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By jiathong on January 9, 2020
Being a successful copywriter is a lot more than simply loving words, and writing them down.
While every writer will have his or her own personal flair, what matters most is what are the words that can truly trigger emotion and actions.
Everything you write should be a conscious decision to affect audiences. You need to make them feel, and as a content marketer, you need to make them act.
The first and most important action you need them to take is to read.
Getting people to read your words means having irresistible headlines. Making the best headlines of all time is all in your choice of words.
A headline is the introduction of your work to your audience. As we’ve previously pointed out how to write great headlines, today we’re going to get into the real granular detail of the most powerful words to use when composing yours.
The good news is, you now have more words to play with! Google has increased the length of titles and meta descriptions on the results page. The average length of a viral headline is 70-71 characters. You have more space than you used to.
All the way back in 1963, the granddaddy of advertising David Ogilvy published a list of 20 words that made the biggest difference to his work.
Today we’ll see how many of them have stood the test of time.
Your aim is to get people to click.
So-called click-baiting has turned this into an art form by aggressively removing key information, and instead focusing on hyperbole. (Read why clickbait headline is bad for your website.)
By now, I’m sure you’ve clicked on at least one article like:
Click-bait makes a promise of value to the reader – it infers that the answer is inside the body content. What most people don’t realize is that before they read the headline, there was no question to be answered.
The headline gives enough of a context that you know the general area the content is talking about while creating a key gap in the story.
“You won’t believe” marks that content out as extraordinary, while “insulted” gives you a clear emotional arc to follow.
That said, click-bait fatigue is now a thing, and people are actively campaigning against the practice. The main criticism is that creating a ‘curiosity gap’ obligates you to click through manipulation, instead of making you want to.
Ultimately, it’s a negative motivation that creates a sense of lacking, instead of one of fulfillment.
In the long term, this often means disappointment and negative reinforcement.
What we can take away, however, is that it boils down to an identifiable series of power words that create predictable effects in audiences.
Together, these words help make headlines punchier and more emotive. Combined with timing, engagement, and the pop-cultural capital of your content, you can maximize your chances of making that content go viral.
As such, I’ve delved deep into the places that do it best.
BuzzFeed, ViralNova, UpWorthy, and Wimp all attract more than fourmillion unique monthly visitors, and this traffic is fuelled by headline-motivated clicks and shares, primarily through social media.
These are the top 10 catchy words that help to create powerful motivations in readers.
We live in a time of greater immediacy than ever before. Science fiction writers talked about future-shock in the 1970s when the pace of new inventions was considered dizzying.
There was even talk of a technological singularity when our pace of invention exponentially outstripped our own human ability to keep pace with it.
Now, development is accelerating faster than ever, but our appetite for new things still hasn’t diminished.
The power of “new” comes from three key elements:
The internet is full of vague concepts and broad, sweeping statements.
In a time that is more uncertain than ever, and a content landscape that offers more variety than ever, people want something concrete to focus on and invest their energy in.
This offers you a way to create catchy headlines with little effort.
We’ve come to think of “the” as the definite article. But this is even more definite.
There are degrees in everything. Good, better, best. Fast, faster, fastest. If I asked you whether you wanted a fast bike or the fastest bike, what would your answer be? Exactly.
As such, giving people the most powerful, the most effective, the most controversial content will give people the most compelling reason to read. It is the first superlative in this list because it is the most flexible and adaptive. Here’s why:
Almost any topic can benefit from the power that most can add to create a good title for a blog.
In The Social Network, the first scene establishes what the whole movie is about. Exclusivity. The sense of exclusivity is what helped Facebook generate its first million users.
Exclusivity is what can bring you one million readers. In writing, we often say ‘show, don’t tell’, but the use of the word exclusive is an exception to that rule. If you have an exclusive, you better make sure everybody knows.
If you’ve driven yourself hard enough to root out an exclusive, people will be grateful to you for it, and it will build massive loyalty among fans.
It might seem like a weird example, but Perez Hilton became a millionaire off the back of exclusives, even if they weren’t always verified.
The difficulty with exclusive is that you have to match your content to the offer. If you don’t deliver after using the word, you’ll burn your audience and a lot of bridges in the process.
There is always a piece of hyperbole that becomes commonplace in everyday conversation. A few years ago, that was ‘awesome’. Right now, it’s amazing.
To me, that’s no surprise. When we’re amazed, we feel a sense of revelation that the definition of what’s possible has just changed.
We live in a truly amazing time when that seems to happen every day. As such, if you can provide amazing content, you’re guaranteeing your audience that after reading they’ll feel better than they did before.
As such, amazing is a flexible and light-hearted superlative. Unfortunately, with all superlatives, they offer diminishing returns through overuse. Amazing is yet to peak, but keep an eye out for what might take its place.
How-To articles are some of the most popular online, and that’s because they’re effective.
They’re catchy blog post titles because they offer an immediate solution to a problem the reader has. They can also offer solutions to problems the reader might not realize they have.
Who is your content created for? That’s right, the audience. Your audience needs to be addressed, and there’s no better way to do that than to make it personal.
Journalists know that the curiosity that drives us all is based on several fundamentals. What, which, and when are three of those most powerful fundamentals. As such, they address the foundations of what drives people to discover more.
Every one of these offers a significant answer to a common question or problem.
“Why?” is the crown jewel of questions.
When children first understand the concept behind why, and how to say it, it can be all that they ask their parents for months on end. While children might broaden their vocabulary, that same passion for why never leaves us. Why?
You might feel like this is a bit of a cheat. This is all about words, and I’ve given a spot to numbers?! Well, all I can tell you is, they earned it. Every single one of the most dominant websites in terms of traffic, every single one uses numbers in the best headlines they publish. That’s deliberate.
10 isn’t always the magic number, but you rarely want to go more than 12 for quality based content.
It’s as simple as this: people love lists. Most of the highest-ranking headlines on Google have included numbers.
Using these words together with numbers will amplify their power.
Touching on those journalists’ questions I included, this article is a ‘what’ article. I want to leave you with some ideas about the ‘how-to’ too.
What I just said about numbers is true of all these words, they’re amplifiers. But all amplifiers need something to amplify, and that more than anything is your keyword.
You need to get your keyword in the title, and what’s more, as close to the beginning of the title as possible. It’s that simple.
To identify the best keywords to target in your title, you need complete access to keyword data.
With BiQ’s Keyword Intelligence, you can get real-time keyword data including volume, trend, search intent, as well as other related keywords that will help fuel your decision.
Watch this video to learn how you can use it to elevate your SEO strategy!
As a bonus, check out this briefing on the best-ranking strategy we’ve found for getting your articles ranked highly on Google.
Also, back to the topic at hand, now that you know these 10 powerful words, it’s equally as important to know how to use it and your intentions are important.
There’s an adorable comment from Reddit that has gone viral talking about the Mars Curiosity rover, talking about how curiosity is in our very nature. It’s what you need to befriend.
In our case, we know that some are confused about whether to use long-form or short-form content for their readers. So we write a blog post about it to answer the question that people have been wondering for so long.
Emotions are just as powerful as curiosity but come from a more primal place. Stirring them will pay dividends.
This also leads to the reason why marketers are starting with emoji marketing campaigns nowadays.
Shy kids don’t get sweets. You need to set out your stall strongly in order to stand out from the crowd, and bold claims will attract clicks.
Tell people what you want them to do. There’s nothing more simple, or more difficult. But do it well, and your conversions will soar.
It’s easy to get tangled up in the stats of SEO and “write by numbers” when using articles like these to help inform your strategy. But you can’t just do that.
You need to pour yourself into your content too. That means passion and personality. People respond to people.
You can find out how to write in conversational tone to increase readership from our blog post.
If you have an exclusive get it out there as soon as possible. If you don’t, don’t just sit there! Piggyback big brands, comment on hot topics. (Read our blog post on how you can use Pokemon GO for your local business.)
Never underestimate the flexibility of metaphor: you can make a comparison with anything if you find the right perspective.
These are your golden rules. I’ve put them last because if you only remember one thing from this article, it’s this: focus on keywords that you know your audience is already searching for. Look into the search volume on those keywords and choose accordingly.
LSIGraph is also a good tool for keyword research before writing any content. LSI Keywords suggestions are used to improve your content theme by matching the user’s search intent and allows search engines to understand you better.
BiQ is another amazing tool that can analyze your content relevance, sentiment, and readability by comparing your content with the Top 10 ranking results for your keyword and provide suggestions to improve your content.
At the end of the day, try messing around with new combinations of the list of catchy words above and your keywords to create a truly unique and eye-catching headline.
If you are still stumped, try out the suggestions from our blog title generator and see what you can come up with.
It’s a free headline generator and you’ll find content ideas for what to write about in a matter of minutes.
Words pack a punch, some more so than others. Writing catchy headlines and creative blog post titles can help you create more viral content and grow your readership.
What words stood out to you in this headline study? How do you plan to integrate this with your next headline? Shoot me some links to what you come up with.
*NEW* Part 2 here: 28 Emotional Words For Creating The Best Headlines (and why)
Updated: 22 September 2023
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