How Great Headlines Score Traffic

So, it’s Wednesday morning of this week, and I’m right in the middle of the daily train wreck that occurs as soon as the kids roll out of bed.

As I deftly prevent the 18 month old from bashing his head on the corner of my desk, the old IM chimes, and despite myself I cannot resist its Siren call.

It’s Markus from AU interactive, and he wants some quick headline advice for a post he’s about to release.

We quickly bang it out, and go our separate ways.

Later on in the day, I notice that his post, 10 Things That Will Make or Break Your Website is on the front page of Digg. Last I looked it had scored over 1100 votes, a bunch of Delicious bookmarks, and spent time on TechMeme.

Not bad.

First off, the post is excellent. Not only is it well written, but the content is unique because it’s a summary of points made by presenters at the Future of Web Apps Conference.

But as we all know by now, the exact same content might slip through the cracks if you don’t write a great headline. Markus knew when he contacted me that just sticking the number “10” in front of your post title is not the end of the analysis.

So, let’s have some headline fun.

If you have a post that you’ve just written, or perhaps an older post that didn’t do as well as you thought it should have, or even if you want to write a brand new post that you think will do well…

Drop the URL in the comments to this post. I’ll pick as many as I can and rewrite the headline (or tell you your post title already rocks). Then I’ll link to the posts late next week and maybe we’ll all learn something in the process.

And let’s make this open source—all the copywriters who read this blog (along with the bloggers who have mad skillz when it comes to post titles) are welcome to choose their own selections, rewrite the post titles, and put it all in a blog post of their own. I’ll link to all those as well.

I can’t promise you your resulting post is going to get the attention that Markus got. There are simply too many variables.

But I think this kind of exercise may be more helpful for some than simply reading another article on headline writing.

So, let me have those posts!

UPDATE: First five headline remixes are here.

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Comments

  1. Robert, you know I wouldn’t change a word of that one.

    Let’s not intimidate others Mr. Bruce, ok? :)

  2. I know the post isn’t a great one, but I had truly expected more diggs..

  3. Will YouTube Be The Attack Dog of American Politics?

  4. Mr. Clark, intimidation is my middle…. ah, let’s leave it at that.

    Looking forward to seeing you work in real time here.

    Cool idea man.

  5. Free Video Games for Bloggers

    Great idea for a post by the way. I think I should spend more time thinking about headlines for my posts as well.

  6. I’d change:

    “A good reason to have Favicons…Firefox Tabs”

    to something like:

    “Improve Every Page On Your Site In 5 Minutes” or
    “5 Minutes Work = A More Effective Website”

  7. How to Keep Your Relationship Healthy with Your Wife I submitted it to ProBlogger’s Writing project in the last round. I am interested in any thoughts! Thanks!

    Matt

  8. Ok, my headline:

    Skip the Writing, Just Lie About White Papers

  9. I had trouble coming up with a good title for this one:

    Showing Posts When There’s No Related Posts
    http://izachy.com/2006/09/18/no-related-posts/

  10. New to this whole thing, but I just cracked a fortune cookie that said, “Practice makes perfect.”

    What do you do when life gets tough?

  11. I just had a conversation with a friend about this same thing this morning – the unbelievable butterfly effect that a headline can have (Mine is living proof).

    It was originally slated to be “10 Things Every Webmaster Should Know”, but right as I was IM’ing Brian, it hit me (the one I went with).

    A good headline or a single word can mean the difference between obscurity and 20,000 visits in 48 hours (enough to crash a server). And thank you, Brian, for all the great posts – it really helped me get there.

    Will YouTube Be The Attack Dog of American Politics? :: Will YouTube Lose Hillary the Election?

    12 steps to a sound sleep and lively wake up :: Sleep Smarter: How to get the most out of your night.

    Basic B&W – The Next Step :: How to Bring Colorless Photos Back to Life in 5 Seconds

    A good reason to have Favicons…Firefox Tabs :: Get Crunked up with Icons – or – Why My Site Looks better then Yours in Firefox

    How to Keep Your Relationship Healthy with Your Wife :: How to Fall in Love with your Wife – or – 5 Ways to Stay out of Divorce Court and Get More Sex

    Skip the Writing, Just Lie About White Papers :: How We Became FOX News

  12. Any Publicity Is Good Publicity… Unless You Grace The Cover Of Madden NFL

  13. Wow, I was just thinking that it would be great to have someone like you to consult about posts titles (which I do struggle with) and then you made that great offer! Cool!

  14. http://melissajwhite.blogspot.com/
    “volunteer sunflowers”
    received several responses from my private email list of 50 freinds/relatives/clients. Can it be better?

  15. Are You Working in Google’s AdSense Sweatshop?

    I thought this was a killer post, destined for social bookmark greatness…alas, 3 diggs!

  16. http://mywebduck.typepad.com/pentimento/details/index.html

    My title:
    THIS IDAHO SCHOOL NEEDS YOUR HELP! PLEASE READ THIS POST!

  17. Any thoughts for this headline?

    Ways to Reinvigorate Your Love In A Long-Term Relationship

  18. Flowcharting in Microsoft Office Just Got a Lot Easier

    (from a press release that’s going out Tuesday)

  19. I’m writing a series of posts on my personal (non-commercial) blog about how I entered the adult industry. The posts are oh-so-cleverly titled “my adult industry history part [I-VI].” Surely there is a better title out there. Brian?

  20. How about:

    Post title importance – “Look better naked”
    at http://www.bloggingforbusinessbook.com/blogging_for_business/2005/12/blog_title_impo.html

  21. I have a website that doesn’t fit in any neat little boxes — it’s sort of a band, sort of a cartoon, and sort of a flash site to play around in. We’re trying to get it on digg, reddit etc, but I’m having a hard time figuring out what angle to take or what category to put it in. Any thoughts on how best to frame it to drive traffic, and what headline to use on digg, would be great. I’ve previously tried “Cool flash 3D effect- very artistic” which committed a number of sins including not really being true, it’s only fake 3D.

    http://www.tower8.net

  22. http://thedailypaintedegg.blogspot.com/2006/09/how-to-combine-opaque-and-translucent.html

    This blog is run in german and english. It is on painting with egg-tempers colours. A picture is published daily along with some weired interpretations of that picture and some thoughts and tips on painting.

    What do you think? Any comment is wellcome, that enables me to learn!

    Sincerely

    Gerd brunzema

  23. I’m new so I’m glad i came across this blog. Didn’t know how important a good headline was!

  24. I’m probably too late, but here’s one I’d like help with:

    http://onstartups.com/Home/tabid/3339/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/1010/Default.aspx

  25. There’s a very under-reported story about Dave Winer – he’s earned $2.3 million off his blog in the past year, and I can’t figure out how:

    The secrete of making $2.3 million/year by blogging

    Would appreciate any help you can give me.

  26. Why being an affiliate marketer is great for your sex life!!!

  27. Ok, I’ll post one that I think is decent (but I’m sure it could be better): Everything You Need to Improve Your English Grammar

  28. Article Title: “Ten Tips For Maximum Business Success”

    URL: http://www.marketing-sales-systems.com/tips.htm

  29. Thanks for the invitation, here goes —

    Deliberate Change: Whatever it Takes
    http://wow.alexanderbecker.net/blog/2006/09/deliberate-change-whatever-it-takes.php

  30. why being an affiliate marketer is great for your sex life
    http://making-money-blogging.com/blog/2006/09/29/why-being-an-affiliate-marketer-is-great-for-your-sex-life/
    woops I forgot the url. Sorry for the dbl dipping !!!

  31. “Now You Can Enjoy Hi-Fi Music and Movies in One System”

    Trying to apply magnetic headlines to audio and video tech articles.

    Your site has really helped my writing, thanks.

  32. Meralco’s Catastrophe
    http://asianenergyadvisors.com/?p=335

  33. My post is: “How To Customize Your Google Homepage”

    http://kingoinfo.blogspot.com/2006/09/problogger-group-writing-project-how.html

  34. Graham,

    > Advice to beginning musicians

    How about, “The 7 Key Steps Every Beginning Musician Should Take”

  35. Hendry Lee,

    > Starting a Blog? Here Are 8 Different Blogging Business Models

    The article content doesn’t exclusively target beginning bloggers, so the “Starting a Blog?” portion should be dropped.

    “Here Are 8 Different Blogging Business Models” is much too passive. “The 8 Different Blogging Business Models” sounds more authoritative … but there’s still no hook.

    Something like “8 Business Models to Help You Succeed in Blogging” would be better.

  36. http://www.redcardinal.ie/general/28-09-2006/text-anchors-can-bring-you-joy/

    Only blogging since July so any advice is much appreciated.

    TBH I’ve learnt more about the bread and butter of blogging from Copyblogger than any other resource. Thanks Brian.

  37. Here is mine for your review:

    You’ve Only Got 30 Seconds or 20 Words

    Thanks!

  38. Neat way to organize and find anything in your purse instantly!

    I thought this would be much more popular. Would Love your help…I LOVE getting your feedblitz…it really has helped me write better copy!

    Thanks!

  39. http://blog.myspace.com/dalpura

    Okay, here is my little blog – you wanted headlines … take a look. I’d love your opinion!

    I don’t really send it out much, but have been getting a few emails from people liking what I’ve written. It is mre about family, education & coaching.

    Just have to find the time to post more!!

    Cheers
    Judie
    http://www.dalpura.com.au

  40. Amazon aStores… An Almost Amazing Alternative (or Addition) to Blog Advertising

    Not the headline I intended to submit. But on the other hand, I’m more curious about what you think of this one… I figure its at one end of the scale or the other, but I’m not sure which.

  41. I’m planning on releasing a series of posts containing solid advice on the building of a website, from planning, to production, to launch.

    The series will be comprehensive, and therefore split into several posts, I was planning on using the following:

    The Secrets Of Building a Homepage From Scratch – Part 1

    But, I would love to hear your comments before I actually post the first part.

    Thank you in advance.

    And thank you for a great website, I love the content, and use it as inspiration for writing.

  42. 10 Reasons Why I Would Never Work for Donald Trump
    How to Steal Someone’s House… without Getting Arrested
    Desperate Buyer Offers Sex As Earnest Money Deposit

    A few titles of upcoming posts at http://www.realestatemegabook.com

  43. @Markus,
    On 8/29 you said “Why My Site Looks better then Yours in Firefox.” It should be “Why My Site Looks better than Yours in Firefox.”

    This is a mistake that’s becoming more and more common. So common, in fact, that I started to question my understanding of the two – so I looked it up.

    http://www.sparknotes.com/writing/style/topic_172.html

    Please don’t take this as me trolling, I just wanted to make sure any advice that gets passed around is accurate.

    Great post.

  44. Hi – just learning and would love some thoughts from you, my posts are misc. and mixed – so targeting readers is a bit tough. I liked the title on this one – what do you think?

    http://heatherwilliams.wordpress.com/2006/10/04/foley-only-a-scandal-because-he-got-caught/

  45. Learn to Love Board Games Again:
    100+ Ways to Rejuvenate the Games You Already Own

    http://jergames.blogspot.com/2006/10/learn-to-love-board-games-again100.html

    I thought the headline was pretty good, actually, so I’m wondering if maybe the content isn’t as accessible as I had hoped. Any thoughts appreciated.

    Yehuda

  46. Learn to Love Board Games Again:
    100+ Ways to Rejuvenate the Games You Already Own

    http://jergames.blogspot.com/2006/10/learn-to-love-board-games-again100.html

    I thought the headline was pretty good, actually, so I was wondering if the content wasn’t as accessible as I had hoped. The “in” crowd liked it, but I didn’t hear any comments from the general public.

    Yehuda

  47. How ’bout this one:

    “What a Tuna Melt Taught Me About Customer Service”

  48. Wow … I was just thinking that it would be great to have someone like you to consult about posts titles (which I do struggle with) and then you made that great offer!
    Cool!

  49. Here’s Mine. Thought it simple and straight to the point.

    “S’pore Mobile Phone Website”

    Regards.

  50. Inside the Mind of Tom Gibson, founder, Advocacy Animation

    http://www.onpointblog.com/23473-inside-the-mind-of–tom-gibson-founder-advocacy-animation

  51. How to write headline that help to rank well in search engines and attract readers attention, this the problem of most online marketer.

  52. Hi – I inadvertently checked the box for follow-up email comments – could you please undo??

  53. Great post, and advise. Being a new blogger I am learning alot form these sort of posts keep up the good work.

    My New Tech Blog http://www.britec.co.uk/techblog/

  54. Hmm this not only valid for blogs but for webpages as well I think! Thanks!

  55. I am using your advice for my website! Thanks Mate

  56. Unique is the keyword! A good header is indeed a great way to create traffic for websites and for weblogs. A headline that makes people ask them selfs what? … is perfect!

  57. Your site has really helped my writing, thanks.

  58. This website has really helped my writing THNX

  59. Wicked article nice and easy to understand, thanks for sharing :)

  60. Wicked article nice and easy to understand, thanks for sharing

  61. I write about how to get my readers motivated.

    My favorite headline so far is:

    Swim away from the cake.

    http://jangelos.wordpress.com/2009/12/23/swim-away-from-the-cake-updated-motivational-technique/

    It’s about how my sister would follow me up and down the lanes during swim meets in high school SCREAMING HER HEAD OFF.

    To get fire under my strokes she used to say to pretend we were swimming toward a chocolate cake or away from sharks.

    Now she says to swim away from the cake.

    This headline has brought a lot of readers. I think it is because it’s personal, tells a story and motivates.

    How about you? What’s your angle?

    Julie