CAREER ADVANCEMENT / JUN. 25, 2014
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How to Write Great Headlines that Go Viral

Headlines are the introduction to any article. They could mean the difference between an article flopping and an article going viral. It can also mean the difference between someone making thousands and gaining nothing at all.

In this article, we will discuss the importance of the headline and the formula you need to follow to craft that great introductory statement.

The Importance of the Headline

CopyBlogger is a website that conducted a major study into how people respond to headlines. They discovered eight out of ten people will always read the headline of an article when it appears in their search results. Only two out of ten people will go on to read the article.

So how are these six out of every eight people being lost from the moment they read the headline to actually reading it?

Some people will always be lost because it wasn’t the article they were looking for. Fine, you can usually dismiss this, unless your articles are appearing for entirely the wrong audience.

The biggest reason for failure is a lack of a great headline. KISSmetrics discovered people scan headlines like they scan any form of online text. The first three words of a headline are the most important, as well as the last three words. These are where your most powerful hooks need to be.

What’s the Formula for Success?

There’s a comprehensive formula for what makes a great headline. It’s known as the ‘SHINE’ formula. It stands for Specificity, Helpfulness, Immediacy, Newsworthiness, and Entertainment.

  •          Specificity. Be specific about numbers and place. Set the scene for where the article is going to take the reader.
  •          Helpfulness. What sort of problem is the article going to solve?
  •          Immediacy. You need to create some sort of subtle urgency in the article. Why does someone have to click on your article right now?
  •          Newsworthiness. Make it clear your article is going to say something new to your readers.
  •          Entertainment. Arguably, this is the hardest part of the formula. It needs to be reasonably unique, original, and funny. Make sure you don’t try too hard on this aspect or it can break your headline.

Fitting all this into ten words seems impossible. This is where you need to avoid becoming overwhelmed. The truth is a number of these points only require a single word to fulfil them. In terms of immediacy, this could be fulfilled by using words like ‘Now’ and ‘Today’. Specificity is all in the content of the headline. In other words, you’ll do this automatically if your headline is relevant.

Headline success is about practice. You need to research examples of viral articles in your industry and deconstruct their headlines. Work backwards. See if you can spot how each viral headline meets each one of these points. Implement these lessons in your own headline.

Going Viral

To go viral, you need to ensure as many people see your headline as possible. Share your content through as many social media networks as possible, and share it multiple times per week. Give yourself the best chance possible of pulling people in.

Measure the success of each article. You can’t always predict when an article will go viral, but you can increase your chances of it happening. See what articles do best and further refine your headlines going forward. Sooner or later, you’ll hit that viral article and you’ll reap the rewards of it.

Finally, don’t be afraid to write the article before the headline. The headline makes up at least 50% of the process. Yes, it’s that important. Spend time playing with word combinations and mull everything over. Good content without a good headline is pointless.

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