Do you spend much time creating headlines? I know you pour your heart and soul into creating the content, but what about the headline? Do you just slap a few keywords into the headline without thinking about it? According to the virality geniuses at Upworthy, you need to put a lot of effort into your headline writing. It’s obviously working for them, so maybe we can learn something.

Upworthy is seen by some as the vultures of the Internet, repackaging content created elsewhere and slapping great, attention-catching and share-demanding packaging on that content. Some people may have  a problem with it, but the fact is that the folks at Upworthy understand something important – if no one ever sees content, it doesn’t matter how awesome it is; it’s a failure.

So content marketers need to do everything in their power to get eyeballs on their content. A big part of this is creating better headlines. Consider it an important part of the job.

Most people in business tend to take themselves too seriously. We don’t want to be silly/provocative/too far out on a limb when we present our work to an audience. We shy away from being compelling.

At Upworthy, they know how to create awesome headlines. And, bless their hearts, they’re sharing their secret sauce with us. In this PowerPoint, they provide their rules for headline writing.

Here they are:

  1. First and foremost, you have to write 25 headlines for every piece. This will push you to find something great.
  2. Don’t give it all away in the headline.
  3. Also, don’t give it all away in the excerpt, share image or share text.
  4. Don’t be shrill. Don’t form an opinion for the end user. Let them do that.
  5. Don’t bum people out.
  6. Don’t sexualize your headline in a way that your mother wouldn’t approve. So, the answer to the question in the headline above is “no.”
  7. And don’t overthink it. Some of your headlines will suck. Accept it and keep writing.
  8. Which reminds me, my mom doesn’t like it when you put the word “sucks” in headlines.
  9. Lastly, be clever. But not TOO clever. 

Of course, you may need to tweak these rules to suit your audience, but this is a great place to start.

Notice what these rules don’t say.

They don’t say to be sure to include at least one keyword.

They don’t say to accurately describe the content that follows.

The goal is to get the audience to click and consume the content, and then to also share it. Your audience already likes your content; true virality occurs when they share it with their network. And the headline is a key component of that.

So, for this article, I did my best to implement these rules. I created 25 different headlines. It took about 40 minutes (while watching March Madness, but still, this took some time). Here’s what I came up with:

  1. Your Headlines Suck (But We Can Fix That)
  2. The Upworthy Guide to Awesome Headlines
  3. The Science of Clickworthy Headlines
  4. Guess How Many Different Headlines I Wrote For This Article?
  5. 8 Essential Rules for Headline Writing
  6. What Are The Odds This Article Goes Viral?
  7. Your Headlines… They’re Not Good.
  8. Hey Content Marketers! Read This, Have Success
  9. Seriously, How Do You Write Headlines?
  10. Would You Like To Know How To Get More People To Click On Your Headlines?
  11. The First Rule of Headline Writing
  12. We Have Awesome Content But Our Headlines Are Kinda Lame
  13. Bad Headlines = Failure
  14. We’ve Decided to Pay More Attention to Headline Writing (Starting Tomorrow)
  15. Help Us Fight Back Against Lame Headline Syndrome
  16. This Headline Barely Has Anything to do With The Article (Or Does It?)
  17. Do NSFW Headlines Work Better?
  18. What Headlines Work Best?
  19. Do Headlines Have To Contain Keywords?
  20. Do Headlines Matter Anymore?
  21. I May Have Spent Too Much Time Working On This Headline
  22. How Would You Write a Headline for an Article About Writing Headlines?
  23. How Do You Like This Headline?
  24. Which Works Better: Sex or Humor?
  25. A Critical Aspect of Content You’re Overlooking

The first five are our typical type of headlines here at Scribewise. I believe I came up with some decent ones as I pushed past the expected. Hopefully you agree… and clicked and are still reading.

So, did I pick the right headline? Should I back to the drawing board? Let me know in the comments!