Do You Digg This Headline?

One evening back in early January, I got hit by a flurry of incredulous instant messages wondering how we managed to get a certain Tubetorial video to the Digg home page. The video was about Akismet, the anti-spam plugin that helps bloggers keep their comment sections free from ads for porn and male enhancement products.

It’s not that the video wasn’t good or useful, because it is. What people where amazed at was the fact that something as “old news” as Akismet could get promoted to the Digg home page. This was not (for once) a “targeted” Digg from us… it just happened on its own, although the fact that a top Digg user submitted it certainly helped.

This is what was submitted:

Tubetorial Digg

The headline and description never mention Akismet, but they do prompt curiosity and communicate a clear benefit without dovetailing into the kind of hype Digg users hate. In short, it worked.

So how did this top Digg user come up with the headline and description?

He cut-and-pasted it from our post.

The wonderful thing about Digg power users is they want to submit content to Digg and get it to the home page. Their goals and yours are completely congruent, and the easier you make it for them the better.

You’ve got to have good, relevant content… sure. You also have to catch attention, whether it be your own subscribers or competitive Diggers. If you get passed up in the feed reader all is lost.

And finally… you’ve got to make it brain-dead easy for the content to be submitted. That means your headline and opening should be ready to submit “as is” or with only small tweaks for the site’s community.

Some things remain constant… the headline and the opening are the most important words on the page. Check out how Andy Hagans uses these headline cheat sheets in his viral link building practice, but don’t forget about the importance of your opening paragraph.

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Comments

  1. Great post. I think that digg users in particular have problems writing good titles and descriptions. I’ve tried to submit stuff a few times only to find that it was already submitted with a bad title and description. So much for that article! If they are submitting something they surely want it to do well and having a good title and description is key to that.

    Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t have very good writing skills so it’s up to you to provide something good for them to copy and paste. You only get one chance on there so you better do what you can to make sure it’s a good one.

  2. I think you should put that small wordpress plugin which shows you how many diggs this article got.

  3. Great post. I do have a question though, do you think the headline would have been as successful if it were simply “Stop Comment Spam Without Lifting a Finger”?

  4. Jason, typically I’ll always lead with “How to” if appropriate. You don’t fight what works, and “how to” works well.

  5. My mind is totally blown when I visit sites that are trying to attract traffic these days and the title is something like “SomeSite.com – Homepage” or even no title at all! Thing is, these pages still often make it high on del.icio.us, which is a place where page titles are even MORE important than Digg.

    I’m not worried though. If there are still a lot of people who suck at writing headlines, then that makes life easier for those of us who try, right?

  6. I can see definitely the title is very important, also the brief description of the submitted article, thanks this is a great blog.

  7. The headline or title of anything web-related is really important. Whether we’re talking about a blog post, an newsletter article, a podcast, or products or our free giveaways. Headlines are what entice people to stop long enough to read our copy.

  8. Diggitizer is famous “Digg title beautifier”
    http://www.rentalio.com/diggitizer.html

  9. Very important post.

    Mastering writing headlines and opening lines is probably the most important copywriting skill you’ll ever learn.

    I wrote two in depth posts on this vital subject…
    http://www.copywriting1.com/2007/01/opening-lines-in-sales-copy.html
    http://www.copywriting1.com/2007/02/how-to-grab-attention-without-over.html

    Put simply my split testing shows that opening lines are becoming more and more important in getting your page visitors to read your content.

    Kindest regards,
    Andrew Cavanagh

  10. Good article! I was just reviewing the headline gospels of Eugene Schwartz and John Caples today… and this headline would almost certainly get their two thumbs!

  11. Another perfect example of what the digg coomunity likes and hates.

  12. Great writing. The title and the beginning seem the most important to me.

  13. Great headline tips, Brian. Quick question – do short headlines (within the 60 character SEO limit) work better than long ones, or what turns the readers heads the most?