A scintillating headline propels readers into a story like a slingshot—but what words motivate people to click in 2017?
Buzzsumo just released an analysis of 100 million Facebook and Twitter headlines published between March and May 2017. The goal was to discover which words or phrases are garnering the most interaction online. What they found “will make you” stunned with disbelief.
The phrase that drove the most engagement on Facebook—by a startling margin—was “will make you.” Apparently, we are all utterly defenseless against headlines that employ nefariously clickable phrasing such as “10 hedgehogs that will make you squeal with delight,” or “These 5 photos of mushrooms will make you feel better about the world.”
Buzzsumo also found that emotional wording is an enduringly hot headline trigger. They offer examples like:
- Tears of joy
- Make you cry
- Give you goosebumps
- Is too cute
- Shocked to see
- Melt your heart
- Can’t stop laughing
Exercise caution with overwrought language, however, as Facebook is actively cracking down on sensationalist, “clickbait” headlines that stretch the truth.
Tantalizing cliffhangers are also infinitely clickable. For example:
- What happened next
- Talking about it
- Twitter reacts to
- Are freaking out
- Top x songs
This is another tactic to use judiciously. Facebook doesn’t take kindly to headlines that withhold information.
Buzzsumo’s report also confirmed the popularity of “explanation” headlines (“This is why Turkmenistan is better than Ohio”), quiz-type phrasing (“Can we guess your burrito order based on your Taylor Swift opinions?”) and the ubiquitous “tribal” screamers (“10 things only iguana lovers understand!”). Buzzfeed clearly knows about these tricks.
As for poor performers, the study found prosaic phrases like “control of your,” “your own business” and “the introduction of” didn’t get much attention—with the caveat that it’s always important to test what seems to work with your unique audience.
Headline length is another issue of some debate. According to Buzzsumo’s research, posts with 12 to 18 words receive the most interaction.
Buzzsumo notes that Twitter’s most popular headlines skew more toward current events and analysis. Popular phrases include:
- The truth about
- The rise of
- Things to know
- This is what
- What we know
As for Twitter’s fourth most shared phrase, it “will make you” scratch your head in disbelief.
To learn more about Buzzsumo’s painstaking headline research, click here. For your convenience, the sections of the report are linked below.