Still Not Convinced that Headlines Make All the Difference?

You’ve got to see this then — wisdom from the mouths of geeks about the power of writing great headlines.

Apparently some Digger submitted a story about the all too important topic of hot billionaire heiresses (you know, like that Paris Hilton scamp you may have heard of). His submission was essentially ignored, while another Digger submitted the exact same story, wrote a better headline, and scored over 300 1072 Diggs as of the time of this posting.

The original submitter was not pleased, and yet he received zero sympathy.

From the comments:

When will people learn to stop whining about the fact that THEIR submission didn’t get dugg to the front page, but the one with the snappier, more descriptive, more appealing, and more funny headline and description DID.

Life’s not fair. Deal with it.

I rest my case.

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Reader Comments (20)

  1. says

    You’ve really hit the nail on the head!

    Headlines do make a lot of difference. I usually stick to the headline of the blog post while submitting to digg. I guess I need to learn to find better headlines :(

    I am working on headlines for my individual posts on my blog.

    Thanks for the suggestions you post :)

  2. says

    And according to the Agence France-Presse lawsuit Google’s facing right now:

    “It’s a real skill and it’s original work. A story lead is the most creative part of the story–it’s what most people read.”

    Google counters that headlines are “terse factual phrases” that are too brief to warrant protection.

  3. says

    This is like the 20th posts (ok, may be not so many) of this blog that just about the headlines 😀

    Yes Yes. I’m convinced.

    But I have an interesting proposal (more of an experiment). How bout we (or you, particularly) go to and select those unpopular undigged story, and we resubmit it under different headline with different description?

    I bet it would be fun to see the response. Or may be not.

  4. says

    Another good post. A couple of thoughts …

    1. Many of us faithful readers take your advice then turn around and “practice” on our own blogs and product pages. Perhaps instead we should cherry pick other people’s Diggs and re-write the headlines. It’d be a good way to tell whether we were starting the get the feel for it.

    2. Every time I read one of your pieces on headlines it makes me wonder where else I can apply these principles. Do the same rules apply to email subject lines? Is the such a thing as an email subject line swipe book?

    – Nick

  5. Ivan Brezak Brkan says

    I’m just interested in what was the headline for the submission that got digged? :)

  6. says

    Nick, while different types of headlines are more or less appropriate in different contexts, they are all headlines — whether blog post title, email subject line, article heading, sales letter headline, the title of a free report, or just the first text on a web landing page.

    The job is the same — get people to read the rest.

    Ivan, the winning submission (and headline) is linked in the post.

  7. says

    Hi Brian. I totally agree with what you say about the importance of headlines. Some headlines are really irresistible. But we have to be careful about one thing: the headline shouldn’t convey something it doesn’t represent, or shouldn’t indulge in hyperbole just for the effect.

  8. says

    I agree Amrit… that’s content suicide if you want people to subscribe, bookmark or buy something.

    As I’ve said over and over, the headline is a promise that you have to deliver on.

  9. says

    I thought you were going to refer to the one about Japan generating electricity from train station turnstiles.

    Two headlines:

    a) Japan is Producing Electricity from Train Station Ticket Gates

    b) Harvesting Japan’s commuters for people juice…

    Which would you read?

    The original (b) has had 7 diggs and had a 2 day head start over (a), which has had 1732 diggs

    A respondent to the original says:

    “nobody cares that your story is the ‘original’. The reason nobody dugg yours is because it has an extremely lame title that doesn’t give us any information”

    Here’s a link to the story if you’re interested:

  10. says

    That’s another great example, Chris. People often think that the secret to a good headline is being “clever,” when in fact cleverness will kill your response more often than not.

  11. says

    Don’t rest your case yet, Brian!

    Your headline series is excellent. There’s much to learn and absorb. Thanks for sharing.

  12. says

    Bravo! Another one of your brilliant posts on Magnetic Headlines!

    Just a nagging doubt:

    In case of your Digg example, the one who got the most diggs, was he among the top Diggers? IMHO, some diggers get more votes than others simply because they are known to the community.

    Having said that maybe, they got to the top of the Digg ecosystem, precisely because they had great headlines…

    On all accounts, an excellent post!!


  13. says

    I must agree with you on the headline. Actually when you launched the top ten list of headlines, I put that to work right away in my sports blogs and it did wonders almost instantly around 200% views. (Thanks for that)

    But for digg, I am not sure about that. I was beaten by a pathetic headline post a number of times that only contained a redirect link to the product launching post but got the front page and dugged a thousand times, even though my technical post had everything there with analysis, etc and I was hours ahead of submission.

    Feeling hopeless, a week ago I started adding a lot of friends in digg and surprisingly, my posts get dug more and more as I added more friends into my account.

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