43 Data-Driven Headline Ideas From 1,000 Of The Most Popular Posts 70
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So far, the 16,312 people who rely on CoSchedule for their all-in-one marketing calendar have scheduled 4,302,684 blog posts.
That’s a lot of blog headlines. And we’re data junkies. The result? We nerded out pretty hard core.
It was time to analyze all of the blog posts in our system to understand what headline ideas perform the best on social media to not only help you write better headlines, but also help you get the most social shares for your hard work when you schedule your social media right in CoSchedule.
To top it off, it was high time you had access to this data right in your CoSchedule marketing calendar to help you write great headlines every time. So next time you log in to CoSchedule, check out your all-new headline analyzer integration to help you choose the best headline for your blog posts to help you get the social attention and traffic your content deserves.
Let’s take a look at the 1,000 most popular headlines we’ve ever seen, focusing on the structure of very shareable headline ideas.
10 Ways To Improve Your Headlines From 1,000 Popular Blog Posts
First, a tangent: There are many factors at play here that made these 1,000 blog posts successful.
- Were they long-form blog posts?
- Did influencers write them?
- How did the editors promote these posts?
I could name off a bajillion questions about the quality of the content. So this data analysis focuses purely on the headlines themselves and not the context of the content behind them. That's why there are a few things to keep in mind:
- A significant majority of these blog posts received the bulk of their social shares from Pinterest, meaning they had some awesome visual content embedded into their blog posts.
- Many of the blogs are optimized to increase social shares using WordPress plugins and social media buttons.
- Every blog's audience is different, and some audiences may be more likely to share than others. Also, some audiences prefer certain networks over others. This data is no indicator of pageviews or the ultimate goal of content marketing to convert any traffic into profitable customer action.
But, it's worth mentioning that from this data sample, an average blog post received:
- 18,700 Facebook shares, 22,997 likes, and 7,810 comments
- 252 Tweets
- 621 LinkedIn shares
- 304,934 Pins
So there are definitely lessons to learn since only two of 10 people who see your headlines actually click through to read your blog posts.
1. A significant majority of headlines are generic, essentially only targeting a keyword.
An overwhelming amount of headlines in this study were generic—meaning they didn't contain any value proposition or helpful information to connect with the readers' emotions. I've heard headlines like this called label headlines before, and they look something like this:
While generic headlines work, you could improve this headline even more to connect with an emotion that could generate even more social shares:
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It's not an exact science, but your audience gets a better feel for what they'll discover after clicking through to read your content while connecting to an emotional need to stretch a smaller budget. The data we used to build the headline analyzer suggests the latter example here should perform better than the original for increasing social shares and clickthroughs.
2. People share blog posts with numbers in blog headlines.
About 11% of the blog posts in this study began with numbers in the headlines. Some of these were list posts, some mentioned completing tasks in a specific amount of time, and some included steps.
There is something about data that draws people into these headlines—setting an expectation and promising a quick solution to a problem.
Data from Conductor and cited through Backlinko suggests that headlines with numbers get 36% more clickthroughs than those without, and this new data seems to complement what Conductor found, suggesting that headlines with numbers get more shares than those without.
But Conductor data suggests that odd numbers tend to perform better. Data from this study suggests the opposite.
Of these popular headlines that contained numbers, 49 contained odd numbers while 58 of them contained even numbers. The most popular numbers used in headlines were:
- 15 and 20 tied for the most popular
- 30 came in second place
- 10 took third place
- 5 came in fourth place
- 3 and 25 tied for fifth place
- 7, 16, and 50 tied for sixth place
3. List posts are the most popular structured headline that people share.
Those numbers you just read about? Most of them were part of list posts. Yep, they still work.
4. How to headlines still work.
It was surprising to find only 4% of the headlines in this sample contained how to in them. But even with just a small amount, these still performed super well among the larger group.
5. Include header images to drive tons of shares through Pinterest.
While you might have the greatest headline and content in the world, it won't drive shares on Pinterest unless you complement your blog post with awesome visuals.
The average blog post from this study received more than 300,000 Pins on Pinterest because they included visual content. Even if they contained a generic headline, these blog posts had to have awesome visuals to drive those shares.
6. Focus on self-reliance, ease, and time-savings.
DIY appeared in 5% of the headlines. That's even more than how to! A similar percent contained the word minute, taking an idea and letting the reader know how easy using the information from the blog post would be:
$5 + 30 Minute Wooden Growth Chart
Some of the blog headlines also focused on helping readers do something with the tools they already had, without the need to buy anything new. Overall, it seems that in no matter what industry—or even business-to-business or business-to-consumer—there is a common need to save time and money.
7. Question headlines are under-used.
Only two headlines in this study used questions to inspire curiosity. That runs contrary to other data we've analyzed that shows that question headlines are one of the top-performing types of headlines.
Essentially, this means there is some opportunity for you to use question headlines to stand out from your competition.
When we started analyzing our Twitter data to help us improve every tweet we send, we found that open-ended questions tend to get more clickthroughs than other headline ideas. Sometimes, that disparity hit as much as 32%!
So appeal to the fear of missing out in your social messages by sharing headlines like...
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...to encourage more clickthroughs to your content.
8. New types of blog posts may have an opportunity to stand out.
A few of the blog posts had unusual headlines that nearly focus on the absurd to inspire clickthroughs and social shares:
135 Easy Elf on the Shelf Ideas
That is a ridiculously high number, meaning folks looking for that information probably only need a single source to answer all of their questions on the topic.
Those examples made me think of the best types of blog posts that help you grow traffic. When Aman Thakur explored the topic, he found:
- Long list posts get more backlinks. There were several posts in this study that hit large numbers like 99, 100, 101, 135, and even 173 that really stood out from the others.
- Research-backed, data-driven posts get more traffic. Only a small amount of the headlines included percentages or growth numbers.
- Personal success stories can turn traffic into profit. Another small number of blog posts told very personal stories—some of them almost satirical.
- New method posts can coin new terms and change the industry. Only very few of the blog posts in this study coined new terms for their processes, but when done, they were done well.
- Infographic posts get more shares. Again, tons of these blog posts performed really well on Pinterest, so this seems like very good advice.
- Expert advice posts help you steal their audience. Some of the headlines in this study mentioned influencers' names to either take their idea and build on it, or as an actual interview with the influencer.
9. Some words make for very shareable headlines.
Nearly 5% of all the headlines in this sample contained the word easy, another 4% used you, and 2% contained best. It looks like it works to focus on providing the best possible information to use as easily as possible all while targeting your audience directly in second-person narrative.
Don't be afraid to test lesser-used adjectives to inspire some interest in your blog posts:
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Pulling information from previous research, check out this huge list of 500+ emotional words that will help you write better headlines with some uniquely powerful words.
10. There is opportunity to improve headlines to be more emotional.
The average score of these posts is a 32 with the headline analyzer, getting a C- grade. Woops.
That's why even when you're publishing really great content, we decided to help you write better headlines by integrating that headline analyzer directly into CoSchedule so you can see your score, write a few more headlines to publish every blog post with a more emotional headline, and even get inspiration for sharing alternative headlines on your social networks.
You can get started with the free headline analyzer now, and when you want to plan awesome content, just know it's waiting for you in your marketing calendar right in CoSchedule. ;)
The Key To 43 Data-Driven Headline Ideas
One of the things that's most useful with this data is checking out the structure of successful blog headlines to give you new headline ideas. Consider this a way to find new angles for your blog posts and get a bit of inspiration from headlines that have already performed extremely well.
This is going to feel like a lesson of filling in the blanks. Here's what you need to know as you get started with your headline ideas:
- [Brackets]: Anything in brackets is where you'll enter your own words to take a successful headline idea and make it your own.
- #: Enter a number.
- Adjective/superlative adjective: Write in a word that describes your noun.
- Noun: In most cases, think of this as your keyword for the blog post.
- Verb: Think of your headline like a call to action—tell your readers exactly what they should do.
- Adverb: Coupled with your verb, make it sound super easy to do what you're telling them to do.
- Audience: Think about your target audience and words they'd relate to, and literally call them out in your headlines.
- Present/past participle: Think of a verb in motion.
Alright, some of that might sound scary to those of you who didn't pay attention in grammar class (you know who you are). And that's just fine. Follow the headline idea examples and you'll do great!
Make it sound so easy it's silly not to read your blog post.
1: Easy [Adjective] [Noun] (Our Favorite [Noun])
2: [#]-[Noun] Easy [Noun]
3: [#] [Adjective] And [Adjective] DIY [Noun]
Position your blog post as an ultimate guide.
4: [#] [Adjective] Ideas For Every [Noun]
Instigate interaction and engagement.
5: Find Your [Noun] With Our [Noun] Quiz
Appeal to your readers' emotion to save money.
6: [Verb] These [#] [Noun] For [Adjective] [Noun]!
7: [#] Free [Noun]
Help your readers save time.
8: [#]-Minute [Adjective] [Noun]
9: $[#] + [#]-Minute [Adjective] [Noun]
Intrigue your readers with a mystery.
10: [#] Tips For [Audience] (Number [#] Is A Game Changer)
Call out your audience directly.
11: [Audience]: You'll Thank Me Later (And For The Rest Of My Life)
Write a truly unique headline to capture interest.
12: [Noun] (Inspired By [Noun])
13: [#] Unspoken [Noun] Rules Every [Audience] Should Know
14: A [Noun] Of [Noun]—[#] [Noun] Ideas
Share your value proposition.
15: [#] Ways [Noun] Will Improve Your Life
16: [#] [Noun] Hacks You Won't Want To Forget
Focus on a very specific use case.
17: [#] [Adjective] [Noun] To Try On Your Next [Noun]
18: [#] Things To Do With [Noun]
Show your readers how to do something better than ever.
19: How To [Verb] A [Noun] With [Noun]
20: How To [Verb] [Noun] With A [Noun]
21: How To Make A [Adjective] [Noun] The Easy Way
22: How To [Verb] Your [Noun] (In [#] Mostly Easy Steps)
Stand out with large list posts.
23: My [#] Best [Noun]
24: [#] Things You Might Be Thankful For About Your [Noun]
25: [#] Easy [Noun] Ideas
This is #TheBestEver.
26: The Best Ever [Adjective] [Noun] Solution For [Noun]
Entertain your readers.
27: The [#] [Superlative Adjective] [Noun] Of All Time
28: [#] Of The [Superlative Adjective] [Noun] We've Ever Seen
Be honest, and tell your own story.
29: [#] Things I Wish I Knew About [Noun]
30: How I [Verb] [Noun] For The Week
31: I Am Always Sure About [Noun]
Shock your readers with something unexpected.
32: [#] Reasons To [Verb] [Noun] Daily
33: What's That [Noun]? DIY [Noun] For The [Noun]
Go against the grain.
34: Forget The [Noun], Try This [Noun]
35: Stop Searching For A [Adjective] [Noun]
Share case studies of past success.
36: Welcome To [Noun]: [Noun] [Verb] [Noun] With Next To Nothing
37: When You Feel [Past Participle]
38: [#] Ways To [Verb] [Adverb]
Why not rant a bit—or go to the extreme?
39: Dear [Audience]: You're Not [Present Participle]
40: The Subtle Art Of Not [Present Participle]
Note: The original headline spelled out that expletive, definitely catching an unsuspecting audience off guard. Expect a few (OK, a ton of) four-letter curse words if you click through.
Blog post series still work.
41: [#] Days To Great [Noun] [Series #]: [#] Ways To [Verb] With Your [Noun]
Build on your previous success.
42: [#]+ More [Adjective] [Noun] Ideas
43: [#] Things I Wish I Knew About [Noun]
Note: This one is awfully similar to #29, isn't it? The same blogger saw the success from her first headline structure like this and repeated it. The result? The second post was also super successful at capturing social shares. Find what works for your audience and repeat your success.
Bonus! A Few Of CoSchedule's Most Popular, Super Cool, Non-Lame Headline Ideas
CoSchedule has a top posts feature built into it to help you review what's popular. Here's a glimpse of the most-shared headlines on the CoSchedule blog:
Now It's Your Turn To Rock These Headline Ideas
I recommend taking some advice from Upworthy as you get started with these headline ideas: Write 25 headlines for every blog post. Not only can you use all of the data and examples from this post for inspiration, that practice will help you write better headlines every time—and consistently.
When I started writing at least 25 headlines for every post, our traffic started taking off slowly but surely. We were able to reuse some of the best headlines in our social messages and email A/B tests. I'm telling you that this works—and that's one of the reasons we built the headline analyzer right into CoSchedule to help you get the most out of every blog post you publish.
Good luck, and tell me all about your headline journey! I'd love to hear more about your headline ideas.
December 2, 2015