrets are, and the third sounds interesting with a bit of controversy thrown in, so I want to read that as well.
Taking the idea from the first headline, I could also use the three other template examples in this post to craft attractive titles around the same concept:
It’s so easy to use these formulas to come up with headlines that are going to – quite simply – get a lot more people reading your content. If you just spend an hour or so trying to put these into practice, you should easily be able to come up with 20 ideas which follow a proven methods of getting links.
It’s going to be next to impossible to get hundreds of links to your post if you read all of this but forget to take something very important into account. If you don’t have the content to “back up” your awesome headline, then it’s pointless crafting such a good headline in the first place.
Your headline, first and foremost, is purely designed to get people to read the rest of your post. Even though they’re reading it, they still have to enjoy it if they’re going to share it. If that wasn’t obvious.
If I’m going to write a post about WordPress SEO and call it “the only guide you need” then I can’t just give a few generic tips on the subject, I literally have to make it the best guide online. If I call Link Trio a “simple, yet powerful, link building tactic” then it has to be both simple to implement and highly effective.
Just adding this in for any nitpickers: The link counts for the posts are never going to be perfectly accurate. I took the counts from both the Yahoo Site Explorer and the Open Site Explorer. The point of the post remains intact: Good headlines help posts get links. Thanks to the following sites for providing me with these excellent examples: DumbLittleMan, ZenHabits, Lifehack, FourHourWorkWeek, Chris Guillebeau, SEO Book, Steve Pavlina and I Will Teach You To Be Rich.
Some of you may think that these sites are big, so that’s why they get hundreds of links to their posts. I would personally argue that they’re big because they get hundreds of links to their posts. ViperChill certainly hasn’t grown to 14,000 subscribers so quickly because I write the same content as everyone else.
I’m giving away a free copy of Cloud Living to whoever creates the best headline, using an above formula, on the subject of kittens. Just leave a comment with your submission.
Update: Since there were so many entries, I decided to pick three winners. They are:
Congrats to the winners, and thanks for all of the entries.
P.S. If you want to read more on this topic, my post 2,897 Words on Creating Viral Content may be just what you’re looking for.